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Thu Jul 10 22:25:08 2014

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QGIS Planet

Using QGIS processing scripts

One of the area’s that QGIS is constantly improving is the ‘Processing framework’, Formerly known as the sextante framework and written in java, it is rewritten in Python by one of the original authors Victor Olaya and made part of QGIS since about QGIS 2.0. I think it is VERY usefull and in use a […]

QGIS – Mapping Election Results, pt 2: Adding and overlaying the data in QGIS

Continuing on from the previous tutorial:-

Return to QGIS. Add the westminster_const_region.shp file if necessary

  1. Press the Add Delimitated Text file button, and select the .csv export of the cleansed electoral data
  2. The two options I changed from the default settings are:-
  • First record contains field names
  • No geometry (attribute only table)
QGIS - Create layer from text file

QGIS – Create layer from text file

Step 3 – Joining the data

Joining the polygons in westminster_const_region.shp to the data imported from the Results_Cleansed spreadsheet will allow the data to be presented in a spatial and visual format which will be much easier to interpret, allow for spatial analysis and also give the viewer an idea of the geographic spread. Using QGIS’ Join function will hopefully save a lot of copying and pasting!

Right click on westminster_const_region.shp and select Properties to open the Properties dialog

  • Select the Joins button from the left panel
  • Join Layer – the layer that you want to join to
  • Join Field – the field that you want to join to
  • Target Field – the field in this layer that contains the matching data
QGIS - Add vector layer

QGIS – Add vector layer

The join will now appear in the layer’s Joins list:-

QGIS layer properties

QGIS layer properties

The attribute table will now show the combined  data for both layers:-

QGIS attribute table

QGIS attribute table

This data can now be used to create a thematic map that colours each constituency according to party that won the seat in 2010.

I won’t go through all the steps of creating a thematic map as an earlier tutorial does this.

I’ve used the same colours that the different parties in the UK use:-

QGIS Layer properties

QGIS Layer properties

The thematic map shows the results across the entire UK. It is easy to identify patterns in the result, for example

  • The Liberal Democrats mostly won seats in Scotland, the North East, Wales and South West.
  • There is strong Labour support in South West Scotland, North West England, West Midlands, South Wales, London, Liverpool and Manchester.
  • The Conservative support covers much of the rest of England, especially South East England, excluding London.
2010 election results map

2010 election results map

Using a GPS dongle with QGIS (Linux)

Because I had this GPS dongle laying on my table, I figured I had to find out how to connect this via usb or bluetooth to my Debian Laptop so I could use it with QGIS. Read the full article here

Shapeburst fill styles in QGIS 2.4

With QGIS 2.4 getting closer (only a few weeks away now) I’d like to take some time to explore an exciting new feature which will be available in the upcoming release… shapeburst fills!

As a bit of background, QGIS 2.2 introduced a gradient fill style for polygons, which included linear, radial and conical gradients. While this was a nice feature, it was missing the much-requested ability to create so-called “buffered” gradient fills. If you’re not familiar with buffered gradients, a great example is the subtle shading of water bodies in the latest incarnation of Google maps. ArcGIS users will also be familiar with the type of effects possible using buffered gradients.

Gradient fills on water bodies in Google maps

Gradient fills on water bodies in Google maps

Implementing buffered gradients in QGIS originally started as a bit of a challenge to myself. I wanted to see if it was possible to create these fill effects without a major impact on the rendering speed of a layer. Turns out you can… well, you can get pretty close anyway. (QGIS 2.4′s new multi-threaded responsive rendering helps a lot here too).

So, without further delay, let’s dive into how shapeburst fills work in QGIS 2.4! (I’ve named this fill effect ‘shapeburst fills’, since that’s what GIMP calls it and it sounds much cooler than ‘buffered gradients’!)

