Install QGIS on a Mac in 10-Steps


The following instructions were for QGIS 2.10 and are kept here for historical record:

QGIS is an impressively powerful open source geographic information system (GIS). In 2010, I reviewed QGIS when it had an “All-In-One” installation bundle for the Mac. That easy installation has gone by the wayside, and while I still find QGIS an excellent GIS solution for Mac users, installation is much more of a chore. As a software developer myself, I can only imagine the installation process discourages use by the average consumer (and by average, I mean moderately sophisticated GIS users).

If you’re in that camp, this guide is for you… it provides (without warranty) a step-by-step guide to successfully install the supporting frameworks and the QGIS software (these instructions are for QGIS 2.10 built for Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite, though presumably will work with more current updates as they are added).

Installing QGIS on a Mac

Step One: Honesty

Installing most software on a Mac is easy, but installing QGIS on a Mac is a pain¹. I’ve stumbled through it a couple of times now.

There are supporting frameworks that must be installed first, and in a particular order, before the QGIS installation can begin. If you try installing QGIS before installing the supporting frameworks, you’ll likely see an error message like this:

qGIS installation error

Also, always read the ReadMe files included with your downloads before installing. For example, this important ReadMe message is included with the QGIS Installer:

 If you have an old in your Applications folder, trash it before installing QGIS.
 Old files may not be deleted by the installer, which may cause problems for QGIS.

In summary, the following downloads are required:

  1. Download GDAL Complete 1.11 framework package, which includes:
    • GDAL Complete.pkg (install framework package)
    • NumPy.pkg (install python module)
  2. Download Matplotlib Python module, which includes:
    • Matplotlib.pkg (install python module)
  3. Download QGIS for Mac Installer, which includes:
    • Install QGIS.pkg (install the app!)


The Real 10 Steps

STEP 1. To allow installation of non-Apple developer recognized software, first change your Mac Security Preferences to ‘Allow apps downloaded from: Anywhere’

STEP 2. Download the ‘GDAL 1.11 Complete’ framework package

Download ‘GDAL 1.11 Complete’ from (1.11 is the current version at the time I wrote this article — there may be newer version).

This is actually a package containing several frameworks more conveniently packaged together in one installer. Importantly, the required ‘GDAL Complete.pkg’ and ‘numPy.pkg’ are both included in the ‘GDAL 1.11 Complete’ download.

Double-click the ‘GDAL_Complete_1.11.dmg’ to view its contents:

STEP 3. install GDAL Complete —  double-click the ‘GDAL Complete.pkg’ and step through its installation.

STEP 4. Install NumPy — double-click the ’NumPy.pkg’ and step through its installation.

STEP 5. Download the ‘Matplotlib’ python module from

Double-click the ‘matplotlib-1.3.1-2.dmg’ to view its contents:

STEP 6. Install Matplotlib —  double-click the ‘matplotlib.pkg’ and step through its installation.

STEP 7. Download QGIS Mac OS X Installer from

Double-click the ‘QGIS-2.10.1-1.dmg’ to view its contents:


STEP 8. install QGIS —  double-click the ‘Install QGIS.pkg’ and step through its installation.

STEP 9. Proceed to your Applications folder and find the QGIS app. Double-click to launch.

Be patient, it took a little less than a minute on first launch for my copy of QGIS to fully open. Also, even if you are familiar with GIS software, don’t expect QGIS to be completely intuitive. Like any new app, you need to take the time to learn its features and user interface. Fortunately, there are some terrific learning resources available, like the QGIS Tutorials and Tips by Ujaval Gandhi and the QGIS User Guide.

You now have a sophisticated GIS software to learn and enjoy. Depending on your needs, you might even want to add some of the QGIS Plugins.

STEP 10. Your almost done! To finish things off you should do the following:

a. Change your Mac Security Preferences back to ‘Allow apps downloaded from: Mac App Store and Identified Developers’ (or Mac App Store only).
b. Save the three downloaded .dmg files, since they each contain uninstall instructions should you even need them.


