xGIS: connecting GIS applications with development environments

Mr Alessio Arena1

1CSIRO, Clayton, Australia


The work of geoscientists in the digital space is carried using two main type of tools: 1) analysis and mapping software like ArcGIS or QGIS and 2) development environments including Python. While both platforms support the development of new methods, very few of them can be readily transferred across and access by the broader community. Reasons behind this are multiple: fragile development environment and the use of proprietary libraries in mapping software, difficulty in building user graphic interfaces and broadly accessible tools using development environments are few of them.

This presentation introduces xGIS (cross GIS), a Python based library that offers a programmatic interface between those two platforms. In fact, mapping software like the popular ArcGIS and QGIS offers Python environments that can be leveraged by this library to execute external tools written in compiled or interpreted languages. xGIS is built using only standard Python libraries and is fully compatible with both Python 2 and Python 3. This library includes a full development environment, providing tools to set up and deploy your extensions as well as working examples and developer documentation.

This method proves to be effective by integrating advanced Python tools in both ArcGIS and QGIS using resources that are not directly compatible with these software. The user experience offered is comparable with any other mapping software tool, providing access to: real-time logging, user cancellation, input parsing and validation, access to graphic interface and output handling. Additionally, tools developed for ArcGIS have also support forĀ  ModelBuilder and server-side Geoprocessing.


Alessio is an experimental scientist in the Bushfire Adaptation team in CSIRO. He has a MSc in geology focusing on earth surface processes, computational approaches and risk analysis. Alessio’s expertise includes software development, image analysis, remote sensing and data science.


AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.