Basic shapeburst fills

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this fill effect, a shapeburst fill is created by shading each pixel in the interior of a polygon by its distance to the closest edge. Here’s how a lake feature polygon looks in QGIS 2.4 with a shapeburst from a dark blue to a lighter blue colour:

A simple shapeburst fill from a dark blue to a lighter blue

A simple shapeburst fill from a dark blue to a lighter blue

You can see in the image above that both polygons are shaded with the dark blue colour at their outer boundaries through to the lighter blue at their centres. The screenshot below shows the symbol settings used to create this particular fill:

A simple shapeburst fill from a dark blue to a lighter blue

Creating a simple shapeburst fill from a dark blue to a lighter blue

Here we’ve used the ‘Two color‘ option, and chosen our shades of blue manually. You can also use the ‘Color ramp’ option, which allows shading using a complex gradient containing multi stops and alpha channels. In the image below I’ve created a red to yellow to transparent colour ramp for the shapeburst:

Colour ramp shapeburst with alpha channels

Colour ramp shapeburst with alpha channels

Controlling shading distance

In the above examples the shapeburst fill has been drawn using the whole interior of the polygon. If desired, you can change this behaviour and instead only shade to a set distance from the polygon edge. Let’s take the blue shapeburst from the first example above and set it to shade to a distance of 5 mm from the edge:

Shapeburst fills can shade to a set distance only

Shapeburst fills can also shade to a set distance from the polygon’s exterior

This distance can either be set in millimetres, so that it stays constant regardless of the map’s scale, or in map units, so that it scales along with the map. Here’s what our lake looks like shaded to a 5 millimetre distance:

Shading to 5mm from the lake's edge

Shading to 5mm from the lake’s edge

Let’s zoom in on a portion of this shape and see the result. Note how the shaded distance remains the same even though we’ve increased the scale:

Zooming in maintains a constant shaded distance

Zooming in maintains a constant shaded distance

Smoothing shapeburst fills

A pure buffered gradient fill can sometimes show an odd optical effect which gives it an undesirable ‘spiny’ look for certain polygons. This is most strongly visible when using two highly contrasting colours for the fill. Note the white lines which appear to branch toward the polygon’s exterior in the image below:

Spiny artefacts on a pure buffered gradient fill

Spiny artefacts on a pure buffered gradient fill

To overcome this effect, QGIS 2.4 offers the option to blur the results of a shapeburst fill:

Blur option for shapeburst fills

Blur option for shapeburst fills

Cranking up the blur helps smooth out these spines and results in a nicer fill:

Adding a blur to the shapeburst fill

Adding a blur to the shapeburst fill

Ignoring interior rings

Another option you can control for shapeburst fills is whether interior polygon rings should be ignored. This option is useful for shading water bodies to give the illusion of depth. In this case you may not want islands in the polygon to affect their surrounding water ‘depth’. So, checking the ‘Ignore rings in polygons while shading‘ option results in this fill:

Ignoring interior rings while shading

Ignoring interior rings while shading

Compare this image with the first image posted above, and note how the shading differs around the small island on the polygon’s left.

Some extra bonuses…

There’s two final killer features with shapeburst fills I’d like to highlight. First, every parameter for the fill can be controlled via data defined expressions. This means every feature in your layer could have a different start and end colour, distance to shade, or blur strength, and these could be controlled directly from the attributes of the features themselves! Here’s a quick and dirty example using a random colour expression to create a basic ‘tint band‘ effect:

Using a data defined expression for random colours

Using a data defined expression for random colours

Last but not least, shapeburst fills also work nicely with QGIS 2.4′s new “inverted polygon” renderer. The inverted polygon renderer flips a normal fill’s behaviour so that it shades the area outside a polygon. If we combine this with a shapeburst fill from transparent to opaque white, we can achieve this kind of masking effect:

Creating a smooth exterior mask using the "inverted polygons" renderer

Creating a smooth exterior mask using the “inverted polygons” renderer

This technique plays nicely with atlas prints, so you can now smoothly fade out the areas outside of your coverage layer’s features for every page in your atlas print!

All this and more, coming your way in a few short weeks when QGIS 2.4 is officially released…

Toner-lite styles for QGIS

In my opinion, Stamen’s Toner-lite map is one of the best background maps to use together with colorful overlays. The only downsides of using it in QGIS are that the OpenLayers plugin can not provide the tiles at print resolution and that the projection is limited to Web Mercator. That’s why I’ve started to recreate the style for OSM Spatialite databases:


So far, there are styles for lines and polygons and they work quite well for the scale range between 1:1 and 1:250000. As always, you can download the styles from QGIS-resources on Github.

