Programming and Development

Computer programming and development are critical to the past, present, and future of geospatial systems and techniques. The increasing ubiquity and diversity of online, mobile, and desktop GIS platforms along with the inclusion of cyber-infrastructure components within the bounds of geographic information systems (e.g., supercomputing, wireless sensor networks) means that GIS researchers and professionals need to be fluent in multiple forms of programming, and the life-cycles of system and software development.

Topics in this Knowledge Area are listed thematically below. Existing topics are in regular font and linked directly to their original entries (published in 2006; these contain only Learning Objectives). Entries that have been updated and expanded are in bold. Forthcoming, future topics are italicized


Algorithm Design/Algorithmic Approaches Programming Languages & Libraries
Real Tme Programming in GIS Applications Python for GIS
Natural Language Processing in GIS Applications  PySAL and Spatial Statistics Libraries
Machine Learning Programming for GIS R for Geospatial Analysis & Mapping
Linear Programming and GIS Javascript for GIS
GIS and Parallel Programming SQL Languages for GIS
Object-oriented Programming in GIS Applications GDAL./OGR and IO Libraries
  Application Development
Development Tools Design, Development, Testing, and Deployment of GIS Applications
Visual Programming for GIS Applications Verification & Validation of GIS Applications
SpatialMPI: Message Passage Interface for GIS Applications Commercialization of GIS Applications
GIS APIs Licensing of GIS Applications
  Open Source Software Development
Platform Specific Programming  
GIS and GPU Programming  
Programming of Mobile GIS Applications  
Web GIS Programming  


PD-18 - SpatialMPI: Message Passing Interface for GIS Applications

MPI (Message Passing Interface) is a widely used message passing library for writing parallel programs. The goal of MPI is to establish a portable, efficient, and flexible standard for message passing that will be widely used for writing message passing programs. This chapter motivates the need for using MPI for implementing GIS applications and introduces MPI data types and communication functions. Then, it presents new spatial data types and operations on them using MPI. Finally, it presents pseudocode for parallelizing a range query problem and spatial domain decomposition in GIS.

PD-17 - SQL Languages for GIS

SQL (Structured Query Language) is a declarative programming language that is closely linked to the relational database model. It is an accessible and widely adopted language used for query, data modification, and data definition—that is, defining data structures (tables) and other database objects. Important additions to the SQL standard include SQL/PSM, which adds control flow, local variables, and other procedural language features; and SQL/MM Part 3, which adds spatial support. Many complex geoprocessing workflows typically implemented in desktop GIS or scripting languages can easily be implemented in spatial SQL.

PD-28 - Visual Programming for GIS Applications

Visual programming languages (VPLs) in GIS applications are used to design the automatic processing of spatial data in an easy visual form. The resulted visual workflow is useful when the same processing steps need to be repeated on different spatial data (e.g. other areas, another period). In the case of visual programming languages, simple graphical symbols represent spatial operations implemented in GIS software (tools, geoalgorithms). Users can create a sequence of operation in a simple visual form, like a chain of graphical symbols. Visual programs can be stored and reused. The graphical form is useful to non-programmers who are not familiar with a textual programming language, as is the case with many professionals such as urban planners, facility managers, ecologists and other users of GIS. VPLs are implemented not only in GIS applications but also in remote sensing (RS) applications. Sometimes both types of applications are bundled together in one geospatial application that offers geoalgorithms in a shared VPL environment. Visual programming languages are an integral part of software engineering (SE). Data flow and workflow diagrams are one of the oldest graphical representations in informatics.

PD-16 - Web GIS Programming

Web GIS programming involves creating, extending, utilizing, Web GIS or web mapping solutions to solve specific problems, build complete applications, or consume or produce data and geospatial processing services. With the expansion of the internet and availability of Web GIS or Web mapping options, web GIS programming is becoming a commonly required skill set in many organizations. Web GIS programming is a type of software development that provides a means of handling internet, browser-based software application development tasks which require unique solutions to web GIS or web mapping problems. In addition, a number of Web GIS software options offer application programming interfaces (APIs) that provide a means by which developers can leverage the published data and processing services of others to build and customize applications through standardized interfaces with external web GIS software, data, and services. Web GIS programming applies to mobile as well as desktop application development. A browser typically runs software applications by submitting Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) requests to a server hosting resources the application user wishes to access available through a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), and the server replies by providing resources or performing functions requested by the user. This entry reviews the fundamentals of web GIS programming, accompanying the Web Mapping and other entries in the Programming and Development section, the Web GIS entry in the Computing Platforms section, and the User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) Design entry in the Cartography and Visualization section (Sack, 2017; Quinn, 2018; Roth, 2017).