Running ILWIS on MAC OSX

Integrated Land and Water Information System (ILWIS) is a GIS-Remote Sensing (RS) software for windows operating systems. ILWIS was developed by ITC ( In July 2007, both the binaries and the source codes for ILWIS became freely available as-is under 52°North initiative (GPL license).

Being a graduate from ITC, I might be a little biased. But in my opinion ILWIS is very easy to use and is very powerful. For someone who wants to start to learn about GIS and RS, ILWIS is definitely a good starting point.

One downside of ILWIS is that it is only available on Windows machines. So, for those OSX lovers, who want to use ILWIS, I discuss how to install and run ILWIS on OSX.

The first solution is to choose one of the Virtual Machine softwares on OSX. You can either use one of the commercial ones, such as VMWare fusion, or Parallel Desktop, or you can use the freely available virtual machine provided by Oracle called virtualBox. They are all good. However, RS-GIS processing already take a lot of processing power and memory. Running them on virtual machine will make them super slow and sometimes even it crashes.

The alternative is to make use of WINE. WINE makes it possible to run windows machine on Linux OS. Fortunately, WINE is also available on OSX systems. The following describes how to install and configure WINE to run ILWIS. But before that there are couple of prerequisite steps.

Prerequisite #1: Installing XCode

The first step is installing the XCode. XCode is usually available on the installation DVDs that come with your system. You can also download the latest version from As of the time of this writing, the latest version is V4. However, “you must be an iOS or Mac Developer Program member to download Xcode 4 or you can purchase Xcode 4 from the Mac App Store.” Although, you can still download 3.2.6 freely.

Prerequisite #2: Installing X11

You also need X11 prior to running ILWIS. X11 is installed by default on OSX 10.6.x. For whatever reason if it is not installed, or if you want to update the X11, you can download the latest version of XQuartz from

Prerequisite #3: Installing MacPorts

I love MacPorts. It makes life much easier. According to, “The MacPorts Project is an open-source community initiative to design an easy-to-use system for compiling, installing, and upgrading either command-line, X11 or Aqua based open-source software on the Mac OS X operating system”. Go to their website, download the latest version and install it. After installation, upgrade the MacPorts by issuing the following command in the Terminal:

sudo port -v selfupdate

Also, sync the MacPorts to get the latest list of available softwares. You can do this by typing:

sudo port -d sync

Installing WINE:

Now that you have met all the prerequisites, It’s time to install WINE. Now you will see how easy it is to install a software using port. To install WINE the only thing that you need to do is to issue:

sudo port install wine

This command will download all the software packages that are needed for wine to run, compiles them and installs them. You are ready to go now. However, it is not a bad idea to force port to clean up. To do so, just type:

sudo port clean –all installed

Before installing and running ILWIS, you need to configure WINE by typing:


Fortunately, the default configuration works for wine. Just make sure that “Windows XP” is selected as the windows version.

Downloading and Installing ILWIS:

Go to and download the latest version of the ILWIS installation files. Unzip the downloaded file (if it is already not) and then in the command prompt issue:

wine Path_To_Downloaded_File/setup.exe

MAC usually downloads in ~/Downloads. So, most possibly you need to type:

wine ~/Downloads/setup.exe

The installation program will start. You need to choose a path to install. Just remember that “C:\” refers to “~/.wine/drivec/.

Running ILWIS, The Moment of Truth:

Now, it is time to run ILWIS and enjoy the software. All you need to do is typing:

wine Path_To_Installed_ILWIS &

Assuming that you have installed ILWIS in the default path, i.e. C:\Program Files\ILWIS, you can type:

wine “C:\Program Files\ILWIS\Ilwis.exe” &


wine ~/.wine/drivec/Program\ Files/ILWIS/Ilwis.exe &

Just pay attention to the use of double quotes when using the windows style addressing.

Now you can enjoy using ILWIS, your favorite GIS-RS software on MAC.

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6 Responses to Running ILWIS on MAC OSX

  1. Ahmed says:

    Dear Mohammed, I am using ILWIS 3.06 for Aster Dem >300 MB processing to extract the stream ordering from the Dem. I processed every thing untill Drainage network extraction but later it shows error ‘out of memory’ while processing the drainage network ordering. In my computer hard drive 1 TB, RAM 3.42 GB and i set up Virtual memory as 2 GB. I cann’t understand what is the problem. Please help me to solve this problem. I expect a good result.
    Ahmed PhD student Hungary

    • I have the same problem under Windows, it happens also while filling sinks on an interpolated dem. But the program isn’t really running out of memory, it’s some kind of bug!! I willw rite in the ILWIS forum I guess.

  2. Angie says:

    Thanks Mohammad It works out perfect if you download ilwis 3.7.2 package, but if you download ilwis 3.8.0 package won’t work on mac at least in my case.

  3. Mamo Kassegn says:

    Dear Mohammed, I am using ILWIS 3.7.2 for catchment delineation on window 7. I processed through SRTM products with 90 meter until Drainage network extraction in which I have face an error message ‘out of memory’ while processing the drainage network ordering. Could you help me on how to resolve the error? Thanks in advance.

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