GRASS GIS, commonly referred to as GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support
System), is a free Geographic Information System (GIS) software used for
geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps
production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS GIS is currently used
in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many
governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies. GRASS GIS is an
official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo).
For text-based startup see below.
After launching GRASS GIS, the startup screen will open:
GRASS data are stored in a directory referred to as DATABASE (also called
"GISDBASE"). This directory has to be created with a file manager or
the mkdir command, before starting to work with GRASS. Within this DATABASE,
the projects are organized by project areas stored in subdirectories called
A LOCATION is defined by its coordinate system, map projection and geographical
boundaries. The subdirectories and files defining a LOCATION are created
automatically when GRASS is started the first time with a new LOCATION. It is
important to understand that each projection stays in its own LOCATION.
See the "Location Wizard" to easily create a new LOCATION from scratch
from a geocoded file, by defining the parameters or by selecting the
corresponding EPSG projection code.
See to directly download a sample LOCATION into the DATABASE.
Each LOCATION can have many MAPSETs. Each MAPSET is a LOCATION’s
subdirectory. New MAPSET can be added at GRASS startup (see related button).
The "Location Wizard" let’s you easily create a new LOCATION.
You will be guided through a series of dialogues to browse and select
predefined projections (also via EPSG code) or to define individual
projections. You can also create new LOCATION easily from a georeferenced data
file (e.g., SHAPE file or GeoTIFF, see below). Find below also some rules to
define the default raster resolution for a new LOCATION.
In the "Location Wizard" there is also a Download button that allows
you to directly download a ready-to-use LOCATION into the DATABASE. You can
choose among different sample LOCATIONS that are currently available at the
Download section in the GRASS GIS website.
Once you have selected an existing LOCATION/MAPSET or defined a new one, you can
enter GRASS. The graphical user interface wxGUI will open and provide you with
a menu system, map visualization tool, digitizer, and more.
A LOCATION is simply a set of directories which contains the GRASS data of a
project. Within each LOCATION, a mandatory "PERMANENT" MAPSET exists
which contains projection information and some more definitions. It can be
used to store the base cartography in it as "PERMANENT" is visible
to all users accessing a LOCATION.
Fig. 1: GRASS GIS 7 location structure
One motivation to maintain different MAPSETs is to store maps related to project
issues or subregions. Another motivation is to support simultaneous access of
several users to the map layers stored within the same LOCATION, i.e. teams
working on the same project. For teams, a centralized GRASS DATABASE would be
defined in a shared network file system (e.g. NFS). Besides access to his/her
own MAPSET, each user can also read map layers in other users’ MAPSETs,
but s/he can modify or remove only the map layers in his/her own MAPSET.
You can learn more about mapsets and how to seamlessly access maps found in
another MAPSET of the same LOCATION in the g.mapsets documentation.
When creating a new LOCATION, GRASS GIS automatically creates a special MAPSET
called PERMANENT where the core data for the project can be stored. Data in
the PERMANENT MAPSET can only be added, modified or removed by the owner of
the PERMANENT MAPSET; however, they can be accessed, analyzed, and copied into
their own MAPSET by the other users. The PERMANENT MAPSET is useful for
providing general spatial data (e.g. an elevation model), accessible but
write-protected to all users who are working in the same LOCATION as the
database owner. To manipulate or add data to PERMANENT, the owner would start
GRASS and choose the relevant LOCATION and the PERMANENT MAPSET. This mapset
also contains the DEFAULT_WIND file, which holds the default region boundary
coordinate values for the LOCATION (which all users will inherit when they
start using the database). Additionally, in all mapsets a WIND file is kept,
for storing the current boundary coordinate values and the currently selected
raster resolution. Users have the option of switching back to the default
region at any time.
To create the GRASS database:
- Find a place on your disk where you have write access and that has enough
disk space to hold your spatial data.
- Create a subdirectory that will hold the general GRASS database (e.g.
using a file manager or with mkdir /data/grassdata or mkdir
Sample data such as the "North Carolina" or the "Spearfish"
sample datasets may be downloaded from
http://grass.osgeo.org/download/sample-data/ and the compressed data
package(s) extracted into this new database directory.
Now you are ready to select a sample dataset in the GRASS GIS startup screen
(see above) and start the session.
The wxGUI graphical user interface provides a graphical "Location
Wizard" which lets you easily create a new LOCATION for own data. You
will be guided through a series of dialogues to browse and select predefined
projections (also via EPSG code) or to define individual projections. The
rules to define the resolution as described above also apply here.
Hint: You can create new LOCATION easily from a georeferenced data file
(e.g., SHAPE file or GeoTIFF file with the related metadata properly
included). In this case you are asked whether the data itself should be
imported into the new LOCATION. The default region is then set to match
imported map and the GRASS GIS session is opened.
After defining new LOCATION, wxGUI starts automatically. If data were already
imported, you can add them into the Layer Manager now and display them. If
your LOCATION is empty you can import your data from the menu: Go to
"File" -> "Import raster/vector data" (see also the
related Wiki page on Importing data).
GRASS GIS can be run entirely without using the graphical user interface. For a
first time startup, the following steps have to be followed:
- Create a GRASS GIS database as explained above.
- Create a new location, including it’s default PERMANENT mapset,
without entering the new location:
- Using an EPSG code:
grass74 -e -c EPSG:32630 /home/user/grassdata/mylocation
- Using a georeferenced raster or vector file:
grass74 -e -c MyGeoReferenceFile.tif /home/user/grassdata/mylocation
- Create new mapset within the new location and launch GRASS GIS within that
grass74 -c /home/user/grassdata/mylocation/mymapset
Please have a look at the GRASS GIS web site for tutorials and books:
GRASS GIS 7 Reference Manual
GRASS GIS 7 startup program manual page
List of EPSG codes (Database of worldwide coordinate systems)
Last changed: $Date: 2017-12-11 21:08:09 +0100 (Mon, 11 Dec 2017) $
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