QGIS is a free, open-source desktop application for mapping and geospatial analysis. It is a volunteer-driven project with contributers from around the world. It reads and writes nearly every possible GIS data format, and has many features that are particularly useful for creating OpenIndexMaps GeoJSON files.

A quick tour of QGIS:

CRS (coordinate reference system)

QGIS, like most open-source GIS programs, uses standard EPSG codes for coordinate systems and map projections.


QuickMapServices is one of the most popular plugins. It provides access to basemaps from OpenStreetMap, Google, Bing, Esri, and more. Basemaps are useful for adding context to your maps, or to make sure that your data is showing up in the right place.

To install the plugin:

  1. Plugins menu > Manage and Install Plugins…
  2. Click the “All” tab at left
  3. Type in the search box “quickm” (you don’t have to type the whole name)
  4. Click the name “QuickMapServices” in the results
  5. Click “Install Plugin” (it only takes a few seconds)

Each plugin works a bit differently – some add menus items, some add tool buttons. QuickMapServices appears under the “Web” menu. It comes with a few basemaps, but you’ll want to add the full set of available basemaps:

  1. Web menu > QuickMapServices > Settings
  2. Click the “More services” tab
  3. Click “Get contributed pack”

Next: Exercise 1