There are a number of well-developed free and open source (FOSS) GIS packages that provide a reasonable alternative to proprietary software. These packages run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. QGIS is the choice for most desktop GIS users and is recommended if you are learning GIS.
QGIS is a popular and widely supported FOSS GIS package. Free and less resource intensive than ArcGIS, it supports all basic and intermediate GIS tasks but lacks many of the advanced features of ArcGIS. It can be extended through plugins and interfaces to other FOSS software. For new users and those who want stability, install the Long Term Release (NOT the Latest Release).
The "original" FOSS GIS, it is particularly good for raster analysis and working with topological vectors. It has a unique data structure that enforces consistency. Interfaces with QGIS.
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