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SLYR Update — June 2023

Welcome back, SLYR enthusiasts! We’re thrilled to share the latest updates and enhancements for our SLYR ESRI to QGIS Compatibility Suite that will dramatically streamline the use of ESRI documents within QGIS (and vice versa!). Our team has been hard at work, expanding the capabilities of SLYR to ensure seamless compatibility between the latest QGIS and ArcGIS releases. We’ve also got some exciting news for users of the Community Edition of SLYR! Let’s dive right in and explore the exciting new features that have been added to SLYR since our previous update

Converting Raster Layers in Geodatabases

We’re pleased to announce that SLYR now offers support for converting raster layers within Geodatabases. With this update, users can effortlessly migrate their raster data from ESRI’s Geodatabases to QGIS, enabling more efficient data management and analysis.

This enhancement is only possible thanks to work in the fantastic GDAL library which underpins QGIS’ raster data support. Please ensure that you have the latest version of QGIS (3.30.3 or 3.28.7 at a minimum) to make the most of this feature.

Annotation and Graphic Layer Improvements

Text Annotations along Curves

For those working with curved annotations, we’ve got you covered! SLYR now supports the conversion of text annotations along curves in QGIS. With this enhancement, you’ll get accurate conversion of any curved text and text-along-line annotations from MXD and APRX documents. This has been a long-requested feature which we can now introduce thanks to enhancements coming in QGIS 3.32.

ArcGIS Pro Graphics Layer Support

SLYR now supports the conversion of ArcGIS Pro graphics layers, converting all graphic elements to their QGIS “Annotation Layer” equivalents. If you’ve spent hours carefully designing cartographic markup on your maps, you can be sure that SLYR will allow you to re-use this work within QGIS!

Curved text graphic conversion

Enhanced Page Layout Support

We’ve further improved the results of converting ArcGIS Pro page layouts to QGIS print layouts, with dozens of refinements to the conversion results. The highlights here include:

  • Support for converting measured grids and graticules to QGIS map grids
  • Enhanced dynamic text conversions:  Now, when migrating your projects, you can expect a smoother transition for dynamic text ensuring your layouts correctly show generated metadata and text correctly
  • Support for north arrows, grouped elements, legends and table frames.

Rest assured that your carefully crafted map layouts will retain their visual appeal and functionality when transitioning to QGIS!

Improved QGIS to ArcGIS Pro Conversions

SVG Marker Exports and Symbology Size

SLYR has introduced initial support for exporting SVG markers from QGIS to ArcGIS Pro formats. SVG graphics are a component of QGIS’ cartography, and are frequently used to create custom marker symbols. Unfortunately, ArcGIS Pro doesn’t have any native support for SVG graphics for marker symbols, instead relying on a one-off conversion from SVG to multiple separate marker graphics whenever an SVG is imported into ArcGIS Pro. Accordingly, we’ve implemented a similar logic in SLYR in order to convert SVG graphics to ArcGIS Pro marker graphics transparently whenever QGIS symbology is exported to ArcGIS. This enhancement allows for a seamless transfer of symbology from QGIS, ensuring that your converted maps retain their visual integrity.

Furthermore, the update includes support for exporting QGIS symbology sizes based on “map unit” measurements to ArcGIS Pro, resulting in ArcGIS Pro symbology which more accurately matches the original QGIS versions.

Rule-Based Renderer Conversion

The “Rule Based Renderer” is QGIS’ ultimate powerhouse for advanced layer styling. It’s extremely flexible, thanks to its support for nested rules and filtering using QGIS expressions. However, this flexibility comes with a cost — there’s just no way to reproduce the same results within ArcGIS Pro’s symbology options! Newer SLYR releases will now attempt to work around this by implementing basic conversion of QGIS rule-based renderers to ArcGIS Pro layers with “display filters” attached. This allows us to convert some basic rule-based configuration to ArcGIS Pro formats.

There’s some limitations to be aware of:

  1. Only “flat” rule structures can be converted. It’s not possible to convert a nested rule structure into something representable by ArcGIS Pro.
  2. While the QGIS expression language is very rich and offers hundreds of functions for use in expressions, only basic QGIS filter expressions can be converted to ArcGIS Pro rules.

Improved Conversion of Raster and Mesh Layers

Based on user feedback, we’ve made significant improvements to the conversion of QGIS rasters and mesh layers to ArcGIS Pro formats. Expect enhanced accuracy when migrating these types of data, ensuring a closer match between your QGIS projects and their ArcGIS Pro equivalents.

New tools

The latest SLYR release introduces some brand new tools for automating your conversion workflows:

Convert LYR/LYRX Files Directly to SLD

To facilitate interoperability, SLYR has introduced algorithms that directly convert ESRI LYR or LYRX files to the “SLD” format (Styled Layer Descriptor). This feature simplifies the process of sharing and utilizing symbology between different GIS software, allowing for direct conversion of ESRI symbology for use in Geoserver or Mapserver.