Packaging PostGIS dev releases with Docker

Packaging PostGIS dev releases with Docker

We recently added support for GML curves to PostGIS, which enables TinyOWS to deliver WFS requests with curve geometries. More on this in a later post. This enhancement is in the current PostGIS developement version (SVN master) and not released yet. To enable our customer testing this functionality, we had to build packages for their server environment which is Ubuntu Precise with UbuntuGIS repositories. After working with Linux LXC containers and it's predecessor VServer for years, Docker was a logical choice for a clean reproducible build environment.

Rebuilding a Debian package is usually quite easy:

apt-get build-dep <package>
apt-get source <package>
cd <packagedir>
#Make your changes
dch -i

But getting build dependencies for PostGIS currently fails with libssl-dev conflicts, maybe because the dev packages got out of sync after the recent Heartblead updates. So the Dockerfile uses equivs to build a dummy package which satisfies the dependencies.

The command

docker run -v /tmp:/pkg sourcepole/postgis-svn-build-env sh -c 'cp /root/*postgis*.deb /pkg'

loads the Docker image with packages built from the latest SVN version of PostGIS in /root and copies the deb files from the containter into /tmp.

Now we're ready to install these packages on the Ubuntu server:

sudo dpkg -i /tmp/*postgis*.deb

Thats it. Feedback welcome!



If you happen to be a developer, then you may prefer running a cutting-edge version of PostGIS in a Docker container instead of building packages. Our colleagues from Oslandia just published how to do this.

„Geo For All“ - neue Technologien für eine Welt im Wandel

GEOSummit 2014, Bern

„Geo for all“ ist nicht nur das Motto der weltumspannenden ICA-OSGeo Lab Initiative zur Förderung der GIS-Ausbildung an Hochschulen, sondern steht allgemein für den immer breiteren Zugang zu professionellen GIS-Werkzeugen. Im Kartenbereich haben Produkte wie TileMill oder D3.js, sowie Dienste wie CartoDB, GeoCommons, usw. den Anwenderkreis weit über das klassische GIS-Fachbebiet hinaus erweitert. Im Vortrag werden einige herausragende Beispiele vorgestellt und deren Relevanz für die Fachwelt erläutert.



QGIS Needs You! Help make QGIS 2.4 better

QGIS is now in feature freeze for the 2.4 release, that means no more features are going in and we need to focus on fixing any outstanding issues that are still hanging around before the release. 2.4 is going to be a good release, adding cool things like: multithreaded rendering; legend code refactor; colour blind previews; and a whole heaps of other cool stuff. We need your help finding and squashing bugs. This is where you come in.

Finding bugs

Grab the RC builds of QGIS from the downloads page. If you are on Windows I would recommand grabbing the OSGeo4W installer and installing the package called qgis-dev using the Advacned option. A new build will show up nighly and you can test the lastest version.

If you find a bug you need to log it at, if you don't we can't fix it. Don't post a tweet about it and hope that we pick it up because we may not, this happened recently and the person didn't file tickets when I asked them too and now it's forgotten.

We track everything at We close tickets as we fix them so keep an eye out for ones that you open. Remember to always add as much information as possible, and answer questions if asked. We are aware that everyone is busy, as are we, however if you don't responed it can be hard to track down issues at times. It can take a bit of time to get used to what is a good or a bad ticket but it doesn't take long. Next time you see a bug file it at

Squashing bugs

This is where the help really matters and is the best thing you can do for the project. If you're a developer and keen to try your hand at some bugfixing you can find the most important ones here.

Not a developer?

The next best thing you can do is fund some bug fixing. There are many ways to do this and this is the most effective way to get stuff done.

Your main options are:

  • Donation to the QGIS fund - we use some of this money to pay for bug fixing.
  • Hire a developer directly. This is a good way to go as it is focused development. You can find some of the devs here
  • Rob a bank and send the money to us - No!11! Don't do that.
  • Encourage your company - who maybe is now saving a lot of money - to sponser or hire a developer.
  • Run a user group and charge a small fee to donate to the project - minus costs of course.

It's not just code.

There is more to QGIS then code and some application at the other end. With each release comes other non developer work.

