I recently received an email update from Oxford Archaeology Digital via the IOSA email listserv about gvSIG, an open source Geographical Information System (GIS) platform. This is a project that I was not aware of until now but which seems to be focussed on the development of a user friendly GIS for Windows and Linux (and hopefully, one day, Mac!). From the blurb on the OAD website and in their Quickstart guide it seems promising:
The government funded gvSig project is a free and open source Geoinformation System (GIS), that enables you to interactively visualize, manage, modify and analyze spatial information in the form of digital maps, images and database tables. It is easy to learn, yet versatile and efficient enough for demanding GIS tasks. Above all, it is freely available, at no charge and under a license that emphasizes your freedom of use rather than restrictions. It is also a cross-platform application, based on Sun’s Java technology, which currently runs on Windows (2000/XP/Vista), Linux and Mac OS X operating systems, giving you great flexibility in its deployment.
I don’t fully understand the need to develop another standalone opensource GIS platform given the decent options out there for both entry level/user friendly (i.e. Mapwindow and QGIS) and more sophisticated (i.e. GRASS GIS) software that have been around for years. I’m also not clear as to whether this software is oriented toward archaeological applications given that it has been developed by OAD. The quickstart guide indicates that it has many features that are available in both Mapwindow and QGIS and various screenshots suggest that dialogue windows have a strong resemblence to those in the commercial GIS software Arcview/Arcmap from ESRI.
Personally, I think it looks interesting and I hope it is more archaeologically focussed than other open source alternatives that are out there at the moment. One useful set of features to include for archaeologists would be tools for spatial analysis; these are often absent from many commercial and opensource GIS platforms. Even ESRI’s Arcmap (which retails for around AUD $6-8000 last I checked) requires the purchase of an additional extension to enable this type of functionality. At present gvSIG is at version 1.1.2 with active development on V2.
Michael Morrison’s Blog by Michael Morrison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Australia License.
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