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In late 1984, the ITC in the Netherlands was awarded a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS), with which it developed  a Geographic Information System (GIS) which could be used as a tool for land use planning and watershed management studies. With both raster and vector capabilities; it was the first fully integrated raster and vector GIS software programme in the world. Originally primarily used and tested within the institution, by the end of 1988 the DOS version 1.0 of the Integrated Land and Water Information GIS and remote sensing progamme, ILWIS was officially released. Two years later, ILWIS was made commercial with ITC establishing a worldwide distributors network. ILWIS 2.0 for Windows was released at the end of 1996, and ILWIS 3.0 by mid 2001. On 1st January 2004, ILWIS 3.2 was released as a shareware (one month trial offer).Since July 1st 2007, ILWIS has been distributed as an open source GIS software under GPL license by 52 North

In the following table you can see the history of the development of ILWIS. It clearly shows that this Geographic Information System (GIS) has a very long history of development and is no doubt the most versatile and flexible open source vector + raster remote sensing / GIS programmes in the world. 

Version Release date Significant changes
Release Date


Subsidy 1984 Subsidy and Initial development
ILWIS 0 1985 - 1988 Development and testing phase
ILWIS 1.0 1988 Official introduction of ILWIS

ILWIS 1.0 commercial

1990 Worldwide commercialization of ILWIS
ILWIS 2.0 1996 Release 2.0
ILWIS 3.0 June 2001 Release 3.0
ILWIS 3.1 April 2002 Release 3.1
Patch 3.11 September 2002

Direct import of Aster satellite images level 1a and 1b, including all needed geometric and radiometric corrections. This functionality is integrated in the Import Map Wizard.

Stereopair from DTM - Stereo pair from DTM operation creates a stereo pair from a single raster map and a Digital Terrain Model (DTM). These stereo pairs have the same usability as the Epipolar Stereo Pair.

Patch 3.12a August 2003

ID Grid map - creates a polygon map given a coordinate system and an attribute table. The polygon map consists of rectangular grid cells with a unique ID and can be linked to a table with attribute data when sample data is available.

Spherical Distance option was added to the operations Spatial Correlation, Cross Variogram, Nearest Point, Moving Average, Moving Surface, Kriging and CoKriging. This option calculates distances over the sphere instead of in a plane.

Export to ArcPad .PRJ - ILWIS coordinate systems can be exported to an ArcPad .prj file.

ILWIS 3.2 January, 2004

ILWIS becomes shareware and offered for 100 Euro per license after 1 month

WICE launches as a ILWIS-users website.

Spatial Multiple Criteria Evaluation (SMCE)

Hydrologic Flow Operations
Find Datum Parameters Wizard
GARtrip import
Patch 3.21 August, 2004

Extensions in Spatial Multiple Criteria Evaluation - Slicing, histograms, aggregated values, and an improvement in class map standardization.

Improvement in calling external executable files - Support for parameter passing, wait-till-finished option and error handling, and inclusion in a script as part of a batch process.

Support for coordinates for images from the MeteoSat-8 satellite.

ILWIS 3.3 September 2005

The SMCE application extended with overlay of reference maps, combination of spatial and non-spatial MCE, and interactive function graphs for standardization.

New applications for DEM hydro-processing implemented, like topological optimization, drainage network extraction, catchment extraction, horton statistics etc.

Georeferencing with additional supports up to 8 fiducial marks, sub-pixel precision and 3D coordinate transformations using 7 or 10 datum parameters.

Import and export using the GDAL library.

Projections for geostationary satellites.

Calculation and statistical functions for map lists.

Patch 3.31 June 2007

Improvements in the Hydrologic Flow Operations - Flow Direction now includes parallel drainage correction over flat surface, added a 'cut terrain' option to Fill sinks, and added operations 'Flow Length to Outlet' and 'Flow Path Longitudinal Profile'.

The SMCE application was extended with options to generate contour maps from suitability maps, and to directly view the standardized version of any of the criteria.

Added Hungarian EOV projection and 1972 Datum, the Mercator Scaled projection, the GRS 67 ellipsoid, and ellipsoidal cases for the Goode, Mollweide and cylinder Sinusoidal projections.

Added a spectral angle classifier.
Exporting Shapefiles now also exports the coordinate system to a .PRJ file.
ILWIS 3.4 Open July 2007
ILWIS becomes open source

GPL version from 52° N with proprietary components removed.

ILWIS 3.5 Open
September 2008
Added an OGC compliant WMS client.
Added a Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS) application.



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