These things include:

  • Updating the manual
  • Updating translations
  • Helping with PR stuff like posters
  • Ticket clean up

If you're not in a position to help in the other areas of the project these things need love to so don't forget you can help here.

We love that QGIS is free, that it opens GIS to a whole range of people who would never have been able to use it. It's a great feeling. It's also a great feeling when others get invovled and help us along to make it better for everyone.

qgis2img - A QGIS render benchmarking tool and image renderer

qgis2img is a new tool that I created, in a bit of friendly competition with the boss, which I lost but we will not speak of that again, for benchmarking QGIS layer rendering. The goal is simple. Take a project file(s), or QLR file(s), render the output, time the results, and dump a summary. Simples. The tool does 3 passes by default to get the average but can do more. It's nothing fancy. Written in Python so it can be evolved quickly.

qgis2img will render each image by itself to give single timings then it will render the whole project as you see in QGIS.

It uses QGIS 2.4 (qgis-dev) in order to use the new rendering methods. I don't have any plans to port it to work with QGIS 2.2, however feel free to send a pull request.

The usage is pretty simple:

usage: qgis2img [-h] [--size SIZE] [--passes PASSES] [--types TYPES] file

Benchmark QGIS project file and layer loading times

positional arguments:
  file             Project file to load into QGIS

optional arguments:
  -h, --help       show this help message and exit
  --size SIZE      Image output size
  --passes PASSES  Number of render passes per layer
  --types TYPES    What to render. Options are layer|project, layer, or project.
                   layer|project will render all layers as the if the project
                   is open in QGIS.

with the results:

$ python.exe qgis2img parcels.qgs --passes 5
Project Loaded with: [u'PARCEL_region - Shp', u'PARCEL_region - Spatialite']
Rendering images with 5 passes
Layer: PARCEL_region - Shp      4.907 sec
Layer: PARCEL_region - Spatialite       3.66 sec
Layer: Project     5.3378 sec


It will generate an image for each layer and the project:


You can find the project at

Pull requests and ideas welcome


There is a tool called qgisbench in the QGIS source tree that does this kind of thing too, however:

  • It's in C++
  • We don't ship it
  • It's in C++
  • <3 Python
  • These things are good examples for others
  • Using the Python API in this ways lets me see gaps

PDOK-servicesplugin 0.7 released

This post is about a new release of the dutch pdokservices-plugin which can be used to easily add WMS, WFS can WCS service layers from our national data-agency PDOK. Read the dutch version here.

QGIS Dutch Community

Sorry, this entry is only available in the Dutch language

A guide to GoogleMaps-like maps with OSM in QGIS

Using OSM data in QGIS is a hot topic but so far, no best practices for downloading, preprocessing and styling the data have been established. There are many potential solutions with all their advantages and disadvantages. To give you a place to start, I thought I’d share a workflow which works for me to create maps like the following one from nothing but OSM:


Getting the data

Raw OSM files can be quite huge. That’s why it’s definitely preferable to download the compressed binary .pbf format instead of the XML .osm format.

As a download source, I’d recommend Geofabrik. The area in the example used in this post is part of the region Pays de la Loire, France.

Preparing the data for QGIS

In the preprocessing step, we will extract our area of interest and convert the .pbf into a spatialite database which can be used directly in QGIS.

This can be done in one step using ogr2ogr:

C:\Users\anita_000\Geodata\OSM_Noirmoutier>ogr2ogr -f "SQLite" -dsco SPATIALITE=YES -spat 2.59 46.58 -1.44 47.07 noirmoutier.db noirmoutier.pbf

where the -spat option controls the area of interest to be extracted.

When I first published this post, I suggested a two step approach. You can find it here for future reference:

For the first step: extracting the area of interest, we need Osmosis. (For Windows, you can get osmosis from Unpack to use. Requires Java.)

