This page is a brief description of the five programs I use to do geospatial analysis. At the bottom of the page I also provide links to other relevant pages on digital geography.
1. Google Earth. Google Earth came online in 2005. It is revolutionizing the way we do urban analysis. During the rebellion against Gaddaffi in Libya in 2011, the military commander in Bengazi said, “the onl foreign assistance we need is air support and Google Earth.” Fortunately, we can also use this software to bear witness to the presence of informal settlements in cities across the world.
2. QuantumGIS, also known as QGIS. This is a user-friendly GIS application that edits shapefiles (please see the quick tutorial if this is confusing). Make sure you install the GDAL libraries along with QGIS.
3. The GIMP (Graphic Image Manipulation Program). This is a full-featured editor for raster images (JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP, etc.). Use GIMP to create mashups of Google Earth screen-captures, and to adjust outputs from QGIS.
4. Inkscape. This is a simple vector-graphics application. It creates and edits files in the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format. It also supports right-to-left Arabic text, so it can be used with Dari and Pashto. You just need to switch the keyboard-input of your system. If that does not make sense to you, please find out how to install and configure international settings on your computer.
5. LibreOffice. This is the current best free, open-source suite of office applications. (the governing of OpenOffice has become a problem since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, so a new team is now developing LibreOffice as the fully open-source option). LibreOffice includes a spreadsheet editor (like Microsoft Excel), which can be used to do batch edits of database files, including the .dbf component of shapefiles.