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Fri Nov 28 19:10:22 2014

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QGIS Planet

How to build and debug QGIS with QtCreator

Here is how I build QGIS with QtCreator under ubuntu 14.04

Landsat 8 captures Trentino in November 2014

The beautiful days in early November 2014 allowed to get some nice views of the Trentino (Northern Italy) – thanks to Landsat 8 and NASA’s open data policy:

Landsat 8: Northern Italy 1 Nov 2014
Landsat 8: Northern Italy 1 Nov 2014

Trento captured by Landsat8
Trento captured by Landsat8

Landsat 8: San Michele - 1 Nov 2014
Landsat 8: San Michele – 1 Nov 2014

The beauty of the landscape but also the human impact (landscape and condensation trails of airplanes) are clearly visible.

All data were processed in GRASS GIS 7 and pansharpened with i.fusion.hpf written by Nikos Alexandris.

The post Landsat 8 captures Trentino in November 2014 appeared first on GFOSS Blog | GRASS GIS Courses.

A new QGIS tool (based on ogr2ogr) to import vectors in PostGIS, the fast way

In QGIS there are many tools that can be used to import vectors inside a PostGIS database, each one has pros and cons: SPIT core plugin: available since long ago but now seems to be a unmaintained tool and therefore will be probably removed in a future QGIS release. It  has the advantage to allow […]

QGIS Cloud - Speed up the loading time of the web client

QGIS Cloud is your personal geo-data infrastructure in the internet. Publish maps and data. Share geo-information with others. And all of this very easily, without server, infrastructure and expert knowledge. If you know QGIS Desktop, then you know QGIS cloud just as well. Just install the QGIS cloud plugin from the official QGIS plugin repository and you’re good to go. You can publish as many maps as you want.

But the default settings of QGIS projects you like to publish via QGIS Cloud are not the best with respect to the performance of the QGIS Webclient / WMS. This point is noticeable when the published project contains many layers. Than the default settings are leading to bad performance. The size of the WMS GetCapabilities request is not negligible. Have a look at the first request:

QGIS Cloud slow response

The second request has a much faster response time than the first one:

QGIS Cloud fast response

What’s the difference between this two requests? First of all the slow request has to download and parse 3.1MB of XML data. The fast request has to download and parse 22KB only. However that work’s much faster. What makes the difference? If you have a look at the first request result, you can see, that tons of coordinate reference systems (CRS) are defined for every layer. These are all CRS supported by QGIS. In fact most of them will never be used. As the result the solution is to reduce the number of CRS in the QGIS Cloud WMS and WFS services. To achieve that you have to restrict the CRS in the QGIS project settings. Open the OWS Server tab and activate the CRS restrictions option and add all CRS of interest.

QGIS Cloud Webclient slow initialisation with none restricted CRS

QGIS Cloud Webclient fast initialisation with restricted CRS

Exploring QGIS 2.6 – Item panel for map composer

In recent releases QGIS’ map composer has undergone some large usability improvements, such as the ability to select and interact with multiple items, and much improved navigation of compositions. Another massive usability improvement which is included in QGIS 2.6 is the new “Items” panel in the map composer. The panel shows a list of all items currently in the composition, and allows you to individually select, show or hide items, toggle their lock status, and rearrange them via drag and drop. You can also double click the item’s description to modify its ID, which makes managing items in the composition much easier.

QGIS composer’s new items panel

This change has been on my wish list for a long time. The best bit is that implementing the panel has allowed me to fix some of the composer’s other biggest usability issues. For instance, now locked items are no longer selectable in the main composer view. If you’ve ever tried to create fancy compositions with items which are stacked on top of other items, you’ll know that trying to interact with the lower items has been almost impossible in previous QGIS versions. Now, if you lock the higher stacked items you’ll be able to fully interact with all underlying items without the higher items getting in the way. Alternatively you could just temporarily hide them while you work with the lower items.

This feature brings us one more step closer to making QGIS’ map composer a powerful DTP tool in itself. If you’d like to help support further improvements like this in QGIS, please consider sponsoring my development work, or you can contact me directly for a quote on specific development.

More experiments with Game of Life

As promised in my recent post “Experiments with Conway’s Game of Life”, I have been been looking into how to improve my first implementation. The new version which you can now find on Github is fully contained in one Python script which runs in the QGIS console. Additionally, the repository contains a CSV with the grid definition for a Gosper glider gun and the layer style QML.

Rather than creating a new Shapefile for each iteration like in the first implementation, this script uses memory layers to save the game status.

You can see it all in action in the following video:

(video available in HD)

Thanks a lot to Nathan Woodrow for the support in getting the animation running!

Sometimes there are still hick-ups causing steps to be skipped but overall it is running nicely now. Another approach would be to change the layer attributes rather than creating more and more layers but I like to be able to go through all the resulting layers after they have been computed.

Serving live tiles from a QGIS project via TileStache

I'm more then likly way behind the 8 ball here, aren't all the cool kids doing tiles these days, but regardless I thought it was pretty cool to share. The other day I found TileStache a neat little Python app that can generate, cache, and serve tiles from a list of providers. The normal way is via Mapnik (and others) to render a image, there is also a vector provider which can render vector tiles. Nifty.