When you have Osmosis ready, we can extract the area of interest to the .osm format:

C:\Users\anita_000\Geodata\OSM_Noirmoutier>..\bin\osmosis.bat --read-pbf pays-de-la-loire-latest.osm.pbf --bounding-box left=-2.59 bottom=46.58 right=-1.44 top=47.07 --write-xml noirmoutier.osm

While QGIS can also load .osm files, I found that performance and access to attributes is much improved if the .osm file is converted to spatialite. Luckily, that’s easy using ogr2ogr:

C:\Users\anita_000\Geodata\OSM_Noirmoutier>ogr2ogr -f "SQLite" -dsco SPATIALITE=YES noirmoutier.db noirmoutier.osm

Finishing preprocessing in QGIS

In QGIS, we’ll want to load the points, lines, and multipolygons using Add SpatiaLite Layer:

Screenshot 2014-05-31 11.39.40

When we load the spatialite tables, there are a lot of features and some issues:

  • There is no land polygon. Instead, there are “coastline” line features.
  • Most river polygons are missing. Instead there are “riverbank” line features.

Screenshot 2014-05-31 11.59.58

Luckily, creating the missing river polygons is not a big deal:

  1. First, we need to select all the lines where waterway=riverbank.
    Screenshot 2014-05-31 13.14.00
  2. Then, we can use the Polygonize tool from the processing toolbox to automatically create polygons from the areas enclosed by the selected riverbank lines. (Note that Processing by default operates only on the selected features but this setting can be changed in the Processing settings.)
    Screenshot 2014-05-31 13.40.16

Creating the land polygon (or sea polygon if you prefer that for some reason) is a little more involved since most of the time the coastline will not be closed for the simple reason that we are often cutting a piece of land out of the main continent. Therefore, before we can use the Polygonize tools, we have to close the area. To do that, I suggest to first select the coastline using "other_tags" LIKE '%"natural"=>"coastline"%' and create a new layer from this selection (save selection as …) and edit it (don’t forget to enable snapping!) to add lines to close the area. Then polygonize.

Screenshot 2014-05-31 14.38.48

Styling the data

Now that all preprocessing is done, we can focus on the styling.

You can get the styles used in the map from my Github QGIS-resources repository:

  • osm_spatialite_googlemaps_multipolygon.qml … rule-based renderer incl. rules for: water, natural, residential areas and airports
  • osm_spatialite_googlemaps_lines.qml … rule-based renderer incl. rules for roads, rails, and rivers, as well as rules for labels
  • osm_spatialite_googlemaps_roadshields.qml … special label style for road shields
  • osm_spatialite_googlemaps_places.qml … label style for populated places such as cities and towns


Combining skills – Mapping Election Results

I would like to show you how to use QGIS to combine different skills to

  • Import data from Excel or other spreadsheets
  • Analyse the data
  • Present the results as a thematic map
  • Use a feature subset to hide superfluous data

There is a year to go to the next general election. Under the British electoral system, the country is divided into 660 constituencies. The MP for each constituency is elected using the First Past the Post system, where the candidate with the most votes is chosen as MP for that constituency. The party that has the most MPs elected wins the election, and the right to form the nest government.

Parties concentrate their resources on the constituencies that they are most likely to win or lose. These are usually the ones where majority in the previous election was closest.

This project will use QGIS to join fields between OS Boundary line data and the 2010 election results to identify and map these constituencies.

I downloaded the following data sets:-

OS Boundaryline:

Election results:

Step 1 – Examine and prepare the data

I need both data sets to use exactly the same name and formatting in order to In order to add the 2010 election results to the OS Boundary line polygons.

  1. Start QGIS and set the map projection to OSGB.
  2. Use the Add Vector Layer button to add the file westminster_const_region.shp from the OS Boundary line data
  3. Open the attribute table to check the data structure and contents:-

Constituency attribute table

Now to check the GE2010-constituency-results-website.xls



Election results Excel screenshot

Unfortunately the two datasets don’t use exactly the same constituency names! It is fairly easy, but time consuming to match the record from the Election Results dataset to the OS Boundary Line record using Excel or Libre Office.

To export the OS Boundary line polygon names to Excel:-

  1. Right click on the westminster_const_region.shp in the Layers Panel
  2. Select Save As

I prefer to use the .dbf format when exchanging data between GIS and Excel as it is quicker to import than using .csv format.



Both name fields are needed. The first, constituency _name will be used to link to the constituency polygons once the table is imported into QGIS. The second, Results_Table_Name is used by the VLOOKUP query that adds the five columns from the results data.


