RS Software

Remote sensing main page




There is a comprehensive list of GIS software available on Wikipedia (includes free/open-source/propriety/commercial desktop GIS, web map servers, database management systems, and libraries). While the wikipedia page provide links to more GIS software applications, this list below provide a bit more details on some of the packagas that I have had some exposure. (More on open-source GIS here, here, here, here, here, and here).


Click here to jump to plug-ins, packages, and add-ons


Stand-alone software

  • A list of links to software that can use GDAL. While this link relates to GDAL, I think the list might be one of the most comprehensive links to GIS Softwate packages.
  • MARXAN is the most widely-used (systematic) conservation planning software package in the world. Archives from the Marxan discussion forum here, subscription to the discussion forum here, a QGIS plugin here, and a ArcGIS plugin here.
  • GRASS (Geographic Resource Analysis Support System) is a powerful open-source GIS software package, as an alternative to ArcGIS and image processing software (also work on Mac). GRASS wiki here, mailing list information here,
  • Python is a free, easy, readable, general-purpose, high-level programming language, with packages such as arcpy that provide geoprocessing functionality. Python wiki here, and package index here and here (>20,000). Good python discussions at Stackoverflow, and DevShed.
  • GDL (GNU Data Language) is the open source version of IDL, and frequently used for image processing.
  • DIVA-GIS, gvSIG, QGIS, UDIG, PostGIS, and SAGA-GIS are free spatial viewer and data analysis software packages . Comparisons between these and ArcGIS can be found here.
  • R, though mostly used for quantitative analysis, are increasingly being used for spatial analysis. R-Sig-Geo is an R discussion forum for geo-spatial analysis. (see a list of relevant packages below).
  • ArcGIS' Mobile App gallery
  • Circuitscape, Graphhab, ConnectivityTools, and Conefor all model landscape connectivity.A more comprehensive connectivity modeling software database is available at CorridorDesign.
  • Fragstats is a spatial pattern analysis program for categorical maps.
  • Maxent is quickly becoming the most popular tool for species distribution modeling, maybe because it's so powerful and user-friendly. Here is an interview with Steven Phillips soon after Maxent was released.
  • DesktopGarp, open-Modeller, Biomapper, and Lifemapper are additional tools that allow users to predict and analyse species distributions through niche modeling.
  • Cybertracker is a gps field data collection software package.
  • OSSIM is a software package for image processing, and spatial analysis.
  • The Metapopulation Research Group/Conservation Biology Informatics Group at the University of Helsinki has developed a number of tools for metapopulation research. The flagship software package is called Zonation. However, a range of other tools are availabe: highlights include SPOMSIM - a Patch Occupancy Model, RSW2 - a reserve selection tool, and RobOff, which guides habitat offsetting, restoration and management.
  • The European Union's Land Resource Management Unit offers a range of protected areas datasets, linked to the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA), including complimentary tools such as the African Protected Areas Assessment Tool (APAAT), eHabitat for habitat and niche modelling, eStation for monitoring of terrestrial ecosystems, eSpecies for indicators of species richness and diversity, GES as a tool for mapping ecosystem services, and a web-based validation tool for assessing landcover change.
  • LEDAPS, for LANDSAT imagery corrections. Older version here.
  • COASTER (Customized Online Aggregation and Summarization Tool for Environmental Rasters), meant to reduce processing time in customizing spatial data.
  • BEAM is ESA's open-source toolbox and development platform for viewing, analysing and processing of remote sensing raster data.
  • The Next ESA SAR Toolbox (NEST) is an ESA open source toolbox for reading, processing, analysing and visualising ESA (ERS-1/2, ENVISAT, SENTINEL-1) and other spaceborne* (TerraSAR-X, RADARSAT 1-2, COSMO-SkyMed, JERS-1, ALOS PALSAR) SAR data processed to Level-1 or higher.
  • ORFEO Toolbox (OTB) is distributed as an open source library of image processing algorithms.
  • Opticks is an expandable remote sensing and imagery analysis software platform that is free and open source.
  • A range of spatial ecology tools from the Center for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research.



Plug-ins, packages, and add-ons.


With ArcGIS/Python

  • MGET (Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools), for Marine geospatial analysis. Most of the tools can also be used for terrestrial applications
  • Habitat connectivity Mapping tools are available via Washington State's WHCWG that includes identifying habitat concentration areas and linkage mapping.
  • Patch Analyst is an extension for spatial pattern analysis in Arc.
  • NetworkX is a graph theory package for Python.
  • Connect is a toolset that models connectivity for multiple species in complex heterogeneous landscapes.
  • Hawth's Analysis Tools is a user-friendly Arcmap extension for all those small tasks that takes up way too much effort. It has been discontinued in 2010, and are now known as Geospatial Modelling Environment.
  • ACCRU Tools provides is a toolbox with a range of ecological models, including landscape characterization, management unit delineation, temporal analysis, proximity analysis, scenario planning, habitat model calculation, and image processing models for tasseled-cap transformations.
  • NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center offers an ArcGIS extension for analysing animal movement.
  • NASA's HDF-EOS Tools and Information Center offers a range of tools to manipulate *.hdf and *.eos datasets.
  • A range of Python libraries are available for geospatial analysis, and by extention remote sensing. Some of the more popular libraries include pyshp and shapely for shapefile handling, pyproj for handling projections, geopy for dealing with coordinates, gdal for raster handling, OGR for geospatial vector handling, and lastly, the basic geospatial handing libraries namely NumPy


With R

  • A whole host of packages are available for spatial analysis in R. Two examples include Raster, RGDAL, and Spatial (both these packages' info pages also provides links to other relevant packages).
  • R-Sig-Geo is an open email list for the R Special Interest Group on using geogaphic data and mapping. You can subscribe to the list or scan the archives.
  • RSP is a website dedicated to R Spatial Projects.
  • Geospatial Modelling Environment (GME) facilitates rigirous spatial analysis and modelling.
  • EDENext offers tutorials and scripts for creating maps and performing spatial analysis in R.
  • Tutorials on making geographic thematic maps with R including discussions on Stackoverflow, SmartData, and Social Science Statistics blog,
  • Package Landsat is a great R package for atmospheric, radiometric, and topographic corrections of Landsat images. The package also adds functionality for indices, cloud masking, histogram matching, and more. Tutorial data available here. (I was initially pretty excited about this, but quickly ran into R's memory limitations. Maybe you can find a solution? Here's a start; most people seem to suggest using R packages ff or bigmemory, but I had no luck.)
  • ModisTools, a R package for retrieving and using MODIS data



  • Earth Point offers a range of Google Earth tools, including quick creation of klm polygons and point files, conversion of coordinates and projections, and importing of excel documents.
  • CROP VGT allows users to extract and correct NVDI files in HDF format from SPOT4/VEGETATION website.
  • Yes we're all wondering why Microsoft took away dbf saving functionality on excel. Luckily, there's a plugin available.



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