This is the topic of a talk for a lecture and tutorial I delivered at the University of Sheffield. All slides, the tutorial and example data can be found in this zip file.

The students were asked to install and test QGIS, the free and open source mapping software, before the course. Thankfully everyone managed to get the software installed and working on their own laptops which came as a pleasant surprise after the multiple glitches experienced for a similar course last year. People seemed to enjoy the lecture and were very impressed at the capabilities of QGIS. Three students even said they planned to take the approach, which involved filtering and mapping Open Street Map data for local areas, and use it in real-world applications, including to make a new map of an isolated village in France and creating a map for delivering a local magazine in York.

Not only did students respond with enthusiasm to the software, they also seemed to understand the importance of the broader open source movement. After the talk I am convinced that open source is the future of all geographic software. This, I believe, will help make geography a more inclusive subject, of the kind advocated by Patrick Geddes in contrast to the elitist tradition in geography embodied by Halford Mackinder. The whole tutorial has been made available to anyone, so please give it a try to see the potential of open access data combined with open source software.