A while ago I wrote qgis2img which can generate an image for project, or layers, and export it for you. It serves two roles, one is to benchmark a project and layer render times, the other as a simple export tool. I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to export tiles from it but was I never really up for working on the math and all the logic so I left it. Then I found TileStache.

The best part about TileStache, apart from that it's Python, is that you can make your own providers for it, and the API is dead easy

class Provider:
    def __init__(self, layer):
        self.layer = layer

    def renderArea(self, width, height, srs, xmin, ymin, xmax, ymax, zoom):

How easy is that! Just implement one method and you are good to go. So that's what I did. I created a custom provider that will load a QGIS project and render out images. Thanks to the work done by Martin from Lutra Consulting for the multithreaded rendering in QGIS 2.4 this is a hell of a lot easier then it used to be.

Ignoring some of the setup code to create and load the session the whole export logic is in these few lines

   extents = QgsRectangle(xmin, ymin, xmax, ymax)
   settings.setOutputSize(QSize(width, height))
   layers = [ for layer in project.visiblelayers()]
   image, rendertime = qgis2img.render.render_layers(settings, layers, RenderType=QgsMapRendererSequentialJob)

with render_layers defined as

def render_layers(settings, layers, RenderType):
    job = RenderType(settings)
    image = job.renderedImage()
    return image, job.renderingTime()

As this is build on top of my qgis2img tool you can see the full code here

Running it is as simple as installing TileStache, cloneing qgis2img, updating tilestache.cfg, and running the server.

$ pip install TileStache
$ git clone
$ cd qgis2img

In tilestache.cfg you can just change the path to the project to render:

  "cache": {
    "name": "Test",
    "path": "/tmp/stache"
  "layers": {
      "provider": {"class": "qgis2img.tilestache:Provider",
                   "kwargs": {"projectfile": "data/test.qgs"}

Then run the server

$ tilestache-server /path/to/tilestache.cfg

Note: The path to the .cfg file seems to have to be the full path. I had issues with relative paths working.

To view the tiles you can load the preview URL that TileStache provides or you can use it in something like LeafLet

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>QGIS Tiles WOOT!</title>
    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="" />
    <div id="map" style="position: absolute; top: 0; right: 0; bottom: 0; left: 0;"></div>
    <script src=""></script>

        var map ='map').setView([51.505, -0.09], 5);

        L.tileLayer('{id}/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
            maxZoom: 18,
            id: 'qgis'


And the result is live tiles from a QGIS project.



Some Caveats

  • The provider currently doesn't use metatiles so labels and points will get chopped at tile edge. I have working code for this but haven't pushed it yet.

  • I don't kill the QGIS session that I create. Creating a session for each request was really expensive so I just keep it around.

  • I only load the project once so any changes mean starting and stopping the server. Wouldn't be hard to add a file watcher for this.

  • It's just me using this at home for fun, I have no idea on how it would scale, or even if it would, but I would be keen to hear feedback on that theory.

Open source GIS interview for XYHT

20141108_175726_0A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to give an interview about open source GIS for the American magazine XYHT. We talked about the open source development model and the motivation behind contributing to open source projects. You can read the full interview in the November issue.

XYHT is available as a classic print magazine as well as for free online and focuses on “positioning and measurement” topics:

QGIS 2.6 ‘Brighton’ released

In the new release of QGIS 2.6.0 a series of new features have been added concerning

  • General: new features and bugfixes,
  • DXF export (improvements),
  • Map Composer (enhancements),
  • Processing (including a new modeler implementation),
  • QGIS Server (improvements),
  • Symbology (including user interface improvements),
  • User Interface with improvements.

A visual changelog is available for more details with lots of screenshots.

Congratulations to all QGIS developers! Looking forward to see the Fedora RPM available…

You can download QGIS 2.6 at

The post QGIS 2.6 ‘Brighton’ released appeared first on GFOSS Blog | GRASS GIS Courses.

Experiments with Conway’s Game of Life

This experiment is motivated by a discussion I had with Dr. Claus Rinner about introducing students to GIS concepts using Conway’s Game of Life. Conway’s Game of Life is a popular example to demonstrate cellular automata. Based on an input grid of “alive” and “dead” cells, new cell values are computed on each iteration based on four simple rules for the cell and its 8 neighbors:

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overcrowding.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

(Source: Wikipedia – Conway’s Game of Life)

Based on these simple rules, effects like the following “glider gun” can be achieved:

Gospers glider gun.gif
Gospers glider gun” by KieffOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

There are some Game of Life implementations for GIS out there, e.g. scripts for ArcGIS or a module for SAGA. Both of these examples are raster-based. Since I couldn’t find any examples of raster manipulation like this in pyQGIS, I decided to instead implement a vector version: a Processing script which receives an input grid of cells and outputs the next iteration based on the rules of Game of Life. In the following screencast, you can see the Processing script being called repeatedly by a script from the Python console:

So far, it’s a quick and dirty first implementation. To make it more smooth, I’m considering adding spatial indexing and using memory layers instead of having Processing create a bunch of Shapefiles.

