GRASS Tutorial - ver 6.2.3 2008.09.09

The aim of this work is to create a GRASS tutorial based on free data, designed to be useful both to beginners and to skilled users.
The main aim is to make easier the first approach to the powerful GIS GRASS, helping the user to discover the GRASS capabilities through a series of different environmental and technical applications. This work is not certainly aimed to give an exaustive picture of the wide spectrum of possibilities that GRASS offers, but to make the user understand the logic of the system and to give a solid base from which to start to deepen his knowledge. The use of an hypertext allows the explicit writing of the links among the different parts of the tutorial.

Version and license:

This tutorial has been updated to version 6.2.3. Grass used for this tutorial is the stable version at 21 may 2008. All the exercises are compatible with previous GRASS 6 versions.
Creative Commons License
This work is published under Creative Commons License.

Copyright by Ciolli, Tattoni, Vitti, Zottele, Zatelli.


Data used this tutorial are available from Spearfish (USA) dataset, at the GRASS development site (please download SPEARFISH dataset for GRASS 6) (you can also try mirror sites, such as You must copy and exctract this dataset on your hard disk before beginning the tutorial.


How to use the tutorial:

The user should follow exercise in the order in which he finds them: first lessons are designed to be very easy, and every single operation that must be carried out is described precisely, guiding the user step by step; on the contrary, as lessons proceed, some steps will be taken for granted. It is always possible to access the tutorial at different levels, depending on the skill of the user. The tutorial is organized in five sections: introduction and description of GRASS, exercise, commands description, troubleshooting, links.


In the introduction the aim of the work and a general description of GRASS are reported.


Exercises must be carried out following the proposed order: it allows a gradual learning growing in complexity through the path. Some of the exercises are designed to use specific data formats, while others guide the user through a logical path to create environmental models or tools to support decisions. While most of the exercises have been developed from the authors, a few of them have been insipired by others resources available in the internet, like the tutorial created by John Mackenzie of the University of Delaware. The commands description, that are available also through the links in each exercise's page are sometimes the man pages and sometimes a revision of them. For each command the link to the man page at the official site of GRASS development team is always available .


Troubleshooting section contains the solution the most common problems encountered by new users, result of a long (since 1996) teaching experience with GRASS.


Links page allows to reach the main GRASS resources on the internet.

Tutorial development

In August 2008 the tutorial has been translated in english, corrected and updated to GRASS stable version 6.2.3 by Marco Ciolli, Paolo Zatelli and Clara Tattoni.

In April 2007 Paolo Zatelli has added the exercise Reference system and projections.

In January 2007 the tutorial was corrected and updated to GRASS 6.2.1 stable version (20061212) by Paolo Zatelli and Clara Tattoni, some corrections were given by Bruno Biagini. Paolo Zatelli has added the exercise GRASS and PostgreSQL/PostGIS.

In May 2006 Paolo Zatelli has added the exercise geoprocessing with vector data. The Tutorial has been updated to follow the changes in graphic interface by Fabio Zottele.

In June 2005 the tutorial has been updated and Paolo Zatelli has added the exercise regarding network analysis, while the exercise "An application of GRASS to biological conservation" has been added by Clara Tattoni and Damiano G. Preatoni of University of Insubria.

In March 2005, the tutorial has been updated by Fabio Zottele, Marco Ciolli, Alfonso Vitti and Paolo Zatelli to include the changes from version 5.7 to 6.0.

In December 2003 the tutorial has been updated and translated in english by Massimo Zanoni, Paolo Zatelli and Marco Ciolli.

In September 2002 the tutorial has been updated by Paolo Lonardi, Paolo Zatelli and Marco Ciolli.

The first version of this tutorial was on line in 2000 by Marco Ciolli, Paolo Zatelli and Alessandro Tomasi, and has been designed by Marco Ciolli and Paolo Zatelli starting from the exercises written in simple text format and used with the students of the Faculty of Engineering of Trento since 1996.


These pages are always in development. New exercises are added to answer the requests of GRASS users and students. Each year the new exercises are tested with university and professional students allowing an immediate feedback and the correction of errors and ambiguities. A part of this tutorial is currently available only in Italian, but it will be translated soon.