Excel screenshot showing the cleansed election results matched to constituency names

Save the data as a .csv file when this stage is complete.

The QGIS Field calculator is dead. Long live the Field calculator bar

Ahhh the good old field calculator, it's in a better place now. OK not really, it's still there if you need it, but we can do a little better in 2.4. Introducing the field calculator bar:


oooo fancy.

The field calculator has always bugged me, I think it was just the combination of a few things:

  • It's modal so it blocks you from doing anything else - this alone is motivation enough in my mind.
  • You have to do the Open - Run - Close - Open - Run - Close dance which isn't great - annoying to say the least.
  • Did I mention it's modal - AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH
  • Defaults to creating a new field - which is the edge case
  • You only have All or Selection, which is a bit limiting

Anyway, enough with that. Last night I was having a chat to Nyall about something unrelated, and while looking at Excel I thought about that little bar at the top and how handy that is. You don't see a field calculator dialog in Excel - well there is one but not for the common case - you just wack in your expression and it does its thing. Why couldn't we have this for QGIS? I think I said to Nyall "you know this would be pretty cool, I might give it a go". Couple of hours later and this is it.


I have expressed in the past, and above, my hate for modal dialogs, so that was the main motivation and the results are much nicer then before.

What do we gain:

  • Not modal - WIN!
  • Don't have to close anything to see your results
  • See the results as soon as you run Update (All|Filtered)
  • Works on the features in table (All|Filtered)
  • Does one job

The other improvment to the old dialog is what features the bar works on. The bar will update what it sees in the dialog. If you need to update just the selection, simply select Show Selected and run the update. Need to search for something to update? Run a filter and press update. The method has changed from All and Selected to All and Filtered. Just remember if you see it in the attribute table it will be updated.


The last point is important too, if you need a new field you use the New Field button, then run the update, there is no need to mix the two function into one tool. SRP.

This feature will be in 2.4. If you find any bugs assign them to me at and I will try to address them before 2.4 is out.

RIP Field calculator dialog

Colour shortcuts in QGIS 2.4

Quick poll… what’s the most frustrating thing about GIS? Fighting with colour plotters? Trying to remember GDAL command line syntax? MapInfo’s new ribbon interface* [1]? All of the above?


It’s getting a colour from here:


…all the way over to here:


Since the dawn of GIS humanity has struggled with this simple task* [2]. We’ve come up with multiple techniques for solving this problem, ranging from the RSI inducing “select and copy red value, alt-tab, paste, alt-tab, select and copy green value, alt-tab, paste, etc….” method, through to chanting “70, 145, 160… 70, 145, 160… 70, 145, 150… 70, 145, 150” to ourselves as we frantically try and rearrange dialogs to find the destination colour picker, all the while avoiding strange looks from co-workers.

Fortunately, QGIS 2.4 is coming to the rescue! Now, you can right click on any of QGIS’ colour picker buttons for a handy copy/paste colour shortcut menu. Pasting colours works from a whole range of formats, including hex codes, color names, and css-style “rgb” and “rgba” strings.


Problem solved!

Even better, you can just drag colours from one colour button to another:

Fixed again...

… and solved again…

Or, drag a colour from GIMP and drop it onto a QGIS colour button:


… and yet again!

Or even drag a colour from a QGIS button directly onto a shape in Inkscape! All this win is coming your way in QGIS 2.4, due June 2014.

[1] Pre-empting the inevitable flood of complaints when this new interface is rolled out
[2] I assume

And now… colour preview modes in QGIS’ map canvas

As a quick follow-up to my last post on colour preview modes for the print composer in QGIS 2.4, this feature has also been added to the main map canvas window! Now it’s even easier to adjust your symbol colours and immediately see how they’d appear under a range of different circumstances:

Colour previews modes for the map canvas

Colour previews modes for the map canvas


Packaging PostGIS dev releases with Docker

Packaging PostGIS dev releases with Docker

We recently added support for GML curves to PostGIS, which enables TinyOWS to deliver WFS requests with curve geometries. More on this in a later post. This enhancement is in the current PostGIS developement version (SVN master) and not released yet. To enable our customer testing this functionality, we had to build packages for their server environment which is Ubuntu Precise with UbuntuGIS repositories. After working with Linux LXC containers and it's predecessor VServer for years, Docker was a logical choice for a clean reproducible build environment.