It would also be interesting to see a raster version done in PyQGIS. Please leave a comment if you have any ideas how this could be achieved.

Animated QGIS map canvas item

Have you ever wanted to animate a QGIS map canvas item. No? Well soon you will.

First we need to create a custom QgsMapCanvasItem

from PyQt4.QtCore import QPointF, QRectF, QTimer, QObject, pyqtProperty, QPropertyAnimation, Qt
from PyQt4.QtGui import QPainter, QBrush, QColor
from qgis.gui import QgsMapCanvasItem
from qgis.core import QgsPoint

class PingLocationMarker(QgsMapCanvasItem):
    Position marker for the current location in the viewer.
    class AniObject(QObject):
        def __init__(self):
            super(PingLocationMarker.AniObject, self).__init__()
            self._size = 0
            self.startsize = 0
            self.maxsize = 32

        def size(self):
            return self._size

        def size(self, value):
            self._size = value

    def __init__(self, canvas):
        self.canvas = canvas
        self.map_pos = QgsPoint(0.0, 0.0)
        self.aniobject = PingLocationMarker.AniObject()
        QgsMapCanvasItem.__init__(self, canvas)
        self.anim = QPropertyAnimation(self.aniobject, "size")

    def size(self):
        return self.aniobject.size

    def halfsize(self):
        return self.aniobject.maxsize / 2.0

    def maxsize(self):
        return self.aniobject.maxsize

    def value_changed(self, value):

    def paint(self, painter, xxx, xxx2):

        rect = QRectF(0 - self.halfsize, 0 - self.halfsize, self.size, self.size)
        painter.drawEllipse(QPointF(0,0), self.size, self.size)

    def boundingRect(self):
        return QRectF(-self.halfsize * 2.0, -self.halfsize * 2.0, 2.0 * self.maxsize, 2.0 * self.maxsize)

    def setCenter(self, map_pos):
        self.map_pos = map_pos

    def updatePosition(self):

marker = PingLocationMarker(iface.mapCanvas())

and this is the result


wweeeee animated canvas item.

Run the above code in a QGIS Python console editor window and you should get the same effect.

So what is this magic? Well it turns out to be pretty easy all thanks to the handy class QPropertyAnimation. QPropertyAnimation takes a QObject and sets a property value until the end value is hit over the duration, the cool thing with this class is that it can take any QVariant type, which is pretty much anything, and it will go from start value to end value. You can also use other easing curves to change how the values change over time.

Super nifty!

The main important part of this is:

self.anim = QPropertyAnimation(self.aniobject, "size")

which calls the value_changed and self.update() methods, when update is called paint will be called and we grab the current animation value. Note: -1 loop count means run forever.

self.aniobject is a custom QObject to hold our current animation value. QgsMapCanvasItem is not a QObject so we have to make another object to hold that value for us. I tried double inheritance here and it didn't like it so I went with a nested class which is nice anyway.

And that is all you need to make a animated QgsMapCanvasItem, remember that QPropertyAnimation can be used on any QObject so you could do some pretty cool stuff with this if you have the need.

Be interested to hear any ideas on if we can use this in QGIS.

Note: A canvas item like this isn't part of any layer. Canvas items live on on the canvas itself, above or below the map image. The markers that you see when you enable editing on a layer are canvas items, as are the lines when drawing a measure line, even the image you see in the canvas is a canvas item, etc.

Visualize flows with FlowMapper

This article explains the presentation of flows on a map, using the FlowMapper plugin. For this demonstration, data on commuting patterns between 40 regions are used (from Statistics Netherlands). Preparing the data After the plugin is installed in the usual way, the manual can be found in the folder C:\Users\{username}\.qgis2\python\plugins\FlowMapper2_documentation.Three text files are required, with node […]

Thank you from Stacey and I.

Though the kindness of everyone we made it to over $2000 to donate two, not one like we had planned at the start, camera packs to hospitals that need them. One will be going to the new Gold Coast hospital where Ellie was born and the other to another hospital who needs it. Both cameras will have Ellie's name on them in her memory. They will go a long way to help preserve the memories of those last minutes just like it did for us with Ellie.

The money is now with Heartfelt and hopefully the cameras will be done soon. I will update this post with photos once they are done.

It was really amazing to see the number of people who I have never meet in person from all over the internet throwing in what they could to help us reach the goal. We are extremely grateful for everything everyone put in.

