Software tools

Open Foris

Open Foris is an FAO-led initiative to develop, share and support specialized software tools required by countries and institutions to implement multi-purpose forest inventories.  These tools are used to support countries in gathering, producing and disseminating reliable information on the state of forest resources that is vital to decision makers and other stakeholders.  Emphasis is placed on building sustainable capacity through the free sharing of all tools, documentation and source-code, thus promoting self-sufficiency, transparency and vendor independence.  In addition, being open-source means Open Foris software’s inner workings are open to review by peers, promoting higher quality tools and encouraging and facilitating partner contributions.

The initiative was created under the FAO-Finland Forestry Programme in collaboration with FAO’s support to National Forest Monitoring and Assessment (NFMA) and the UN-REDD Programme to address the growing need for accurate and timely information on the state of forest resources and their use and users.  Applying FAO’s broad experience in forest monitoring, Open Foris addresses cross-cutting needs through a set of highly flexible, easy-to-use software tools. Through FAO’s global network of partners and experts, tools are designed, tested, applied and improved to ensure they are relevant and provide real value to beneficiaries.

Open Foris tools are being built to support the entire inventory lifecycle, from needs assessment, design, planning, field data collection and management, estimation analysis, and dissemination.  Remote sensing image processing tools are included, as well as tools for international reporting such as for REDD+ MRV and FAO FRA.

Not all stakeholders have the same needs and capacity.  To address this, Open Foris is not designed as a single program or database, but rather as a set of software tools and standards which may be mixed and matched to best fit user needs.  Where applicable, open standards are used, guaranteeing maximum interoperability with existing local, national and international systems and infrastructure.  Application of standards also facilitates data portability, guaranteeing data is accessible independent of future technology decisions.

Open Foris tools are currently in-use in several pilot countries and partner institutions with more planned.  For a complete list and concept note, click here.


Open Foris Collect provides a flexible solution for field data management, allowing user-defined variables, data structure and data checking.  Collect improves data quality through an integrated workflow which facilitates the processes of data entry and data cleansing.  The system guarantees interoperability and transparency of field data through the application of Open Foris’ Inventory Data Metamodel.  All data is documented and described using this standard metadata format.  This also allows for automatic integration with relational databases, XML and other formats.  Collect is available in both standalone (offline) or web-based  (online) versions.  A mobile version is also currently under development.  For further information, please see here.

Open Foris Geospatial Toolkit is a collection of command-line utilities for processing geographical data. Several prototype stand-alone programs and scripts have been tested in Ubuntu Linux environment.  Most of the stand-alone programs use GDAL libraries and many of the scripts rely heavily on GDAL command-line utilities. For details, see here.

Open Foris Calc is a robust, modular browser-based tool for NFI results calculation. Allows expert users to write their own custom R modules to perform country/inventory-specific calculations. 

Future Development

In addition to tools for data collection and geospatial data processing, software to assist forest mensuration calculation, analysis and reporting are currently under development.  Open Foris Design Tool for Inventory and Monitoring is also currently being developed by US Forest Service.  Check back regularly for updates on latest progress. 

For technical and user documentation, please also refer to the Open Foris Wiki.

last updated:  Thursday, April 3, 2014