Rebuilding a Debian package is usually quite easy:

apt-get build-dep <package>
cd <packagedir>
#Make your changes
dch -i

But getting build dependencies for PostGIS currently fails with libssl-dev conflicts, maybe because the dev packages got out of sync after the recent Heartblead updates. So the Dockerfile uses equivs to build a dummy package which satisfies the dependencies.

The command

docker run -v /tmp:/pkg sourcepole/postgis-svn-build-env sh -c 'cp /root/*postgis*.deb /pkg'

loads the Docker image with packages built from the latest SVN version of PostGIS in /root and copies the deb files from the containter into /tmp.

Now we're ready to install these packages on the Ubuntu server:

sudo dpkg -i /tmp/*postgis*.deb

Thats it. Feedback welcome!



If you happen to be a developer, then you may prefer running a cutting-edge version of PostGIS in a Docker container instead of building packages. Our colleagues from Oslandia just published how to do this.

Installing PostGIS on Fedora 20

In order to explore all the new interfaces to PostGIS (from QGIS, GDAL, GRASS GIS 7 and others) I decided to install PostGIS 2.1 on my Fedora 20 Linux box. Eventually it is an easy job but I had to visit a series of blogs to refresh my dark memories from past PostGIS installations done some years ago… So, here the few steps:

# become root
su -
# grab the PostgreSQL 9.3 server and PostGIS 2.1
yum install postgresql-server postgresql-contrib postgis

Now the server is installed but yet inactive and not configured. The next step is to initialize, configure and start the PostgreSQL server:

# initialize DB:
postgresql-setup initdb
# start at boot time:
chkconfig postgresql on
# fire up the daemon:
service postgresql start

A test connection will show that we need to configure TCP/IP connections:

# this will fail
psql -l
psql: could not connect to server: No such file or directory
    Is the server running locally and accepting
    connections on Unix domain socket "/var/run/postgresql/.s.PGSQL.5432"?

So we enable TCP/IP connections listening on port 5432:

# edit "postgresql.conf" with editor of choice (nano, vim, ...),
# add line "listen_addresses = '*'":
vim /var/lib/pgsql/data/postgresql.conf
listen_addresses = '*'
#listen_addresses = 'localhost'         # what IP address(es) to listen on;

Now restart the PostgreSQL daemon:

# restart to re-read configuration
service postgresql restart

Check if the server is now listening on TCP/IP:

# check network connections:
netstat -l | grep postgres
tcp        0      0*               LISTEN     
tcp6       0      0 [::]:postgres           [::]:*                  LISTEN     
unix  2      [ ACC ]     STREAM     LISTENING     2236495  /var/run/postgresql/.s.PGSQL.543

So far so nice. Still PostGIS is not yet active, and we need a database user “gisuser” with password:

# switch from root user to postgres user:
su - postgres
# create new DB user with password (will prompt you for it, choose a strong one):
createuser --pwprompt --encrypted gisuser

Finally we create a first database “gis”:

# create new DB
createdb --encoding=UTF8 --owner=gisuser gis

We enable it for PostGIS 2.1:

# insert PostGIS SQL magic (it should finish with a "COMMIT"):
psql -d gis -f /usr/share/pgsql/contrib/postgis-64.sql

That’s it! Now exit from the “postgres” user account a the “root” account:

# exit from PG user account (back to "root" account level):

In case you want to reach the PostgreSQL/PostGIS server from outside your machine (i.e. from the network), you need to enable PostgreSQL for that:

# enable the network in pg_hba.conf (replace host line; perhaps comment IP6 line):
vim /var/lib/pgsql/data/pg_hba.conf

host    all             all             all                     md5

# save and restart the daemon:
service postgresql restart

Time for another connection test:

# we try our new DB user account on the new database (hostname is the 
# name of the server in the network):
psql --user gisuser -h hostname -l
Password for user gisuser: xxxxxx

Wonderful, we are connected!

# exit from root account:
[neteler@oboe ] $

Now have our PostGIS database ready!

What’s left? Get some spatial data in as a normal user:

# nice tool

Using the shp2pgsql-gui

Next pick a SHAPE file and upload it to PostGIS with “Import”.