A massive thanks to everyone who donated:

  • Lyn Noble
  • Kylie and Nathan
  • Luke Bassett
  • Joanne Smith
  • Darryl & Angela Browning
  • Digital Mapping Solutions
  • David Baxter
  • Carl Wezel
  • Grandad and Grandma Woodrow
  • Bill Williamson
  • Helen Gillman
  • Karlie Jones
  • Lisa Gill
  • Andrew & Peta
  • Sally Drews
  • Matt Travis
  • Mummy, Daddy, Harry & Little Sis..
  • Terry Stigers
  • James McKeown
  • Jill Pask
  • Kym Zevenbergen
  • Jessica Nayler
  • Amelia Woodrow
  • Judy Burt
  • Russell and Suzann Woodrow
  • Jenny & Mark Gill
  • Emeley Sands
  • Rebecca Penny
  • Larissa Collins
  • Ross McDonald
  • Shantelle Sweedman
  • Rebbecca Ben izzy Erica
  • Aidan Woodrow & Andrew Smith
  • simbamangu
  • Sarah Rayner
  • Sassá
  • Matt Travis
  • Marco Giana
  • Heikki Vesanto
  • Jorge Sanz
  • Pure K.
  • Toby Bellwood
  • Andy Tice
  • Ujaval Gandhi
  • Matt Robinson
  • Geraldine Hollyman
  • Anonymous
  • Teresa Baldwin
  • Alexandre Neto
  • Chelsea Fell
  • Stephane Bullier
  • Nathan Saylor
  • Adrien ANDRÉ
  • Steven Feldman
  • Anita Graser
  • Chris Scott
  • Vicky Gallardo
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Stevie Little

I will also add a massive thank you to DMS who has been super supportive though this whole year since Elly died, and they know very well the effect it has had on Stace and I over the past year.

In a perfect world we would never had to run a fund raiser for this but I'm glad Heartfelt exist to help those of us in need at the time.

Thank you from Stacey and I.

QGIS UK Edinburgh – Photos

QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh QGIS UK user group Edinburgh

South-East User group meeting:

2nd South-East QGIS user group – 4th November

The Venue: Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Town Hall, St. Ives Road, Maidenhead. SL6 1RF.

Tickets: You can grab them from here and they are FREE!


9.30-10:  Arrive
10.00: Welcome
10.15 – 12:  Lutra Consultancy – Python Plugin Development *
12 – 12.30: Discussion / Its your floor: This part of the agenda is entirely driven by you. It’s your chance to stand up and let everyone know what you are doing with QGIS or ask a burning question about QGIS? The best question or lightening talk will win a prize! If your lightening talk requires a bit of power-point, then put together no more than a 5 slider presentation and send them over to

12.30 – 1.30: Lunch / Networking: There is a cafe within the Town Hall, or a plethora of eating establishments in Maidenhead.
1.30 – 3.00: Talks

Tim Martin from the OS on Terrain5, Topo and building heights to create a 3d using the QGIS2ThreeJs plugin. *
Simon Miles from the RBWM doing a bit of show and tell on how QGIS is used and configured at the Council.

3.00 – 5.00: Unconference: This part of the day is over to you, its your user group! Bring along your own laptop, project or piece of code; or borrow one of the laptops dotted around the room and do a bit of show and tell, or ask someone a burning practical QGIS question. Some of the machines will have QGIS Master on them and there will be a Windows tablet running QGIS on to have a play with. Some suggested topics – Styling features, Creating forms, WMS resources, Print Composer

* Bring along your own laptop if you would like to follow along with the Plugin workshop in morning or with Tim Martin in the afternoon. Software and data requirements will be forwarded to you prior to the day.

PyQGIS Resources

Here is a short list of resources available when writing Python code in QGIS. If you know of others, please leave a comment.


In alphabetical order:


Example Code

  • Existing plugins can be a great learning tool
  • Code Snippets in the PyQGIS Cookbook


  • Script Runner: Run scripts to automate QGIS tasks
  • Plugin Builder: Create a starter plugin that you can customize to complete your own plugin
  • pb_tool: Tool to compile and deploy your plugins


Getting Started Writing QGIS Python Plugins

This blog post is a QGIS plugin tutorial for beginners. It was written to support a workshop we ran for the Scottish QGIS user group here in the UK and aims to be a simple step-by-step guide.

In this tutorial you will develop your first QGIS plugin – a Map Tool for selecting the closest feature within multiple loaded vector layers. Knowledge of Python is recommended but not required.

The Goal

Before we get started let’s look at where we’re going.

We will develop a plugin that implements a new QGIS Map Tool. The Identify Features and Pan Map tools are both examples of QGIS Map Tools. A Map Tool is a tool which performs an action when used with the map canvas.

We will create a new Select Nearest Feature Map Tool which will sit in the plugins toolbar.

Our Select Nearest Feature Map Tool will allow the user to select the feature nearest a mouse click on the canvas. For example, clicking here:

would select the following polygon:

The Starting Point

Before getting started:

The QGIS Plugin Builder plugin was used to create a base plugin which we’ll modify to fit our requirements.

This base plugin can be found in the zip file mentioned above under code/01__Empty Plugin/NearestFeature

code/01__Empty Plugin contains a batch file install.bat that can be used to copy the plugin into your QGIS plugins folder, making it available to QGIS.

Let’s now load and run this simple base plugin in QGIS.

