Free Ways to Learn QGIS

Caitlin Dempsey

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QGIS is the most popularly used free and open source GIS software application available.  Interest in using QGIS as an alternative to proprietary GIS software is growing rapidly.  QGIS was first developed 17 years ago by Gary Sherman and has maintained its growth through an active volunteer and fundraising-driven community of developers.  If you want to start learning how to use QGIS, there are some excellent free resources out there.

How to Learn QGIS for Free

First, start with the QGIS Training Manual offered on the QGIS site.  With 19 modules, this manual provides a comprehensive introduction to QGIS from the basics of loading and styling data to performing analyses with vector and raster data.

Ujaval Gandhi also offers a selection of QGIS Tips and Tricks to teach you about how to work with GIS data, perform a range of basic to advanced GIS operations, python scripting, and web mapping.

Frank Donnelly, Geospatial DataLibrarian, offers his materials to his one-day workshop under a Creative Commons license.  The main component is a manual, Introduction to GIS Using Open Source Software, as well as exercise data and slides.  All materials are free to use for either personal or classroom use


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Many GIS professionals share free tutorials on YouTube. For example, Klas Karlsson offers an extensive library of QGIS video tutorials via his YouTube Channel.  If you’re just beginning to learn QGIS, you should start with his QGIS 3 for absolute beginners video.  In all, Karlsson offers 123 videos that will teach you all sorts of functions and capabilities for working with QGIS.

If you want less self-guided and more of a structured learning environment, you can search on Udemy for free QGIS courses.

On occasion, there are QGIS MOOCs offered which provide another free avenue of learning QGIS in an online class setting. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and EdX sometimes offer free courses or auditing opportunities. For example, you can find specific courses dedicated to QGIS or GIS fundamentals that use QGIS as the primary tool.

Learn Python Scripting in QGIS

If you’re interested in learning Python scripting for QGIS, Anita Graser has an ongoing tutorial series aimed towards teaching the non-programmer how to script with PyGIS.  Her series currently offers ten modules along with links to further PyQGIS resources.

Lastly, check out the preview chapter from the QGIS Python Programming CookBook (published in 2015) which teaches the user how to use Python to dynamically control the QGIS map canvas.

This article was originally written on April 29, 2019 and has since been updated.

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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.