Install QGIS on a Mac in 8-Steps

**UPDATED FOR QGIS 2.16 – 07 Oct 2016**

QGIS is an impressively powerful open source geographic information system (GIS). In 2010, I reviewed QGIS when it had an “All-In-One” installation bundle for the Mac. That one-step installation has gone by the wayside, and while QGIS is an excellent GIS solution for Mac users, installation is much more of a chore. As a software developer myself, I can only imagine the installation process discourages use by the average consumer (and by average, I mean moderately sophisticated GIS users).

If you’re in that camp, this guide is for you… it provides (without warranty) a step-by-step guide to successfully install the supporting frameworks and the QGIS software. These instructions are for QGIS 2.16 built for Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, and (hopefully) MacOS Sierra.

Installing QGIS on a Mac

Step One: Honesty

Installing most software on a Mac is easy, but installing QGIS on a Mac is a pain (though it is getting easier with each release!)¹. I’ve stumbled through it a couple of times now.

There are supporting frameworks that must be installed first, and in a particular order, before the QGIS installation can begin. If you try installing QGIS before installing the supporting frameworks, you’ll likely see an error message like this:

qGIS installation error

Also, always read the ReadMe files included with your downloads before installing. For example, this important ReadMe message is included with the QGIS Installer:

 If you have an old in your Applications folder, trash it before installing QGIS 2.16.
 Old files may not be deleted by the installer, which may cause problems for QGIS2.16

In summary, the following download is required:

  1. Download QGIS for Mac Installer. There is no need to download and install these frameworks individually if this package is installed. All required items are included on the disk image, which includes:
    • GDAL Complete.pkg (installs framework package)
    • NumPy.pkg (installs python module)
    • Matplotlib.pkg (instalsl python module)
    • Install QGIS.pkg (installs the app!)
The Real 10 8 Steps

STEP 1. To allow installation of non-Apple developer recognized software, first change your Mac Security Preferences to ‘Allow apps downloaded from: Anywhere’

STEP 2. Download the ‘QGIS for Mac’ installer

Download QGIS for Mac Installer. Double-click the ‘QGIS-2.6.1.dmg’ to view its contents:


STEP 3. install GDAL Complete —  double-click the ‘GDAL Complete.pkg’ and step through its installation.

STEP 4. Install NumPy — double-click the ’NumPy.pkg’ and step through its installation.


STEP 5. Install Matplotlib —  double-click the ‘matplotlib.pkg’ and step through its installation.


STEP 6. Install QGIS —  double-click the ‘Install QGIS.pkg’ and step through its installation.

STEP 7. Proceed to your Applications folder and find the QGIS app. Double-click to launch.

Be patient, it took a little less than a minute on first launch for my copy of QGIS to fully open. Also, even if you are familiar with GIS software, don’t expect QGIS to be completely intuitive. Like any new app, you need to take the time to learn its features and user interface. Fortunately, there are some terrific learning resources available, like the QGIS Tutorials and Tips by Ujaval Gandhi and the QGIS User Guide.

You now have a sophisticated GIS software to learn and enjoy. Depending on your needs, you might even want to add some of the QGIS Plugins.

STEP 8. Your almost done! To finish things off you should do the following:

a. Change your Mac Security Preferences back to ‘Allow apps downloaded from: Mac App Store and Identified Developers’ (or Mac App Store only).
b. Save the QGIS.dmg files, since they each contain uninstall instructions should you ever need them.


¹ Software isn’t always easy. I really appreciate the great work of good folks who support this open source (and free) software. The main release packages for QGIS for Mac are maintained by Kyngchaos, aka William Kyngsburye. (thank you!)

3 replies
  1. Oana Nedeianu
    Oana Nedeianu says:


    thanks for the post. Just tried to change the settings as in step 1 to be able to download qgis and with sierra I don’t have that option. Any suggestion?

    • Jill Saligoe-Simmel
      Jill Saligoe-Simmel says:

      Hi Oana,

      Thanks for the heads up. I just checked my laptop that is running MacOS Sierra 10.12. As you point out, the Security & Privacy option that allows you to install apps “from anywhere” is no longer available.

      According to MacWorld ( this change only affects people with the public beta of MacOS Sierra. I’m running the developer beta and do see the same thing. MacWorld says, “When Apple released the final version of Sierra, it reverted the settings back to the way it works in El Capitan.” The article provides two ways to open apps downloaded by unidentified developers. I’ll be providing an update to my instructions to accommodate this change in MacOS.

      I hope that helps!
      – Jill

  2. Ruben
    Ruben says:

    I just updated to Mac OS Sierra with a clean install. QGIS installs fine, but then it won’t open…Anyone else with the same issue? 🙁

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