¹ Software isn’t always easy. I appreciate the great work of good folks who support this open source (and free) software. The main release packages for QGIS for Mac are maintained by Kyngchaos, aka William Kyngsburye. (thank you!)

Report Card on the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) announces the release of its Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) that depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s geospatial “infrastructure” which includes surveyed, mapped and remotely-sensed information.

This initial Report Card by the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) is a qualitative assessment of the status of the Framework data components of that program. This evaluation specifically examines the status of the seven data themes that serve as the backbone required by users to conduct most mapping and geospatial analysis tasks. While Framework data have been collected and made available for use over the past two decades, a digital geospatial Framework that is national in scope, is not yet in place and may never exist. Based on the following analysis, the overall grade assigned to the comprehensive NSDI Framework is C-.

The clear objective of the NSDI was to create a dependable utility that would provide accurate, consistent, and current data to all users. The goals of the program were to:

• Reduce duplication of effort among agencies.

• Improve the quality of data and reduce costs related to the acquisition of geographic information.

• Make geographic data more accessible to the public.

• Increase the benefits of using available data.

• Establish key partnerships with states, counties, cities, tribal nations, academia, and the private sector, to increase the availability of geographic data.

The NSDI includes a number of connected components, including the technology, policies, standards, and human resources necessary to acquire, process, store, distribute, and improve the utilization of geospatial data. However, the cornerstone of the program is a common digital base map that would aggregate the best representations of fundamental data from all levels of government.

In light of the two decade history of the NSDI, and this realistic assessment of the current situation, the Expert Panel concludes that the Framework requires attention, and that several actions need to take place:

  • The concept of the Framework needs to be reaffirmed.
  • A new model for Framework data needs to be adopted, and this new model must acknowledge the importance of local partners.
  • The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) needs to emphasize that the Framework is part of its Strategic Plan, and that it will work in collaboration with non-federal and non-governmental partners to build an effective NSDI Framework.
  • Bossler, Dr. John D., Dr. David J. Cowen, James E. Geringer, Susan Carson Lambert, John J. Moeller, Thomas D. Rust, Robert T. Welch. Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure – Compiled for the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations. February 6, 2015.

Archive of Artistic Shaded Relief Online

If you love older maps for their uniquely hand-crafted style, you are really going to love this new resource – Shaded Relief Archive.

Through the advancements of modern digital elevation technologies, we are quickly loosing previous generations’ hand-drafted relief maps to new techniques, closing cartography companies, and the trash-bins outside their doors. A few individuals are seeking to preserve these beautiful resources by creating a public digital archive of shaded relief maps for integration with modern cartographic products.

Tom Patterson, US National Park Service, and Bernhard Jenny, Oregon State University, introduced an archive of stunning artistically rendered shaded relief images at the 2010 NACIS Practical Cartography Day.

While digital elevation models and hill shading techniques are common in todays world of digital cartography, these data sets often fall short of communicating the natural relief patterns particularly for small-scale mapping. As is illustrated below, digital relief tends to offer too much detail (image 2). The manually rendered terrain (image 1) provides a sense of the terrain when looking at a large region or world view. Both images are registered to 1:50 million Natural Earth vector drainages.

1. Manual shaded relief by Herwig G. Schutzler of Latin America.

2. Digital shaded relief from downsampled SRTM data.

The images are georeferenced so you can use them with your small-scale mapping projects. Some shaded relief images are georeferenced and adjusted to fit the drainage network of the Natural Earth vector data. Data is stored in the GeoTIFF file format, a world file and reference coast lines in shape format are provided for each georeferenced image.

To add a quality of fine craftsmanship to your next project, check out this amazing resource today. If you know of a source that should be included, contributions are welcomed (please contact the authors).

The Geographic Inequalities of Broadband in Indiana

Indiana is participating in the National Broadband Program as a multi-year, multi-agency effort to map areas in the state that are currently served by the state’s 170+ broadband providers. The results from this will be integrated into a national broadband availability map, and will provide a solid foundation for future broadband deployment efforts at the state and national level.

