Visualising PostGIS data from the shell

On and off, I've been looking for a way to quickly visualise PostGIS data from ad hoc query results.

There are only a couple of solutions suggested by Google: one is to use some kind of plugin in QGIS which doesn't exist; another one is uDig which has a horrible UI and doesn't seem to allow visualising query results (although I could only tolerate its Eclipse-based UI for about 5 minutes before deleting the whole thing, so it's hard to be sure).

Other possible solutions are even clunkier, such as converting the data to KML, saving to a file and then loading it in Google Earth. That's enough steps to discourage any kind of visual exploration.

Ideally, I wanted to be able to pass queries for visualisation from a psql session but I don't see any way of making that happen without requiring toggling of \o and \t options, which would be inconvenient.

I was about to start writing my own script for this, but then I stumbled onto a useful solution which looks like this:

+---------------------------------------+
|                                       |
|   Run query in psql and output rows   |
|                                       |
+-------------------+-------------------+
                    |                    
                    |                    
+-------------------v-------------------+
|                                       |
|   Construct GeoJSON via geojsonify    |
|                                       |
+-------------------+-------------------+
                    |                    
                    |                    
+-------------------v-------------------+
|                                       |
|  Pass to geojson.io via geojsonio-cli |
|                                       |
+-------------------+-------------------+
                    |                    
                    |                    
+-------------------v-------------------+
|                                       |
|      Browser opens geojson.io with    |
|             visualised data           |
|                                       |
+---------------------------------------+

To set this up, you need to do the following:

npm install -g blackmad/geojsonify
npm install -g geojsonio-cli
echo "psql -d \$1 -t -c \"\$2\" | geojsonify | geojsonio" > gjio
chmod +x ./gjio

The version of geojsonify in the NPM repository is broken, so it has to be installed from Github.

The resulting gjio script can then be used like this:

./gjio osm "select st_astext(linestring) from ways limit 100"    

This opens geojson.io with the results of the query displayed on the map.

A couple of notes:

  • If the result set is small enough, it's passed along in the URL, but otherwise a public Gist is created on Github (so you may want to be careful with private data).
  • Geometry columns have to be converted to WKT using ST_AsText as that's what geojsonify is able to convert into GeoJSON features