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Desktop GIS: Mapping the Planet with Open Source Tools

Gary Sherman
Published by Pragmatic Bookshelf
ISBN: 978-1-934356-06-7
368 pages
£ 21.99
Published: 28th October 2008
reviewed by Greg Matthews
   in the March 2009 issue (pdf), (html)

This book has already been reviewed in the UKUUG Newsletter and I have been asked to give a second opinion. I should point out at this point that I know very little about GIS although it is used extensively by the scientists in my organisation.

The book can be used as a simple introduction to basic GIS techniques and applications and it was in this way that I approached it. The early chapters are devoted to introducing GIS to an amateur audience who might be interested in getting more use out of existing their GPS equipment for example. Some time is spent on data formats and projection and coordinate systems but it is to the author's credit that these dry topics are covered clearly and adequately without descending into impenetrable technical jargon.

The main thrust of this book is to encourage the use of open source tools for GIS work and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the maturity of the available software. Gary Sherman is actually a senior developer for the Quantum GIS (QGIS) project which is quickly approaching its 1.0 release. There is scant mention of any commercial tools other than in passing when discussing data formats or similar. If you are used to working with ARC GIS or some other commercial software, you will not find a detailed comparison of features or equivalent working methods but it may still be worth getting this book for the in depth review of the various FOSS tools that are available.

There is a chapter on spatial databases but it is really only an introduction to what is a big topic. At the end of the book are no less than four appendices covering the various tools that are used to illustrate the examples throughout the book.

On the whole the book strikes a neat balance between a tutorial on GIS with its possible applications for an interested non-professional, and a technical 'howto' detailing the use of specific open source tools to accomplish common tasks. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in mapping.

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