“Broadband access supports our economy, attracts businesses, and enables Indiana to be globally competitive.  It improves the quality of life for Hoosiers through better communication and learning,” says Jim Sparks Indiana Geographic Information Officer regarding Indiana’s participation.

The mapping portion of the program intends to identify areas that are underserved and ideally expand access to those areas. Indiana is an active participant in the program, and rightly so – several areas of the state and key demographics are currently underserved. From an user interface perspective, personally I find the national broadband availability maps (different from the IndianaMap) leave something to be desired. I find them generally too technical to communicate much to the average consumer, though they surely are packed with information that will assist at the national program level. Be sure to look at the “Show Gallery” link at the bottom of the page for some nice perspectives (it is easily missed). As a work in progress, it is also worth keeping in mind that the maps may over-represent some areas and under-represent other areas based on individual states’ current participation in the mapping program.

Lest we underestimate the potential impact of the broadband program in Indiana, let us look at the current “state of the state” according to another source,

Indiana on the Patchwork Nation Broadband Map

Wow. Indiana really stands out.

Is IT Suffocating GIS?

In an article “Why Geo Will Embrace The Cloud in 2010” in Direction MagazineBrian Timoney of the The Timoney Group looks at the emerging cloud computing arena and poises the question, fad or not? Putting that question aside for the moment, part of Brian’s article really struck a chord with me – “IT is suffocating GIS.” As a former statewide GIS coordinator, I’ve seen all too many enthusiastic GIS professionals sucked down this path. Brian articulates something rarely discussed – issues like burn-out in the long since changed role of GIS managers. Are we properly preparing GIS professionals for this aspect of their GIS career? Here is an excerpt of Brian’s article: Read more

Communicating Value of GIS to Policy-Makers

Over the past several years, I have been involved in leading the Indiana Geographic Information Council and developing a statewide spatial data infrastructure, known today as the IndianaMap. Let’s face it, GIS is a complex technology, and that can be intimidating.  A statewide (or national for that matter) spatial data infrastructure requires adherence to data and technology standards, strong collaborations, coordinated funding, and more.

In 2006, the IndianaMap Return on Investment (RIO) Study proved the value of the IndianaMap as an investment in Indiana.

The challenge was, how best to communicate those results? The report was presented in an unconventional “newspaper” format directed at the target audience – primarily legislators and other elected officials. The format provided the advantages of attention-grabbing headlines; topical organization (for example, transportation, economic development, and environment), and photo-documented case studies. The paper was printed on full-sized news-stock and folded like a traditional newspaper, with room for a mailing address on the reverse 1/2 fold.


The ROI analysis identified current GIS spending, duplication of effort, needs, benefits, financial and non-financial return. The objective of the project was to substantiate adequate funding (or establish cost sharing mechanisms) to support and enable the operation. The results of the ROI demonstrate that over $1.7 billion in Indiana projects and programs are supported by the IndianaMap, with 90% of respondents indicating that the IndianaMap was essential to their project. A 34:1 ROI in less than three years was documented. The entire study was supplemented by additional qualitative use-benefits, testimonials, and case studies.

The Economic Benefits of the IndianaMap return on investment study was conducted by Saligoe-Simmel, LLC and the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC). The study was supported by a grant from the Federal Geographic Data Committee Cooperative Agreements Program Grant Agreement Number: 07HQAG0042. Download the PDF.

Designed & Illustrated by Matt Kelm

Visualizing the Grid: Interactive Web Map

NPR has produced a new interactive map of the U.S. energy grid and power sources. Included are several roll-over maps to see percent energy production by different states and by fuel type. It also includes an informative display of anticipated renewable (solar and wind) fuel sources incorporated into the grid over the next few decades. The maps are intuitive, well designed, and data sources are cited in the map’s footnotes. This is a good example of interactive map design for public education. It should serve as a terrific resource for educators to help students understand power production, renewable power supply, and power distribution in the U.S.
Visualizing the Grid

The interactive map is produced for NPR’s series, “Power Hungry: Re-Envisioning Electricity In The U.S.,” including over a dozen articles. One could easily imagine this series and maps being worked into the curriculum in middle through higher education, inviting students to explore questions about location, energy, and the future. From the site: “The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation’s electrical systems.”