  • Run install.bat
  • Restart QGIS if already open
  • Open the Plugin Manager: Plugins > Manage and Install Plugins
  • Enable the Nearest Feature plugin

A new action should now be visible in the plugins toolbar which opens the following dialog:

Creating a Basic Map Tool

When activated, our plugin currently shows a simple dialog (functionality provided by the Plugin Builder plugin. We’re going to adapt it to instead activate a Map Tool.

A basic Map Tool is included within the zip file mentioned above. It can be found in in the Additional Files folder.

  • Copy into the NearestFeature folder and open it in an editor.
  • Note that many of the code segments (highlighted in white) below link to relevant parts of the API docs. Those links will open in a dedicated browser tab. defines a new NearestFeatureMapTool class (line 28) which inherits (is based on) QgsMapTool, the QGIS Map Tool class. Its __init__() method expects to be passed a reference to a QgsMapCanvas. This canvas reference is passed to the constructor of the underlying QgsMapTool class on line 32 and then stored on line 33 for later use. The QGIS API documentation describes the functionality made available by QgsMapTool.

On line 34 we define a simple, different-looking cursor (a QCursor based on Qt.CrossCursor) later used to indicate that the Map Tool is active.

Our class definition features a method called activate(). Notice the API documentation for QgsMapTool already defines a method with the same name. Any methods defined as virtual methods in the API documentation can be overwritten or redefined as they have been within this file. Here we have overwritten the default implementation of activate().

The activate() method is called when the tool is activated. The new cursor based on Qt.CrossCursor defined above is set with a call to QgsMapCanvas.setCursor().

For the moment, when activated, our Map Tool would simply change the cursor style – that’s all.

Great – next we’ll get our plugin to use the new Map Tool.

Connecting the Basic Map Tool

In this section we will modify the plugin to make use of our new Map Tool.

  • Open in a text editor.

We need to first import the NearestFeatureMapTool class before we can use it.

  • Add the following code towards the top of the file just before os.path is imported:

from nearest_feature_map_tool import NearestFeatureMapTool

Next we will create a new instance of the NearestFeatureMapTool class and store a reference to it in self.nearestFeatureMapTool.

  • Add the following code to the initGui() method just before the call to self.add_action() taking care to ensure the indentation is correct:


Create a new NearestFeatureMapTool and keep reference

self.nearestFeatureMapTool = NearestFeatureMapTool(self.iface.mapCanvas()) ```

Notice that a reference to the map canvas has been passed when creating the new NearestFeatureMapTool instance.

The run() method is called when our plugin is called by the user. It’s currently used to show the dialog we saw previously. Let’s overwrite its current implementation with the following:


Simply activate our tool

self.iface.mapCanvas().setMapTool(self.nearestFeatureMapTool) ```

The QGIS map canvas (QgsMapCanvas class) provides the setMapTool() method for setting map tools. This method takes a reference to the new map tool, in this case a reference to a NearestFeatureMapTool.

To ensure that we leave things in a clean state when the plugin is unloaded (or reloaded) we should also ensure the Map Tool is unset when the plugin’s unload() method is called.

  • Add the following code to the end of the unload() method:


Unset the map tool in case it’s set

self.iface.mapCanvas().unsetMapTool(self.nearestFeatureMapTool) ```

Now let’s see the new map tool in action.

  • Save your files
  • Run install.bat to copy the updated files to the QGIS plugin folder
  • Configure the Plugin Reloader plugin to reload the NearestFeature plugin using its configure button,

  • Reload the Nearest Feature plugin using the button.
  • Click the button

When passing the mouse over the map canvas the cursor should now be shown as a simple cursor resembling a plus sign. Congratulations – the Map Tool is being activated.

Map Tool State

When you use the Identify Features Map Tool you’ll notice that its button remains depressed when the tool is in use. The button for our map tool does not yet act in this way. Let’s fix that.

The action (QAction) associated with our plugin is defined in the initGui() method with a call to self.add_action().

self.add_action() actually returns a reference to the new action that’s been added. We’ll make use of this behaviour to make the action / button associated with our Map Tool toggleable (checkable).

  • Modify the call to add_action() as follows:

``` action = self.add_action(

        icon_path,'Select nearest feature.'),,

action.setCheckable(True) ```

We now use the reference to the new action to make it checkable.

The QgsMapTool class has a setAction() method which can be used to associate a QAction with the Map Tool. This allows the Map Tool to handle making the associated button look pressed.

  • Add the following line to the end of initGui():


  • Save your files and run install.bat
  • Reload the Nearest Feature plugin using the button
  • Click the button

The button should now remain pressed, indicating that the tool is in use.

  • Activate the Identify Features tool

The Nearest Feature button should now appear unpressed.

Handling Mouse Clicks

The QgsMapTool class has a number of methods for handling user events such as mouse clicks and movement. We will override the canvasReleaseEvent() method to implement the search for the closest feature. canvasReleaseEvent() is called whenever the user clicks on the map canvas and is passed a QMouseEvent as an argument.

We will now write some functionality which:

  1. Loops through all visible vector layers and for each:
    • Deselects all features
    • Loops through all features and for each:
      • Determines their distance from the mouse click
      • Keeps track of the closest feature and its distance
  2. Determines the closest feature from all layers
  3. Selects that feature


  • Add the following method to the NearestFeatureMapTool class:

