Anita Graser | Profiles from the Geospatial Community

Caitlin Dempsey


Anita Graser is well-known in the GIS community for her involvement with QGIS.  She is also the author of the recently published book, “Learning QGIS 2.0”.  

Anita talks about how she got started in GIS and what she sees as some of the future trends in open source GIS.  

1.  How did you get started in GIS?  What drew you to this industry?

I always liked the aesthetics of maps but I never thought that there was a potential career path where I could combine my love for maps and technology until I discovered the Geomatics program at a local university of applied sciences. That’s where I was introduced to GIS.

After my first internships, working on real-world data and problems, I was completely hooked on both GIS in general and QGIS in particular.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

2.  You are one of the familiar faces representing open source GIS.  How did you get involved with using open source over proprietary GIS software?

At university, we used proprietary desktop GIS before we were introduced to our first open source tools: PostGIS and UMN Mapserver.

Afterwards the first semesters I did two internships.

At the first one I got to work with MapInfo mostly producing print maps. That was fine but not very exciting.

Afterwards, I interned at Arsenal Research (now the Austrian Institute of Technology) where I really learned to appreciate the freedom open source GIS tools provide, especially in a research setting. I was able to set up and administer my own spatial databases to experiment with the data and build visualizations around them.

I started using QGIS when I got the task to create a tool combining data preparation and visualization to support development of new algorithms and verification of algorithm results. That was when I created my first QGIS plugin which I later used in my thesis.

This success and the continuous improvements of QGIS’ functionalities motivated me to stick with open source. It was also very liberating not to have to go to the university labs whenever I wanted to do some GIS work.

I could always have my GIS with me and install it wherever I needed it. All in all, I simply found that open source GIS tools were more convenient for my use cases.

Anita Graser.
Anita Graser. Photo provided by Anita Graser.

3.  What is your role with QGIS?

When I first started to work with QGIS, I also joined the forums and got involved in the peer-to-peer support.

The 2009 developer meeting in Vienna was the first time I met some of the core team members in real life. It was a very welcoming experience and I have been to many more developer and user meetings since.

Today, I’m design advisor of the QGIS project steering committee. In this role I design visuals for the application, website and print. I’m also heavily involved in user support and in increasing the visibility of QGIS and its features through social media channels and my blog.

Attendees gather for a group photo at the 10th annual QGIS Developer meeting held in Brighton, UK in September, 2013.  Source: Anita Graser.
Attendees gather for a group photo at the 10th annual QGIS Developer meeting held in Brighton, UK in September, 2013. Source: Anita Graser.

4.  You recently published a book on learning QGIS 2.0.  Can you tell the readers a little bit about it?

“Learning QGIS 2.0” is a book for GIS users who are looking for an introduction to QGIS. Through a series of hands-on examples, the book presents the most important concepts as well as helpful tips and tricks for working with spatial data.

The book covers the topics of a one to two day course. My goal was to provide the readers with all the information they need to start their own projects and follow more specialized instructions for advanced tasks and workflows.

The book is available both as ebook and in print (e.g. find “Learning QGIS 2.0” on  Amazon).


5.  What are some of the future trends for open source GIS that you see?

We have seen a steady growth of the QGIS user base over the last years. Given that more and more spatial data is becoming available, I think that the number of users will continue to rise.

A very positive trend for open source GIS is the increasing adoption of open source in public administration and education. The  Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University was amongst the first universities who put their open source GIS training material online.

These courses complement the user and developer documentation provided by the open source projects themselves. Funding from public administrations and private enterprises which have decided to invest part of the money they save on licenses has helped improve important aspects such as the QGIS print functionality and played an important role funding development towards new stable versions.

6.  Anything else you’d like to add?

You can read more about my work with QGIS on or follow me on Twitter @underdarkGIS.

More Profiles from the Geospatial Community

Photo of author
About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.