Now connect to your PostGIS database with QGIS or GRASS GIS and enjoy!

See also:

Colour blindness and grayscale previews in QGIS 2.4

Since QGIS 2.4 is nearing feature freeze it seems like a good time to start exploring some of the great new features in this release. So, let’s get started with my most recent addition to QGIS’ print composer… preview modes!

As every first year cartography text book will tell you, it’s important to know your target media and audience when creating a usable map. Some important considerations are whether or not your map will be photocopied or printed in black and white, and whether you need to consider colour blind map readers in your audience. In the past, designing maps with these considerations has been a time consuming, tedious process. You’d have to export your map, open it in another graphics editing program, apply some colour transform, work out what issues there are, flip back to QGIS, make your changes and repeat. If you’re working with a tight deadline it can be difficult to justify the time this all takes.

QGIS 2.4 will help to make this whole process a lot simpler. In the print composer there’s now an option to enable a number of different live “preview modes“. These include grayscale, monochrome, and two colour blindness simulations (Protanope and Deuteranope).

Composer preview modes in QGIS 2.4

Composer preview modes in QGIS 2.4

These preview modes are live, so you can continue to edit and tweak the colours in your composition while a preview mode is active! For a quick demonstration, let’s start with this creatively coloured thematic map:


While it might not be the most aesthetically pleasing map, at least the thematic colours can be easily matched to their corresponding values in the legend. Let’s see what would happen if we photocopied this map. This is as easy as activating the “Simulate photocopy (grayscale)” preview mode:


Hmm… not so usable now. The five thematic colours have been reduced to just three discernible colours. Oh well, at least we haven’t had to export our map to find this out, and it’s nice and easy to adjust the colours and composition to work for photocopies without having to leave QGIS to test the results!

Let’s see how this map would look to someone with colour blindness, by activating the “Simulate colour blindness (Protanope)” mode:


In this case, our map isn’t too bad. The different classes are still discernible and the map can be interpreted by someone with protanopia.

So there we have it – now it’s easy to determine how our map outputs will look under different circumstances and adjust them to suit! Composer preview modes will be a part of the upcoming 2.4 release of QGIS, which is due out at the end of June 2014.


This feature has also been added to the main map canvas.

Setting up PyCharm for PyQGIS and Qt

I have been asked a few times how to setup PyCharm so you are able to do PyQGIS development, or even PyQt because that is just as great. Rather then tell each person one at a time I thought I would throw it out as a blog post so everyone gets the benift.

The first thing we need to do is create a batch file that will load PyCharm and setup all the paths correctly. We have to do this on Windows as Qt and QGIS are not on PATH. QGIS also ships with it's own version of copy of Python so we need to tell PyCharm about it.

The batch file is as simple as this:

SET PYCHARM="C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\PyCharm 3.0\bin\pycharm.exe"

CALL %OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin\o4w_env.bat


start "PyCharm aware of QGIS" /B %PYCHARM% %*

Save this somewhere called pycharm-pyqgis.bat and run it.

This is a pretty basic batch file. It just sets the variables that we need for the QGIS and Qt libs, and also sets the PYTHONHOME to the QGIS version. The magic sause here is the set PATH, set PYTHONHOM, and set PYTHONPATH variables. You can just update the OSGeo4W_ROOT, and PYCHARM variables for your setup.

After running the batch we need to setup a Python interpreter in PyCharm. Click Configure -> Settings on the load page (or settings in the File menu). Search for Python Interpreters, and press the green add button and select local. Here we need to add the Python interpreter that we setup in our batch file. In the one I posted above it will be found at C:\OSGeo4W\bin\python.exe. Press Ok and PyCharm will find all the python paths it needs for the setup.


Leave the settings dialog and create a new project.


Remember to select the interpreter that we setup for the installed version of QGIS.

That is pretty much it. We can now create a pyqgis and pyqt app in PyCharm.

Lets give it a go

from qgis.core import QgsApplication
from PyQt4.QtGui import QDialog

app = QgsApplication([], GUIEnabled)

dlg = QDialog()


Run it in PyCharm with Alt+Shift+F10. Good to go!

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