``` def canvasReleaseEvent(self, mouseEvent):

Each time the mouse is clicked on the map canvas, perform 
the following tasks:
    Loop through all visible vector layers and for each:
        Ensure no features are selected
        Determine the distance of the closes feature in the layer to the mouse click
        Keep track of the layer id and id of the closest feature
    Select the id of the closes feature 

layerData = []

for layer in self.canvas.layers():

    if layer.type() != QgsMapLayer.VectorLayer:
        # Ignore this layer as it's not a vector

    if layer.featureCount() == 0:
        # There are no features - skip



The layers() method of QgsMapCanvas (stored earlier in self.canvas) returns a list of QgsMapLayer. These are references to all visible layers and could represent vector layers, raster layers or even plugin layers.

We use the type() and featureCount() methods to skip non-vector layers and empty vector layers.

Finally we use the layer’s removeSelection() method to clear any existing selection. layerData is a list that we’ll use in a moment.

Our plugin now clears the selection in all visible vector layers.

  • Open the Shapefiles included in the Data folder.
  • Make a selection of one or more layers.
  • Reload the plugin and ensure it is working as expected (removing any selection).

Accessing Features and Geometry

We now need access to each feature and its geometry to determine its distance from the mouse click.

  • Add the following code to canvasReleaseEvent() within the loop over layers:


Determine the location of the click in real-world coords

layerPoint = self.toLayerCoordinates( layer, mouseEvent.pos() )

shortestDistance = float(“inf”) closestFeatureId = -1

Loop through all features in the layer

for f in layer.getFeatures():

dist = f.geometry().distance( QgsGeometry.fromPoint( layerPoint) )
if dist < shortestDistance:
    shortestDistance = dist
    closestFeatureId =

info = (layer, closestFeatureId, shortestDistance) layerData.append(info) ```

The mouse click event (a QMouseEvent) is stored in mouseEvent. Its pos() method returns a QPoint describing the position of the mouse click relative to the map canvas (x and y pixel coordinates). To calculate its distance to each feature we’ll need to first convert the mouse click position into real world (layer) coordinates. This can be done using a call to QgsMapTool.toLayerCoordinates() which automatically deals with on-the-fly projection and returns a QPoint in layer coordinates.

The features of a vector layer can be accessed using the layer’s getFeatures() method which returns (by default) a list of all QgsFeature in the layer that we can iterate over using a simple loop.

With access to features we can easily gain access to geometry using QgsFeature.geometry(). The QgsGeometry class has a number of spatial relationship methods including distance() which returns the distance to a second QgsGeometry passed as an argument.

In the code above we loop over all features, keeping track of the feature id of the closest feature using The shortest distance and closest feature id are stored in shortestDistance and closestFeature. When we are finished iterating through all the features in this layer, we store a note of the layer, its closest feature id and associated distance into layerData.

Note that we convert layerPoint (a QgsPoint) into a QgsGeometry so we can use it directly in spatial relationship operations such as QgsGeometry.distance().

Completing canvasReleaseEvent

We’re almost done. At this point layerData is a list of tuples, one for each vector layer containing:

  1. A reference to the layer
  2. The id of the closest feature within that layer
  3. The distance of that closest feature from the mouse click

Now we can simply sort layerData by distance (its 3rd column) and make a selection based on the layer and feature in the first row of layerData.