Keep Your Eye on the Geospatial Revolution Project

Whether you are a lone GIS technician or a large GIS company, education and outreach is an ongoing challenge for everyone in the geospatial industry. The Geospatial Revolution Project was announced about a month ago and I was overly impressed with the goals and production value. It was too bad the wait-time was going to be long for final production. Today I received news that the GRP team will release short video segments throughout the life of the project rather than waiting for them all at the end. They are starting today by making the trailer downloadable. This is a high-quality video that will be useful with the general public and decision-makers (and family members who haven’t got it yet ;). Think about ways you might include the video clip in your community presentations, GIS day, school outreach, or the “About GIS” section of your website. See below for details – what a fantastic resource.
georev Read more

The Importance of Map Data Interoperability

Emergency Response Maps

After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the lack of coordinated information and interoperable communications had tragic consequences. Citizens around the country demanded that government work together to correct otherwise avoidable problems.  Most people have heard about two-way radios in the debate over interoperable communications, but fewer realize the important role digital mapping plays in coordinated information and emergency response.  Digital mapping of government data, utilities, and infrastructure (collectively referred to as “spatial” or “geospatial” information) has become a cornerstone of information management and communication at all levels of government.   However, that spatial information is not yet coordinated across government agencies nor geographical regions.  When an electric crew from Indiana helps restore power after an ice storm in Atlanta, GA, the need for coordinated spatial information is great.  When a 911 cell phone call from an Illinois roadside gets routed to a dispatch center in Iowa,  the need for coordinated spatial information is great.  Similar examples of this need are remarkable and nearly limitless.

All Data Are Local

All data are local – and current sources of nation-wide (or world-wide) map data and services typically do not reflect authoritative (local government) sources of what is locally on the ground. Most sources lack vital information in less populated areas. Most sources take months or years with their data update cycles. (A notable exception is the growing, though not “authoritative” this “volunteered” map data making is a difference to emergency response around the world). Building a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) has been a stated goal of the federal government and many geospatial professionals for over a decade.  In those years, many obstacles and delays have prevented the realization of a vision for our nations information infrastructure.  An infrastructure that promises to improve the health, safety and welfare of our citizenry, as well as provide more efficient use of tax payer dollars. By and large, technology is no longer the obstacle – it is human.  The obstacles reflect a resistance to change and fear of the unknown by policy-makers and stewards of local spatial data (How will this change how we do business? How will it affect the privacy of our citizens? Will it reveal we are doing things “wrong”? How will we fund it?  Knowledge is power – will we be giving that up by making our data available to others? Will our own data be used against us?).  But there is also danger in complacency of those responsible for building the NSDI.  As resistance to change takes a strong hold, the status quo becomes more and more comfortable.  Building the NSDI is hard (What if we can’t get cooperation? What if the funding runs short? What if we have technology glitches? How do we keep things running once it is built?). And making the decision to go – not to talk about doing it, but REALLY do it – is difficult.  This assertion is not meant to point fingers, rather it is an effort to remind us all of where our challenges lie – sometimes even within ourselves.  Institutional inertia is strong and personal risk is real for those who challenge long-standing institutional practices.  Those risks, and accompanied inertia, can make the realization of SSDIs and the NSDI even more distant.  As we look to our nations future, we must decide if the NSDI is really what we want (do we really want the NSDI, or do we really want to keep doing what we are doing, supporting our satisfied customers, keep a low profile, keep talking about the vision?).

