Blog Archives

Whitebox GAT Usage

Check out Prof. John Lindsay’s open-access GIS project – Whitebox GAT. It is an outstanding GIS software package with a lot of advanced geoprocessing tools!

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools

It is difficult to get reliable information about the usage of open-source software like Whitebox GAT. With the recent release of Whitebox 3.4 ‘Montreal’, I decided to undertake an analytical exercise to try and figure out where Whitebox GAT is being used based on some download information that I had accumulating in my inbox. This work updates a previous survey that I carried out a number of years back, shortly after the 1.0 release. Examining nearly 21,000 downloads of the software, I discovered the following:

  • Whitebox GAT has been downloaded in at least 178 counties worldwide, with the top 10 countries, in terms of number of downloads, being the United States, Canada, India, Italy, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Australia, and Spain.
  • Whitebox GAT has been downloaded in 5149 cities around the globe. The map below shows each city in which Whitebox GAT was downloaded at least one time over the…

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FREE GIS Software for Mapping

Whitebox GAT (Geospatial Analysis Toolbox) is my favorite open source, free GIS software!  Come join the Listserv and follow the Whitebox GAT blog by Dr. John Lindsay.  Happy Geoprocessing!


You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to map the world.

With a shoestring budget of 0$, you can do it all with free GIS software.

As you’re about to see, there’s a bucket load of free GIS software packages available with the capability to:

  • Perform hundreds of advanced GIS processing tasks.
  • Generate stunning cartography and mapping products.
  • Manage your company’s geospatial assets efficiently.

The best part is:

These free GIS software mapping options give you enough firepower to get the job done as if you’re working with commercial GIS software.

I personally tested 13 of the top free mapping software packages online.

Read this jam-packed guide to open source GIS:

1. QGIS – Formerly Quantum GIS

QGIS (Quantum GIS)

With striking similarities and even upgrades to ArcGIS in certain areas, QGIS is undoubtedly the #1 free GIS software package.

QGIS is jam-packed with hidden gems at your fingertips. Automate map production, process geospatial data, and generate drool-worthy cartographic figures.

There’s no other free maping software on this list that lets you map like a rock star than QGIS.

QGIS Plugins boost this mapping software into a state of epicness. If the tool doesn’t exist, search for plugin developed by the QGIS community.

Volunteer effort is key to its success. The QGIS Stack Exchangesupport is impressively great.

You’d be insane not to download the free GIS software QGIS.

Read More: 27 Differences Between ArcGIS and QGIS – The Most Epic GIS Software Battle in GIS History

2. Whitebox GAT

WhiteBox GAT

Yes, Whitebox GAT (Geospatial Analysis Toolbox) is #2 on my list of open source, free GIS software.

Unbelievably, Whitebox GAT has only been around since 2009 because it feels so fine-tuned when you see it in action.

There’s a hydrology theme around Whitebox GAT. It actually replaced Terrain Analysis System (TAS) – a tool for hydro-geomorphic applications.

Whitebox GAT is really a full-blown open-access GIS and remote sensing software package.

Where it shines is LIDAR!

With no barriers, Whitebox GAT is the swiss-army knife of LiDAR processing.

The LiDAR toolbox is a life-saver. LAS to shapefile is an insanely useful tool. You may need a Java update to go in full throttle though.

The cartographic mapping software tools are primitive compared to QGIS.

But overall Whitebox GAT is solid with over 410 tools to clip, convert, analyze, manage, buffer and extract geospatial information.

I find it amazing this free GIS software almost goes unheard of in the GIS industry.

Get more useful knowledge from the Whitebox GAT Open Source Blog.



GRASS GIS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) was developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers as a tool for land management and environmental planning.

It has evolved into a free GIS software option for different areas of study.

Academia, environment consultants and government agencies (NASA, NOAA, USDA and USGS) use GRASS GIS because of its intuitive GUI and its reliability.

It has over 350 rock-solid vector and raster manipulation tools.

Not awfully useful in cartographic design, GRASS GIS excels primarily as a free GIS software option for analysis, image processing, digital terrain manipulation and statistics.



SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses) is one of the classics in the world of free GIS software.

It started out primarily for terrain analysis such as hillshading, watershed extraction and visibility analysis.

Now, SAGA GIS is a powerhouse because it delivers a fast growing set of geoscientific methods to the geoscientific community.

Enable multiple windows to lay out all your analysis (map, histograms, scatter plots, attributes, etc). It provides both a user-friendly GUI and API.

It’s not particularly useful in cartography. The lack of scale bars, north arrows symbology and grids are telltale signs of this.

