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Comparing Surfer and QGIS

Quite often people will ask, “What are the differences between Surfer and QGIS?” Below is a comparison of the main features and functionality of each program. Surfer, as you may know, provides 2D and 3D contouring complete with surface mapping software. QGIS has an assortment of plugins, and we haven’t been able to review them all. I encourage you review and let me know if there is any missing information. As new information comes in, I’ll be sure to update the matrix below.

  Surfer version 13 QGIS version 2.12.3
Price 1-3 licenses $849/license
4-10 licenses $805/license
11+ licenses $765/license
Free
Development Model Commercial Open source
Plug-ins
Red X
Green Check
Free Resources
Website
Green Check
Green Check
Live technical support
Phones
Green Check
Red X
Email
Green Check
Red X
Live chat
Green Check
Red X
Knowledge Base
Green Check
Red X
Forums
Green Check
Green Check
User Groups
Red X
Green Check
Documentation
In-program help
Green Check
Red X
Training manual
Green Check
Green Check
Paid for Resources
Full PDF user guide
Green Check
Red X
Live training
Green Check
Provided by
Golden Software &
authorized resellers
Green Check
Provided by 3rd party
contributors
Map Types
Base map
Green Check
Green Check
Contour map
Green Check
Green Check
Image map
Green Check
Green Check
Post map
Green Check
Green Check
Classed post map
Green Check
Red X
Shaded relief map
Green Check
Green Check
Vector map (1-grid)
Green Check
Red X
Vector map (2-grid)
Green Check
Red X
Watershed map
Green Check
Green Check
Viewshed map
Green Check
Green Check
3D surface map
Green Check
Green Check
3D wireframe map
Green Check
Red X
Pie chart thematic map
Red X
Green Check
Histogram thematic map
Red X
Green Check
Map Features
Axes
Green Check
Red X
Profiles
Green Check
Green Check
Scale bar
Green Check
Green Check
Color scale
Green Check
Green Check
Coordinate systems
Green Check
Green Check
Import/edit/export attributes
Green Check
Green Check
Measure distance
Green Check
Green Check
Measure angles
Red X
Green Check
Digitize XYZ points
Green Check
Green Check
Overlay maps
Green Check
Green Check
Stack maps
Green Check
Red X
Log contours
Green Check
Red X
Save/load contour levels
Green Check
Red X
Edit contours
Red X
Green Check
Inline contour labels
Green Check
Green Check
Map transparency
Green Check
Green Check
Gridding/Interpolation/Rasterizing
Inverse distance
Green Check
Green Check
Kriging
Green Check
Red X
Minimum curvature
Green Check
Red X
Modified Shepard's method
Green Check
Red X
Natural neighbor
Green Check
Red X
Nearest neighbor
Green Check
Green Check
Polynomial regression
Green Check
Red X
Radial basis function
Green Check
Red X
Triangulation with linear interpolation
Green Check
Green Check
Moving average
Green Check
Green Check
Data metrics
Green Check
Green Check
Local polynomial
Green Check
Red X
Function grid
Green Check
Red X
Variogram modeling
Green Check
Red X
Grid date/time data
Green Check
Red X
Grid reports with statistics
Green Check
Red X
Faults
Green Check
Green Check
Breaklines
Green Check
Green Check
Anisotropy
Green Check
Red X
TIN support
Red X
Green Check
Grid Functions
Math
Green Check
Green Check
Calculus
Green Check
Green Check
Filter
Green Check
Green Check
Spline smooth
Green Check
Red X
Blank/null
Green Check
Green Check
Convert
Green Check
Green Check
Extract
Green Check
Green Check
Transform
Green Check
Red X
Mosaic
Green Check
Green Check
Volume
Green Check
Green Check
Slice
Green Check
Red X
Residuals
Green Check
Red X
Grid info
Green Check
Green Check
Grid node editor
Green Check
Red X
Assign coordinate system
Green Check
Green Check
Regrid
Red X
Green Check
Grid metadata
Red X
Green Check
Grid transpose
Green Check
Red X
3D File Viewer
Red X
Green Check
Worksheet
Green Check
Red X
Automation
Green Check
Green Check
Import/Export
Import options
33
22
Export options
27
28
Open grid
47
64
Save grid
24
64

Beyond the actual functionality, another difference between Surfer and QGIS is the development models. Surfer is a commercially developed program whereas QGIS is open source and is developed by a community of contributors. While it’s difficult to quantify, I believe it’s worth mentioning the pros and cons, according to me, associated with our commercial software model and QGIS’s open source model.

As a commercially developed product, Surfer comes with a price tag. Since people are spending their hard earned dollars, it is our duty to develop a high quality product. Our developers adhere to rigorous developmental principles, all code is reviewed by another developer, and Surfer undergoes extensive internal and external testing periods. We put a great focus on the usability of Surfer to ensure feature are easy to access. Beyond the quality of the product, we take great pride in the support we provide Surfer customers. All technical support is free for any version of the product (yes, even back to MS-DOS). This includes live phone, email, and chat along with our 24x7 web resources including the open forums and knowledge base. We also have a dedicated documentation writer who ensures all aspects of Surfer is documented.

Another point worth mentioning is longevity. Golden Software has been around since 1983, and we’ve sold licenses in 185 countries and on all seven continents.

Alternatively, as an open source product, QGIS is completely free and is developed through the good intentions of anyone wishing to contribute to its feature set. As such, anyone from a hobby developer to a senior developer can contribute, but there are minimal quality controls around code quality and program usability. QGIS does seem to have a strong community of followers which is important because it is to this community you will turn for technical support. Paid-for commercial support is also offered through 3rd party contractors. Like the development of QGIS, documentation is handled through the good intentions of volunteers which results in a wide range of poorly documented features to well documented features.

Let me know your thoughts on Surfer vs. QGIS. What do you like and what do you dislike about each program?

 

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Monday, 20 February 2017

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