  • Add the following code to canvasReleaseEvent() outside the outer for loop:

``` if not len(layerData) > 0:

# Looks like no vector layers were found - do nothing

Sort the layer information by shortest distance

layerData.sort( key=lambda element: element[2] )

Select the closest feature

layerWithClosestFeature, closestFeatureId, shortestDistance = layerData[0] closestFeatureId ) ```

The code above returns early if no workable vector layers were found. It sorts layerData (the list of tuples) by the 3rd element (the distance).

The code then calls to select the closest feature by its feature id.

The plugin should now be finished.

  • Reload the plugin
  • Ensure it works as expected.


Within this tutorial we’ve worked briefly with the following parts of the QGIS API:

  • Map Tools
  • Map Canvas
  • Vector Layers
  • Features
  • Geometry

Hopefully this has been a useful tutorial. Please feel free to contact us with any specific questions.

A Quick Guide to Getting Started with PyQGIS on Windows

Getting started with Python and QGIS can be a bit overwhelming. In this post we give you a quick start to get you up and running and maybe make your PyQGIS life a little easier.

There are likely many ways to setup a working PyQGIS development environment—this one works pretty well.



  • OSGeo4W Advanced Install of QGIS
  • pip (for installing/managing Python packages)
  • pb_tool (cross-platform tool for compiling/deploying/distributing QGIS plugin)
  • A customized startup script to set the environment (pyqgis.cmd)
  • IDE (optional)
  • Vim (just kidding)

We’ll start with the installs.


Almost everything we need can be installed using the OSGeo4W installer available on the QGIS website.


From the QGIS website, download the appropriate network installer (32 or 64 bit)

  • Run the installer and choose the Advanced Install option
  • Install from Internet
  • Choose a directory for the install—I prefer a path without spaces such as C:\OSGeo4W
  • Accept default for local package directory and Start menu name
  • Tweak network connection option if needed on the Select Your Internet Connection screen
  • Accept default download site location
  • From the Select packages screen, select the following for installation:
    • Desktop -> qgis: QGIS Desktop
    • Libs -> qt4-devel (needed for lrelease/translations)
    • Libs -> setuptools (needed for installing pip)

When you click Next a bunch of additional packages will be suggested—just accept them and continue the install.

Once complete you will have a functioning QGIS install along with the other parts we need. If you want to work with the nightly build of QGIS, choose Desktop -> qgis-dev instead.

If you’ve already installed QGIS using the OSGeo4W installer, just install the qt4-devel and setutools packages. If you installed QGIS using the standalone installer, the easiest option is to remove it and install from OSGeo4W. You can run both the standalone and OSGeo4W versions on the same machine, but you need to be extra careful not to mix up the environment.

Setting the Environment

To continue with the setup, we need to set the environment by creating a .cmd script. The following is adapted from several sources, and trimmed down to the minimum. Copy and paste it into a file named pyqgis.cmd and save it to a convenient location (like your HOME directory).

@echo off
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\bin\o4w_env.bat
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\etc\env.bat
@echo off
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\bin
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\lib

set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\python;
set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\Python27\Lib\site-packages
set PATH=C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\cmd;C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\vim74;%PATH%
cd %HOMEPATH%\development

You should customize the set PATH statement to add any paths you want available when working from the command line. I added paths to my git and vim installs.

The cd %HOMEPATH%\development statement starts the shell in my normal working directory—customize or remove as you see fit.

The last line starts a cmd shell with the settings specified above it. We’ll see an example of starting an IDE in a bit.

You can test to make sure all is well by double-clicking on our pyqgis.cmd script, then starting Python and attempting to import one of the QGIS modules:

Python 2.7.5 (default, May 15 2013, 22:44:16) [MSC v.1500 64 bit (AMD64)] on win
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import qgis.core

If you don’t get any complaints on import, things are looking good.

Python Packages

We need a couple of Python packages as well.


There are several ways to install pip, but since we installed setuptools we can use easy_install:

easy_install pip

Make sure to issue this command from your customized shell (double-click on pyqgis.cmd to start it).


With pip installed we can use it to install pb_tool:

pip install pb_tool

More information on using pb_tool is available on the project website.

Working on the Command Line

Just double-click on your pyqgis.cmd script from the Explorer or a desktop shortcut to start a cmd shell. From here you can use Python interactively and also use pb_tool to compile and deploy your plugin for testing.

IDE Example

With slight modification, we can start our IDE with the proper settings to recognize the QGIS libraries:

@echo off
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\bin\o4w_env.bat
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\etc\env.bat
@echo off
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\bin
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\lib

set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\python;
set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\Python27\Lib\site-packages
set PATH=C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\cmd;C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\vim74;%PATH%
cd %HOMEPATH%\development
start "PyCharm aware of Quantum GIS" /B "C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\PyCharm 3.4.1\bin\pycharm.exe" %*

We only changed the last line, adding the start statement with the path to the IDE (PyCharm). If you save this to something like pycharm.cmd, you can double-click on it to start PyCharm. The same method works for other IDEs, such as PyDev.

Within your IDE settings, point it to use the Python interpreter included with OSGeo4W—typically at: %OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin\python.exe. This will make it pick up all the QGIS goodies needed for development, completion, and debugging. In my case OSGEO4W_ROOT is C:\OSGeo4W, so in the IDE, the path to the correct Python interpreter would be: C:\OSGeo4W\bin\python.exe.