Overall, it’s quick, reliable and accurate. Consider SAGA GIS a prime choice for environmental modeling and other applications.


Whitebox GAT’s new website and other developments

Check out Prof. John Lindsay’s new Whitebox GAT website and the GoSpatial. A lot of cool and innovative stuff!!

“GoSpatial is a command-line interface program for analyzing and manipulating geospatial data. It has been developed using the Go programming language and is compiled to native code. The project is experimental and is intended to provide additional analytical support for the Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools open-source GIS software. GoSpatial can however be run completely independent of any other software and is run from a single self-contained executable file.”

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools

There are a few exciting announcements related to new developments on the Whitebox GAT front. The first is that due to changes in the Google Code practices (it has become ‘read only’ and is no longer accepting new code commits), the Whitebox project has moved its source code repository to GitHub. I think that this will eventually make for improved source code management, although there may be some initial transition issues that we’ll need to work past. Some of the documentation will have to be updated to reflect this change.

The second announcement, which I am most excited about, is that I have finally found the time to update the Whitebox GAT website. There is a fresh new and more professional look to the site. I hope you enjoy the new webpage and as always, feedback is welcome. What would you like to see added or changed?


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Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools v. 3.2.2 Released

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools v. 3.2.2 Released.  (Whitebox GAT download link)

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools v. 3.2.2 has been released by Prof. John Lindsay.  A lot of interesting and useful tools have been added in this new version. See below for a partial list of new features:

  • LAS files can now be rendered based on the Classification, Scan Angle, and GPS Time in addition to Elevation and Intensity. This is on top of several other improvements that have been made to the display of LAS file data in Whitebox GAT.
  • Added Conditional Evaluation tool (if-then-else statement). I really like this tool and now wonder how it was that I managed to get by without it.
  • Added a PickFromList tool, which outputs a raster with the value from a stack of rasters based on an input position raster.
  • Added LowestPositionHighestPositionPercentEqualTo,PercentGreaterThan, and PercentLessThan tools for working with raster stacks, i.e. lists of overlapping raster images.
  • Added a tool to create histograms based on the elevations, intensity, and scan angles within a LiDAR (LAS) file. It will also output the percentiles of the distribution, e.g. 95th percentile of elevation.
  • Added the AddPointCoordinateToTable tool, which can be used to add the x-y coordinates of points within a Point type ShapeFile as fields within its attribute table.
  • Added a tool to filter the points in a LiDAR (LAS) file based on a threshold in the absolute scan angle. Currently the output is a shapefile of mass-point shape but eventually we would like to have it write to a new LAS file.
  • The Merge Points Files tool was replaced with the more general Merge Shapefiles tool, which works with any ShapeType.
  • Added the FindLowestHighestLocations tool, which will output vector points corresponding to the lowest and highest points in a raster. This has already come in handy several times.
  • Added ExtractRasterValuesAtPoints tool for extracting the cell values of each image in a raster stack corresponding to a set of vector points. Values are placed within the vector attribute table.
  • Added DeleteSmallLakesAndExtendRivers tool, which can be used to remove small lakes (polygons) in a vector drainage network and to extend the associated river network (intersecting polylines) into the interior of the lake. I created this tool in response to an interesting question asked over on the GIS Stack Exchange:
  • Added a Long Profile From Point tool, which can generate one or more longitudinal profiles for the flowpaths issuing from a set of vector points.
  • Modified the Mosaic With Feathering tool to handle RGB images in addition to continuous scale rasters. At the moment, this only works for the nearest- neighbour mode. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this earlier.
  • Added Image Stack Profile tool to create a line graphs for a set of vector points through an image stack, such as multi-spectral satellite image data. This can be handy for visualizing the spectral signatures of individual pixels.
  • Added a Simple Region Grow tool that will perform a very simple region grow segmentation of pixels in an image stack based on a specified threshold. I’d like to continue development in this area and eventually include a full object-based image segmentation.
  • Added parallel implementations of the D8 flow pointer and accumulation algorithms. At the moment this is really an experimental tool that is not intended for widespread use but there is more to come, including parallel versions of all the flow accumulation algorithms.
  • Fixed a bug in the Hillslopes tool.
  • I’ve added a whole suite of tools to the Elevation Residuals toolbox for performing multi-scaled topographic position analysis. This includes modified tools for calculating difference and deviation from mean elevations using an integral image approach that is extremely computationally efficient, even with large search windows. It also includes the Local Topographic Position Scale Signature and the Maximum Elevation Deviation tools. Combined with the ‘customRGBScript.groovy’ script, these functions allow for the creation of some spectacular multi-scale topographic position visualizations. See: for examples.

