The question What free programs should every GIS user have installed? (previously called "What free programs should every GIS user have installed?") was recently edited to include cloud software.

The precedent appears to have been set by the many upvotes for ColorBrewer, although almost all of the other answers are for desktop software.

Please vote for the appropriate answer if you think cloud software should or should not be allowed in answers to this question, or if you have any other suggestions on how to handle this.

My concern is that cloud-based services are almost never truly free, because cloud computing is expensive. Often you will be asked for credit card information and automatically billed if you exceed the limits allowed in the "free tiers" that are often offered. Additionally they may be ad-supported and generally it is harder to evaluate cloud services than desktop software because you usually have to sign up for something to use them.

My personal preference would be to limit the question to desktop software, for the aforementioned reasons, and have "free" cloud services be suggested in a separate question.

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    When I originally asked that question I intended for it to be desktop-based software. I have noticed people editing the question to suit what they perceive as it's meaning, which is a bit odd. The title is now completely different from what I had originally asked and I think a separate question about cloud-based software would be appropriate.
    – Radar
    Oct 21, 2013 at 18:18
  • I'm curious why the [development] tag was removed from it. There are certainly free tools that can be used for GIS-dev. For example, I consider Notepad++ (or other text editors) a dev tool.
    – user3461
    Oct 21, 2013 at 18:34
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    There is only room for 5 tags on a question. There are many more categories of software than can fit, so calling out "development" tools specifically seemed out of place.
    – blah238
    Oct 21, 2013 at 18:36
  • Except only four tags are in use right now. Why not leave it there until something needs to be removed to make room for a more appropriate tag (if that happens in the future)? Likewise, I think the question should be reverted to free desktop software. However, since the ColorBrewer answer has been there for so long, I think it should stay since it fits the "ability to handle GIS tasks" description.
    – user3461
    Oct 21, 2013 at 18:42
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    I removed data and development at the same time, so only one of them would be able to be reinstated without removing other tags. I realize tag choices are often subjective (and arbitrary), but given the focus of the question, I think the current tags are appropriate.
    – blah238
    Oct 21, 2013 at 18:49
  • "My concern is that cloud-based services are almost never truly free, because cloud computing is expensive." That may be true but should not be a reason to close the list to cloud software. If it's free, it's free! You may as well exclude desktop SW that has an upgrade option, or that only runs on free OS, or ...
    – Martin F
    Oct 22, 2013 at 0:07
  • TINSTAAFL applies here, moreso to the cloud than to desktop freeware IMO.
    – blah238
    Oct 22, 2013 at 0:26
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    I feel that the question doesn't need a foss4g tag; The question was about free-ware (free as in free beer) rather than just FOSS/GNU software. Oct 22, 2013 at 5:06
  • Tags don't necessarily imply exclusion by inclusion, there are just a lot of FOSS projects on there so I felt it was a good one to add.
    – blah238
    Oct 22, 2013 at 6:04
  • Since this is a GIS exchange, not a programmer exchange, surely a better filter would be to exclude non-GIS-related tools, like Notepad++ or Google Tasks.
    – Martin F
    Oct 22, 2013 at 18:17
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    Exclude in what manner? This site welcomes programming questions that are related to GIS/spatial analysis/mapping.
    – user3461
    Oct 22, 2013 at 18:39
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    @martinf I disagree. The question has always been about free/open source apps, tools, etc., whether they were designed for GIS or not, that GIS users use in their everday work, often just to save themselves time or increase productivity. Though it certainly does not exclude GIS-specific software such as GDAL or QGIS.
    – blah238
    Oct 22, 2013 at 18:50
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    @radar, as the originating author of the Q you are more than welcome to define it's scope, community-wiki status notwithstanding. Oct 22, 2013 at 19:01
  • @GeoKevin: I thought the real problem -- the "this" in "..suggestions on how to handle this" if you like -- is that there are too many answers for a too-open a question. One way too narrow things down, as suggested by the actual title of this meta topic, is to "exclude" cloud software. If that is what the OP or the community wants, then so be it. I have nothing against programming-related questions -- i'm a programmer and not a user myself! I'm saying: There is more than one way to give the topic a narrower focus.
    – Martin F
    Oct 22, 2013 at 19:52
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    The "this" referred to the recent edits to the long-standing question title to include cloud software. Since the original intent and spirit of the question was specific to desktop software, I felt that changing it should be a community decision. Others may have different reasons that may or may not yet have been expressed, but cost is certainly not the only one I personally stated. In any case, I will wait another day before accepting the leading answer, at which point we can decide how best to effect the decision.
    – blah238
    Oct 22, 2013 at 21:50

2 Answers 2


No, cloud software should not be allowed in What free programs should every GIS user have installed?.

I have asked another meta question about how this decision should be implemented: How should we handle "free" cloud software recommendations?


Yes, cloud software should be allowed in What free programs should every GIS user have installed?.

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