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Geographic Resources Analysis and Support System GRASS 4.2 Fact Sheet

Bruce Byars, Markus Neteler, Steve Clamons, and Scott Cherry
GRASS Development Team, Baylor University
(August 1998, updated May 1999)

[Information on GRASS 5, "Introduction to GRASS GIS"]

1. What is GRASS?

Baylor University and University of Hannover are pleased to announce they are the new home for the open source Geographic Information System (GIS) GRASS (Geographic Resource Analysis Support System). GRASS is a GIS with raster, vector, image processing, and graphics production functionality that operates in the UNIX environment through a shell, and can also work under X-Windows. GRASS has been under continuous development since 1982 and has involved a large number of federal US agencies, universities, and private companies. The core components of GRASS and the management of the integration efforts into GRASS releases were accomplished by the U.S. Army - Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (USA-CERL) in Champaign, Illinois. USA-CERL completed its last release of GRASS as version 4.1 in 1992, and provided five updates and patches to this release through 1995. A new version, GRASS 4.2, has now been released by the GRASS Development Team at Baylor University. Through coordination with USA-CERL and other GRASS development sites, the GRASS Development Team will continue to update GRASS with powerful new capabilities in future releases. GRASS contains over 85 raster data manipulation modules, more than 40 vector data manipulation modules, over 50 modules to render images on the monitor or paper, nearly 30 multispectral image processing modules, 6 point data management programs, and 16 general data management. GRASS also has tools for interfacing with digitizers, scanners, and the RIM, Informix, Postgres, and Oracle databases.

2. GRASS - an open GIS

strengths lies in several areas:

1) The simple user interface makes it an ideal platform for those learning a GIS for the first time, but it is powerful enough for expert users. An X/Motif based program called XGRASS lends a point-and-click interface to GRASS, where interactive windows take the place of some command line options.

2) Users wishing to write their own code can do so by examining existing source code, along with the GRASS Programmer´s Manual and documented GIS libraries. This allows personal customization of the program and more sophisticated functionality to be fully integrated within GRASS.

Since GRASS is an open system, it is ideally suited for developing new software. Users can modify existing modules, create new modules, and link to other third-party software packages in GRASS. Compiling new tools in GRASS is made simple by its own set of libraries and the gmake command. The only external software needed is a standard ANSI C compiler and a Fortran 77 compiler for a few modules. For help in developing new modules, a programmers guide is available that describes all of the essential functions and tools needed for software development.

3. GRASS System Requirements

GRASS can be supplied in binary version or as source code to be compiled on a wide variety of host machines including SUN, Silicon Graphics, and IBM PC. Because the source code is in the C programming language, it lends itself to portability across many different flavors of UNIX and operating systems including DEC Alpha OSF/1, HP UX, Linux, SCO UNIX, SGI Irix, and SUN Solaris. In addition to the traditional UNIX versions, GRASS has also been ported to the MS-Windows operating systems putting the power of the GRASS GIS into the traditional PC users hands. The functionality of MS-Windows-based drawing tools is also incorporated to aid in display and generation of output maps.

Platforms on which GRASS has been tested by the GRASS Development Team:

- Linux 2.x
- SGI Irix 5.x/6.x
- SUN Solaris 2.4.x, 2.5x, 2.6x
- SUN OS 4.x
- HP UX 9.x, 10.x
- other UNIX derivates
- Microsoft Windows

Space requirements:

Minimum requirements - 8 megabytes RAM
- 140 megabytes hard disk space for source code
- 120 megabytes hard disk space for compiled binaries (Linux: 45 megabytes)
- C compiler, either native or gcc

Optimum requirements -32 megabytes of RAM or more
- 140 megabytes free hard disk space for source code
- 160 megabytes free hard disk space for compiled binaries
- C compiler, either native or gcc
- 100 megabytes to several gigabytes hard disk space for data

4. GRASS Documentation

A complete set of GRASS documentation is available at no cost from the GRASS Development Team website. The text includes a multi-volume Userīs Manual containing descriptions of all GRASS commands in the current release, a Programmer s Guide for users who wish to develop their own applications, and Installa- tion Guide to help new users through the installation and setup process. All documentation is available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), which easily allows users to view the manuals on-line or print a hard copy. The complete User s Manual is also available on-line in HTML language for interactive use.

5. Capabilities of GRASS

GRASS 4.2 is an integrated set of tools for raster, vector, image, and point data analysis. For example, GRASS 4.2 has suites of tools for complete image processing and satellite data analysis and raster-based hydrologic models, among others. Using these tools, water resource managers can use satellite rainfall data with topographic maps to develop rainfall/runoff relationships for a watershed. Environmental managers could use the sites analysis capabilities in conjunction with raster and vector data to monitor and model population demographics and trends. Quite simply, the uses of GRASS are up to the expertise and imagination of the user.

[for details about GRASS 4.2 analysis tools please get the PDF-file]

6. GRASS Data File Formats

One of the main functions of any GIS is integrating and formatting external data. Many data formats can be imported into GRASS, or they can be converted by other programs such as xv or netpbm-tools before importing. GRASS can also export data to many of these formats for use in other programs.

Data formats recognized by GRASS:

Raster Image

- PPM/3
- SUN-Raster
- standard binary raster
- DMA DTED formats


- ESRI/E00 (experimental)
- ESRI/SHAPE (experimental)


7. Projections and coordinate systems supported by GRASS

GRASS 4.2 allows different options for coordinate systems and projections. GRASS offers predefined projections, as well as the possibility to define a new geodetic projection.

The supported ellipsoids in GRASS are: airy, australian, bessel, clark66, clark80, everest, grs67, grs80, hayford, hough, iau76, international, krassovsky, merit, mercury, modified airy, modified everest, modified merc, new international, SEasia, sphere, walbeck, wgs66, wgs72, and wgs84.

Projection can be defined in the following coordinate systems:
Latitude-Longitude, UTM, State Plane, Albers equal area, Lambert conformal conic, Mercator, and transverse Mercator (for Gauss-Krueger, Gauss-Boaga,...).

Projections supported in GRASS 5

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