Make sure you adjust the paths in your .cmd scripts to match your system and software locations.


Here is an example of a workflow you can use once you’re setup for development.

Creating a New Plugin

  1. Use the Plugin Builder plugin to create a starting point [1]
  2. Start your pyqgis.cmd shell
  3. Use pb_tool to compile and deploy the plugin (pb_tool deploy will do it all in one pass)
  4. Activate it in QGIS and test it out
  5. Add code, deploy, test, repeat

Working with Existing Plugin Code

The steps are basically the same was creating a new plugin, except we start by using pb_tool to create a new config file:

  1. Start your pyqgis.cmd shell
  2. Change to the directory containing your plugin code
  3. Use pb_tool create to create a config file
  4. Edit pb_tool.cfg to adjust/add things create may have missed
  5. Start at step 3 in Creating a New Plugin and press on


Assuming you have things properly installed, trouble usually stems from an incorrect environment.

  • Make sure QGIS runs and the Python console is available and working
  • Check all the paths in your pygis.cmd or your custom IDE cmd script
  • Make sure your IDE is using the Python interpreter that comes with OSGeo4W

[1] Plugin Builder 2.6 will support generation of a pb_tool config file

QGIS Development with Plugin Builder and pb_tool

The Plugin Builder is a great tool for generating a working plugin project that you can customize.

One of the main tasks in the development cycle is deploying the plugin to the QGIS plugin directory for testing. Plugin Builder comes with a Makefile that can be used on Linux and OS X to aid in development. Depending on your configuration, the Makefile may work on Windows.

To help in managing development of your projects, we’ve come up with another option—a Python tool called pb_tool, which works anywhere QGIS runs.

Here’s what it provides:

Usage: pb_tool [OPTIONS] COMMAND [ARGS]...

  Simple Python tool to compile and deploy a QGIS plugin. For help on a
  command use --help after the command: pb_tool deploy --help.

  pb_tool requires a configuration file (default: pb_tool.cfg) that declares
  the files and resources used in your plugin. Plugin Builder 2.6.0 creates
  a config file when you generate a new plugin template.

  See for for an example config
  file. You can also use the create command to generate a best-guess config
  file for an existing project, then tweak as needed.

  --help  Show this message and exit.

  clean       Remove compiled resource and ui files
  clean_docs  Remove the built HTML help files from the...
  compile     Compile the resource and ui files
  create      Create a config file based on source files in...
  dclean      Remove the deployed plugin from the...
  deploy      Deploy the plugin to QGIS plugin directory...
  doc         Build HTML version of the help files using...
  list        List the contents of the configuration file
  translate   Build translations using lrelease.
  validate    Check the pb_tool.cfg file for mandatory...
  version     Return the version of pb_tool and exit
  zip         Package the plugin into a zip file suitable...

In the command summary, a description ending in … means there is more to see using the help switch:

pb_tool zip --help
Usage: pb_tool zip [OPTIONS]

  Package the plugin into a zip file suitable for uploading to the QGIS
  plugin repository

  --config TEXT  Name of the config file to use if other than pb_tool.cfg
  --help         Show this message and exit.

The Configuration File

pb_tool relies on a configuration file to do its work. Here’s a sample pb_tool.cfg file:

# Configuration file for plugin builder tool
# Sane defaults for your plugin generated by the Plugin Builder are
# already set below.
# Name of the plugin. This is the name of the directory that will
# be created in .qgis2/python/plugins
name: TestPlugin

# Python  files that should be deployed with the plugin

# The main dialog file that is loaded (not compiled)
main_dialog: test_plugin_dialog_base.ui

# Other ui files for dialogs you create (these will be compiled)
compiled_ui_files: foo.ui

# Resource file(s) that will be compiled
resource_files: resources.qrc

# Other files required for the plugin
extras: icon.png metadata.txt

# Other directories to be deployed with the plugin.
# These must be subdirectories under the plugin directory

# ISO code(s) for any locales (translations), separated by spaces.
# Corresponding .ts files must exist in the i18n directory
locales: af

# the built help directory that should be deployed with the plugin
dir: help/build/html
# the name of the directory to target in the deployed plugin
target: help

The configuration file is pretty much self-explanatory and represents that generated by Plugin Builder 2.6 for a new plugin. As you develop your code, you simply add the file names to the appropriate sections.

Plugin Builder 2.6 will be available the week of the QGIS 2.6 release. In the meantime, you can use pb_tool create to create a config file. See the pb_tool website for more information.


Here’s what a deployment looks like with pb_tool:

$ pb_tool deploy
Deploying will:
            * Remove your currently deployed version
            * Compile the ui and resource files
            * Build the help docs
            * Copy everything to your .qgis2/python/plugins directory

Proceed? [y/N]: y
Removing plugin from /Users/gsherman/.qgis2/python/plugins/TestPlugin
Deploying to /Users/gsherman/.qgis2/python/plugins/TestPlugin
Compiling to make sure install is clean
Skipping foo.ui (unchanged)
Compiled 0 UI files
Skipping resources.qrc (unchanged)
Compiled 0 resource files
Building the help documentation
sphinx-build -b html -d build/doctrees   source build/html
Running Sphinx v1.2b1
loading pickled environment... done
building [html]: targets for 0 source files that are out of date
updating environment: 0 added, 0 changed, 0 removed
looking for now-outdated files... none found
no targets are out of date.

Build finished. The HTML pages are in build/html.
Copying test_plugin_dialog_base.ui
Copying icon.png
Copying metadata.txt
Copying help/build/html to /Users/gsherman/.qgis2/python/plugins/TestPlugin/help

Getting Started

For details on installing and using pb_tool, see:

QGIS talks at FOSS4G 2014

Did you miss FOSS4G 2014? Don’t despair: the talks have been recorded and are available on Vimeo. I suggest to start with the following video of Pirmin’s talk wrapping up the developments since last year:

From Nottingham to PDX: QGIS 2014 roundup — Pirmin Kalberer, Sourcepole AG from FOSS4G on Vimeo.

Other talks include:

For the full list see

And of course – last but not least – watch Gary Sherman’s Sol Katz Award acceptance speech if you haven’t seen it yet. Congratulations Gary!

Gary Sherman’s Sol Katz Award acceptance from Gateway Geomatics on Vimeo.

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