Getting started: Starting ILWIS

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Main window
Figure 1, ILWIS main Window and its components

To start ILWIS:

  • Double-click the ILWIS icon on your desktop
  • Or double click ilwisclient.exe file from the directory where ILWIS is installed

As the result, ILWIS logo appears on your screen, followed by the ILWIS Main window.
Main window
ILWIS Main window consists of 2 quads (Figure 1): The Workbench buttons and the Data area/Catalog. The Workbench buttons gives access to most of the actions you can do in ILWIS. The Data area includes at least a catalog and may contains one or more horizontally aligned data panels (it starts with only one catalog). By default ILWIS starts with an empty catalog for the first time and afterward with the last visited one. The Catalog is used to represents all the available ILWIS objects (on a local drive or a remote database) in form of icons allowing users to view and access them. ILWIS data source such as maps and tables are visualized in ILWIS data panels.
Note that each data area in ILWIS includes an action bar which provides access to specific actions for that kind of data. In case of the catalog, the available Action tabs are:
Selection, Filter, Copy, Delete, Refresh (Figure 1). The ILWIS Workbench contains a set of buttons as the following (Figure 1):

∗ The Locator; which gives access to various folders and subfolders on a local drive or on a remote database.
∗ The Operations; provides access to the available ILWIS operations.
∗ The Python; provides access to the embedded python interpreter via ILWIS-Python console.
∗ The Metadata; gives access and provides editing tools to view and manipulate ILWIS objects properties.
∗ The Create; allows for creating ILWIS objects including the Workflow, Script(user defined operations) and Models(smce).
∗ The Massages; supports communication between system and users during every session; producing time-stamped documentation of events relevant to ILWIS.
∗ The Progress; displays the progress of a running operation, showing the statues of an events in term of time required to be completed.
∗ The Setting; allows user to customize appearance of certain ILWIS objects and to define location for internal data storage and data sharing in way the new arrangement suit them well.
∗ The Info; provides general information in regards with state of the installed software, names of the loaded modules and name of the contributors.

ILWIS main window also allows to use two or more catalogs simultaneously by adding a new catalog to the right or left of the displayed catalog. To add the second catalog:

  • Click on Locator button to access the Locator tools

The two tabs (New Catalog Left and New Catalog Right) at the top left corner of the Locator form allows to add new catalogs to the right or left of the existing one.

  • Click on the new catalog button to add a catalog on the right or left of the active Catalog

Note that the same action can be done using the Locator Buttons situated on the top right of the ILWIS main window.


Catalogs in ILWIS provides a view of all ILWIS objects, directories and subdirectories tree within a selected folder on your computer. All ILWIS objects in a catalog are preceded by an icon (Figure 2). To view the ILWIS object in the catalog, you need to select a folder with geo-data such as ILWIS 3 data or other format. There is no need for import data, since the new ILWIS can directly read files of various formats. To do so:

Figure 2, View of ILWIS Catalog with icons representing the available ILWIS objects in a selected folder
  • Click the Workbench bottom Locator .
  • From the opened form, select a folder where you have geo-data
  • You may add this folder as a bookmark for further use

Examples of the icons preceding data objects are given below:


There are several types of catalog in ILWIS namely: Master Catalog, System Catalog and Temporary Catalog.
The Master Catalog; can be viewed as a database that includes all the ILWIS objects on your system. In order to simplify access to the data, the master catalog can be filtered by various filters available via Action tabs at the bottom of the catalog. For example, to display only the available ILWIS tables on your system:

  • From the Action tabs select Filter
  • From the opened form, select Standard queries
  • From the dropped down list select Master Catalog Table

You may select different type of the master catalog from the list to view other ILWIS objects. You can also use the available icons at the top of the form to perform the same action. Pointing the mouse curser at each icon, provide you with a description of its action.
The System Catalog; can be viewed as a database that includes IWIS system objects such as; coordinate systems, datums, domains, ellipsoids, projections and representations. Use the example bellow to display only the available domain on your system:

  • From the Action tabs select Filter
  • From the opened form, select Standard queries
  • From the dropped down list select System Catalog Domain

The Temporary Catalog; basically, is used to keep temporary files generated via ILWIS operations. You can access the temporary catalog in the same way as it is mentioned above, but via selecting Temporary catalog.


  • The ILWIS object icons in the catalog includes file name and its extension such as: .mpa for a polygon map, .dem for a georeference, .mpr for a raster map, .csy for a coordinate system, etc.
  • An ILWIS object may appears repeatedly in the catalog, e.g., a shape file can appear with the same name as polygon map, as coordinate system, as table, etc.
  • First time entering a previously unvisited folder will trigger a scan and a delay (depending the number of geo-data in that folder) before the data is shown.

Catalogs view options
Figure 3, shows a preview of the content of a selected catalog.

As it shown in Figure 2 and 3, name of the selected folder and its path are shown on the top right side corner of the Catalog. The View tabs on the top left corner of the catalog allows you to view the content of the current directory in Grid, List, Thumb or Spatial. To view, simultaneously, contents of the catalog, e.g., in Thumb and Spatial; first you can open two catalogs as the following:


  • Click on Locator button to access the Locator tool tabs
  • Click on the New catalog button to add a catalog on the right or left of the active catalog

By defaults, contents of the catalog are displayed in grid. Now, you can use Thumb tab from the View tabs to get a preview of the data in the selected catalog.


  • Click on Thumb tab from the View tabs

Once you have done this, all the maps in the catalog will be displayed as large icons with a question mark sign in the center (Figure 3). To get a preview of the map:


  • Click on the Refresh tab available on the top right corner to generate thumbnail for the selected map

By doing this, ILWIS creates a directory .ilwis in the active catalog and saves the thumbnail for feature use. For the second time, these maps will be shown directly and no need to use the refresh button. Each thumbnail in the catalog includes coverage's metadata namely: dimension, domain type, name, coordinate system, georeference and physical size (Figure 3).

Figure 4, shows content of a catalog according to their geographic locations. The red boxes on the world map, shows the location of the data in the selected directory. A preview of the data of a certain region or country will be displayed by clicking or dragging a box around the location.

The contents of the selected catalog can also be viewed in spatial format by clicking Spatial button on the View tabs (Figure 4).


  • Click the Spatial tab on the View tabs

Spatial location of the data is shown with a red box on the background displayed world map (Figure 4). Clicking at any location on the displayed world map in the catalog, will show a preview of the available data in that locations.