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!)

Mapdiva to Make New Mapping Software for the Mac

I’m pleased to announce the launch of Mapdiva, LLC, a partnership among Graham Cox and Jill Saligoe-Simmel, to develop Ortelius™ – powerful map illustration software for Mac OS X. Ortelius is characterized by its ease of use and beautiful graphics capabilities for which Macs are known. Our new company anticipates the release Ortelius in the first quarter of 2009.