Convert File Geodatabases to Geopackage

We’re thrilled to introduce a powerful new tool in SLYR that enables a comprehensive conversion of a File Geodatabase to the Geopackage format. With this feature, you can seamlessly migrate your data from ESRI’s File Geodatabase format to the versatile and widely supported GeoPackage format. As well as the raw data conversion, this tool also ensures the conversion of field domains and other advanced Geodatabase functionality to their GeoPackage equivalent, preserving valuable metadata and maintaining data integrity throughout the transition. (Please note that this tool requires QGIS version 3.28 or later.)


All these exciting additions to SLYR are available today to SLYR license holders. If you’re after one-click, accurate conversion of projects from ESRI to QGIS, contact us to discuss your licensing needs.

As described on our SLYR page, we also provide some of the conversion tools for free use via the SLYR “Community Edition”. We’re proud to announce that we’ve just hit the next milestone in the Community Edition funding, and will now be releasing all of SLYR’s support for raster LYR files to the community edition! This complements the existing support for vector LYR files and ESRI style files available in the community edition. For more details on the differences between the licensed and community editions, see our product comparison.

SLYR Update — November 2022

Our SLYR tool is the complete solution for full compatibility between ArcMap, ArcGIS Pro and QGIS. It offers a powerful suite of conversion tools for opening ESRI projects, styles and other documents directly within QGIS, and for exporting QGIS documents for use in ESRI software.

A lot has changed since our last SLYR product update post, and we’ve tons of very exciting improvements and news to share with you all! In this update we’ll explore some of the new tools we’ve added to SLYR, and discuss how these tools have drastically improved the capacity for users to migrate projects from the ESRI world to the open-source world (and vice versa).

ArcGIS Pro support

The headline item here is that SLYR now offers a powerful set of tools for working with the newer ArcGIS Pro document formats. Previously, SLYR offered support for the older ArcMap document types only (such as MXD, MXT, LYR, and PMF formats). Current SLYR versions now include tools for:

Directly opening ArcGIS Pro .lyrx files within QGIS

LYRX files can be dragged and dropped directly onto a QGIS window to add the layer to the current project. All the layer’s original styling and other properties will be automatically converted across, so the resultant layer will be an extremely close match to the original ArcGIS Pro layer! SLYR supports vector layers, raster layers, TIN layers, point cloud layers and vector tile layers. We take great pride in just how close the conversion results are to how these layers appear in ArcGIS Pro… in most cases you’ll find the results are nearly pixel perfect!

In addition to drag-and-drop import support, SLYR also adds support for showing .lyrx files directly in the integrated file browser, and also adds tools to the QGIS Processing Toolbox so that users can execute bulk conversion operations, or include document conversion in their models or custom scripts.

ArcGIS Pro map (mapx) and project (aprx) conversion

Alongside the LYRX support, we’ve also added support for the ArcGIS Pro .mapx and .aprx formats. Just like our existing .mxd conversion, you can now easily convert entire ArcGIS Pro maps for direct use within QGIS! SLYR supports both the older ArcGIS Pro 2.x project format and the newer 3.x formats.

Export from QGIS to ArcGIS Pro!

Yes, you read that correctly… SLYR now allows you to export QGIS documents into ArcGIS Pro formats! This is an extremely exciting development… for the first time ever QGIS users now have the capacity to export their work into formats which can be supplied directly to ESRI users. Current SLYR versions support conversion of map layers to .lyrx format, and exporting entire projects to the .mapx format. (We’ll be introducing support for direct QGIS to .aprx exports later this year.)

We’re so happy to finally provide an option for QGIS users to work alongside ArcGIS Pro users. This has long been a pain point for many organisations, and has even caused organisations to be ineligible to tender for jobs which they are otherwise fully qualified to do (when tenders require provision of data and maps in ArcGIS compatible formats).

ArcGIS Pro .stylx support

Alongside the other ArcGIS Pro documents, SLYR now has comprehensive support for reading and writing ArcGIS Pro .stylx databases. We’ve dedicated a ton of resources in ensuring that the conversion results (both from ArcGIS Pro to QGIS and from QGIS to ArcGIS Pro) are top-notch, and we even handle advanced ArcGIS Pro symbology options like symbol effects!

Take a look below how even very advanced ArcGIS Pro style libraries convert beautifully to QGIS symbol libraries:

ArcMap Improvements

While we’ve been focusing heavily on the newer ArcGIS Pro formats, we’ve also improved our support for the older ArcMap documents. In particular, SLYR now offers more options for converting ArcMap annotation layers and annotation classes to QGIS supported formats. Users can now convert Annotation layers and classes directly over to QGIS annotation layer or alternatively annotation classes can be converted over to the OGC standard GeoPackage format. When exporting annotation classes to GeoPackage the output database is automatically setup with default styling rules, so that the result can be opened directly in QGIS and will be immediately visualised to match the original annotation class.

Coming soon…

While all the above improvements are already available for all SLYR license holders, we’ve got many further improvements heading your way soon! For example, before the end of 2022 we’ll be releasing another large SLYR update which will introduce support for exporting QGIS projects directly to ArcGIS Pro .aprx documents. We’ve also got many enhancements planned which will further improve the quality of the converted documents. Keep an eye on this blog and our social media channels for more details as they are available…

You can read more about our SLYR tool at the product page, or contact us today to discuss licensing options for your organisation.


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