We Just Decided to Go. (you can too)

Several states are taking the reigns and deciding to go by building complimentary Statewide Spatial Data Infrastructures (SSDIs) as a means to get at the NSDI.  Organizations like the National States Geographic Information Council are helping to put form on this approach.  As in business, there is no real status quo – there is either forward progress or we are slipping.  Indiana is one such state that can say “we just decided to go.”  Earlier this year, Indiana’s Geographic Information Officer, statewide coordinating council (, and handful of state agencies asked local governments across the state to participate in the IndianaMap (Indiana’s SSDI).  The road has been long and not without challenges (e.g., see news stories “Commissioners reluctant to give out mapping information” and follow up story “Commissioners OK state’s mapping request”).  But deciding to go has resulted in 28 (of 92) counties signing on to participate within the first 6 months of the request, and over half the state’s population being covered.  While difficult, the result is definite progress toward coordinated information and interoperable communications for Indiana.

Those states who have committed to creating their own SSDIs have taken commendable steps to assure forward progress.  Without exception it has taken cooperation and strong leadership.  Those who just decided to go – let’s do this thing, and get’er done – are making real progress.  It would be impossible otherwise.

Top 10 Sectors Using GIS in Indiana

This study was conducted to determine how mapping departments within local and state government, education, non-profits and private industry use geographic information systems map data every day. In 2008, 312 respondents told how they use GIS.

Here are the top ten use-areas among the public and private sector:

01 Transportation

For trains, planes and automobiles there are numerous government agencies, surveying and engineering firms, and community organizations who use the IndianaMap for proposed transportation routes, environmental assessments, infrastructure management, airport and roadway improvements, maintenance, accident locations, new facilities, emergency response and evacuation, state and federal reporting requirements, and system-wide transportation management

02 Utilities

Public and private utilities use the IndianaMap in their customer billing systems, routing meter-reading and inspections, load-testing, infrastructure planning and improvement, “call before you dig” locations, and emergency response

03 Natural Resources

Public, private, and non-profit organizations use the IndianaMap on a daily basis to protect endangered species and habitat, manage natural resource exploration and exploitation, protect the public from natural hazards such as flooding and earthquakes, manage wildlife for hunting and fishing, maintain parks and facilities, and manage forests, fish and wildlife for the benefit of all Hoosiers

04 Economic Development

We may not know when the next major corporation is looking at Indiana for their new home, but with the IndianaMap they can quickly see why the Hoosier state stands out; Indiana’s economic developers use the IndianaMap to locate sites for potential development, plan tax incentive zones, clear regulatory requirements, help existing businesses, and attract new business for a growing economy

05 Engineering/Surveying

Whether used for preliminary survey work, evaluating impacts to home owners, or managing construction phases, the IndianaMap saves hundreds of thousands of dollars when new developments are planned, bridges built, levees are constructed, pipelines are routed, and much, much more

06 Planning/Land Use

Communities and planning organizations use the IndianaMap to visualize land use patterns and trends, zoning, plan developments, acquire state and federal grants, and improve quality of life factors as part of “smart growth” initiatives; developers, assessors, and real estate professionals use it to look at current the landscape and changes over time

07 Infrastructure

From bridges to telecommunications, communities use the IndianaMap to assess and maintain their infrastructure, including Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) reporting requirements

08 Environmental

Government agencies entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our environment use the IndianaMap to track and manage regulated facilities and on-the-ground hazards, improve the environment through remediation, conservation, and preservation, and to communicate with citizens; private and non-profit organizations use the same consistent map information for conservation and preservation, and to assure environmental compliance within areas of new development, existing sites, and areas of concern

09 Wastewater/Stormwater

From flooding, to community growth, to modernizing outdated sewer overflows and protecting public health, utilities and communities use the IndianaMap to see where the water goes and manage the impact of that flow

10 Public Safety

The IndianaMap saves lives—it helps quickly get emergency responders to where they need to go; as an interoperable communications tool it is used for community preparedness, examining locations of shelters, warning sirens, population concentrations, critical infrastructure, and local resources; it is used by police, fire, hospital, health departments, Indiana National Guard, homeland security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Civil Air Patrol, the Red Cross, and others for all phases of disaster response and recovery; it is used daily as police patrol our streets and fight crime; it is used by corrections personnel to track geographic-restrictions and compliance of sex and violent offenders.

For more information, view the complete report (3.4MB PDF).