For me, one of the killer features of QGIS has always been the integration with GRASS GIS. With the GRASS GIS plugin, introduced about 10 years ago, QGIS basically provided an alternative interface for GRASS GIS. Sadly, it didn’t work well with GRASS GIS 7. So you can imagine how happy I was to see this crowd funding campaign, started in March this year by Radim Blazek, author of most parts of original GRASS plugin implementation, to upgrade the plugin.
The funding campaign followed the KiA model, meaning that the work was divided into more packages, each to be implemented if the amount of collected resources reaches a partial cumulative goal set for that package. The first two packages were quickly funded an implemented in QGIS 2.10, viz. the plugin library upgrade, allowing the plugin to work with GRASS 7, and the implementation of a browser, which allowed users to browse and manage data in GRASS GIS database directly (I wrote about the introduction of this function before).
The target for the last two packages is to be delivered with the upcoming QGIS 2.12. These will offer GRASS GIS mapset and layer management, access to GRASS modules, and vector editing.
But wait, QGIS 2.12 isn’t out yet, is it? Well, no, it hasn’t been released yet, but it will be very soon. In the meantime you can download the development version and help to test these and other new features and fixes. And as you can see in the screenshot above, it works like a charm.
As a side note
For those wondering, yes, there is an alternative way to access most of the GRASS GIS functions; via the processing toolbox. The arguably greatest advantage is that this makes it very easy to combine GRASS GIS functions with functions from other providers, such as SAGA GIS and the Orfeo toolbox. QGIS has a rich set of addons, and offers a stellar set of cartographic features. But for me the ability to integrate different back-end programs into one toolbox is what is transforming QGIS into a real analytical power tool.
So why all the fuzz about this GRASS GIS addon? Well, the processing toolbox offers access to GRASS GIS functions, but not to data kept in a GRASS GIS database. The GRASS addon makes it possible to use GRASS GIS data directly in QGIS and even to edit GRASS vector data in QGIS directly. Working on GRASS data directly also means that you can use and edit the region settings, a corner stone concept in GRASS GIS, and limit data analysis using a mask. See here to get some feeling about the importance of these two features for any GRASS raster analysis.