Convert rasters between Whitebox GAT and ArcGIS

Whitebox GAT is a powerful open-source GIS and remote sensing software package, which is developed by Dr. John Lindsay at University of Guelph. It provides many useful geoprocessing tools that ArcGIS does not have. Sometimes it is desirable to convert rasters between Whitebox GAT and ArcGIS, In particular, when you have to deal with hundreds of files, scripting is the way to go. See below for some scripting examples using Whitebox Scripter (Whitebox–>Tools–>Scripting) and  ArcPy (ArcMap–>Geoprocessing–>Python). You can customize the file path and make it your own.

Whitebox GAT can be freely downloaded at You can also check out the Whitebox blog for more information.

Happy Geoprocessing!

Import GeoTIFF (*.tif ) to Whitebox format (*.dep) using Whitebox Scripter

import os
import glob

path = r”C:\temp\*.tif”

fileNames = glob.glob(path)

inputFiles = “”

for fileName in fileNames:
inputFiles = inputFiles + “;” + fileName

inputFiles = inputFiles[1:]

#print inputFiles

args = [inputFiles]
pluginHost.runPlugin(“ImportGeoTiff”, args, False)

Export the Whitebox results (*.dep) to ArcGIS ASCII Grid format (*.txt) using Whitebox Scripter

import os
import glob

path = r”C:temp\*.dep”
fileNames = glob.glob(path)
inputFiles = “”
for fileName in fileNames:
inputFiles = inputFiles + “;” + fileName

inputFiles = inputFiles[1:]
#print inputFiles
args = [inputFiles]
pluginHost.runPlugin(“ExportArcAsciiGrid”, args, False)

Convert ArcGIS ASCII Grid format (*.txt) to GeoTIFF(*.tif) using ArcPy

import os
import glob

path = r”C:\temp\*.txt”
fileNames = glob.glob(path)
outPath = r”C:\output”

for file in fileNames:
outRaster = os.path.splitext(base)[0] + ‘.tif’
outFileName = os.path.join(outPath,outRaster)

The Nile River Basin from SRTM data

Well done, Whitebox!

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools

Someone asked the other day whether the cross-platform, free and open-source GIS Whitebox GAT can handle watershed delineation from massive, regional-scale DEMs. They had a particular interest in the Nile River basin. Heck, if you’re going to go big, why not go huge, right? So I decided to give it a go. First off, I used the Retrieve SRTM Data tool to download the approximately 800 SRTM 3-arcsecond (approximately 90 m) tiles that make up the Nile River basin. This required a bit of experimentation because my first attempt at doing so hit the boundary of the basin and I had to give it a second try. The tool downloaded each of the tiles and mosaicked them into a single large DEM. The final DEM was 45,601 rows by 25,201 columns (a little over 1.1 billion grid cells) and was 4.28 GB in size. I then used the new Breach…

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Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools v. 3.2.1 Now Released!

Thank you for releasing the new version with so many new geoprocessing tools! The Depression breaching Tool is especially interested to me. Will test it soon.

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools

I am very pleased to announce the release of version 3.2.1 of the free and open-source GIS Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools. Although I was not able to accomplish all of the development tasks that I had set out to do over the summer, this version does incorporate numerous improvements and additions (see below). I hope that you enjoy the new version. As always, I welcome any feedback you may have, including suggestions for future features and tools and feedback on general usability. Bugs and other errors can be submitted using the ‘Report An Error‘ found within Whitebox’s Help menu. For questions regarding specific applications, please consider subscribing to the Whitebox Listserv which can be found at the following site:

The following modifications have been made:

  • Added the Retrieve SRTM DEM Data tool. This tool will download SRTM DEM tiles from the USGS FTP site, import the tiles into Whitebox GAT…

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SRTM DEM data downloader in Whitebox GAT

A new great tool in Whitebox GAT

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools

I just finished developing a tool for Whitebox GAT that will automatically download Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation models (DEMs) from the USGS SRTM FTP site. SRTM-3 data are among the best global elevation data, with a grid resolution of approximately 90 m. In many areas SRTM data provide the only topographic data set available. Within the United States, the SRTM-1 dataset provides an improved 30 m resolution. Not only does this Whitebox tool retrieve the SRTM tiles contained within the bounding box of a specified area of interest, but it will also import the tiles to Whitebox GAT, fill missing data holes (which are common with SRTM data in rugged terrain) and mosaic the tiles.

Whitebox's new Retrieve SRTM Data tool Whitebox’s new Retrieve SRTM Data tool

There have been many times in the past when I have needed to download numerous SRTM files, import the files, fill the missing data holes, and finally mosaic the…

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