What's GRASS?

General Information | Features | GRASS Programming | Supported Platforms | Import/Export | Data Management capabilities

General Information

Geographic Resources Analysis Support System, commonly referred to as GRASS GIS, is a Geographic Information System (GIS) used for data management, image processing, graphics production, spatial modelling, and visualization of many types of data. It is Free (Libre) Software/Open Source released under GNU General Public License (GPL).

Originally developed by the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories (USA-CERL, 1982-1995), a branch of the US Army Corp of Engineers, as a tool for land management and environmental planning by the military, GRASS has evolved into a powerful utility with a wide range of applications in many different areas of scientific research. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as many governmental agencies including NASA, NOAA, USDA, DLR, CSIRO, the National Park Service, the U.S. Census Bureau, USGS, and many environmental consulting companies.

The new GRASS 6.0 release introduces a new topological 2D/3D vector engine and support for vector network analysis. Attributes are now managed in a SQL-based DBMS. A new display manager has been implemented. The NVIZ visualization tool was enhanced to display 3D vector data and voxel volumes. Messages are partially translated (i18N) with support for FreeType fonts, including multibyte Asian characters. New LOCATIONs can be auto-generated by EPSG code number. GRASS is integrated with GDAL/OGR libraries to support an extensive range of raster and vector formats, including OGC-conformal Simple Features.

The GRASS Development Team has grown into a multi-national team consisting of developers at numerous locations.

[see also: Freshmeat.net entry | Wikipedia entry]

GRASS Features

GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) is a raster/vector GIS, image processing system, and graphics production system. GRASS contains over 350 programs and tools to render maps and images on monitor and paper; manipulate raster, vector, and sites data; process multi spectral image data; and create, manage, and store spatial data. GRASS uses both an intuitive windows interface as well as command line syntax for ease of operations. GRASS can interface with commercial printers, plotters, digitizers, and databases to develop new data as well as manage existing data.

GRASS and network support for teams
GRASS supports workgroups through its LOCATION/MAPSET concept which can be set up to share data over NFS (Network File System). Keeping LOCATIONs with their underlying MAPSETs on a central server, a team can simultaneously work in the same project database.

[see also: GRASS capabilities]

GRASS Programming

GRASS is released under GNU GPL, the source code (5.x: more than 1 million lines of C; 6.x 500k SLOC) is completely available. GRASS provides a sophisticated GIS library which can be used for own developments. A GRASS Programmer's Manual is available for download.

[see also: GRASS Development]

Supported platforms

Source code and selected binaries can be downloaded.

Import/Export: Data formats supported by GRASS

In detail:

RASTER: The GDAL library (r.in.gdal) is used, see the GDAL project format list for full capabilities. Examples include:

VECTOR: The OGR library (v.in.ogr) is used, see the OGR project format list. Examples include:

Data Management capabilities of GRASS

  • Spatial analysis
  • Map generation
  • Data visualization (2D, 2.5D and 3D)
  • Data generation through modelling (list of simulation models)
  • Link to DBMS (PostgreSQL, mySQL, SQLite, ODBC, ...)