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QGIS Planet

Soar.Earth Digital Atlas QGIS Plugin

Soar banner

Growing up, I would spend hours lost in National Geographic maps. The feeling of discovering new regions and new ways to view the world was addictive! It’s this same feeling of discovery and exploration which has made me super excited about Soar’s Digital Atlas. Soar is the brainchild of Australian, Amir Farhand, and is fuelled by the talents of staff located across the globe to build a comprehensive digital atlas of the world’s maps and images. Soar has been designed to be an easy to use, expansive collection of diverse maps from all over the Earth. A great aspect of Soar is that it has implemented Strong Community Guidelines and moderation to ensure the maps are fit for purpose.

Recently, North Road collaborated with Soar to help facilitate their digital atlas goals by creating a QGIS plugin for Soar. The Soar plugin allows QGIS users to directly:

  • Export their QGIS maps and images straight to Soar
  • Browse and load maps from the entire Soar public catalogue into their QGIS projects

There’s lots of extra tweaks we’ve added to help make the plugin user friendly, whilst offering tons of functionality that power users want. For instance, users can:

  • Filter Soar maps by their current project extent and/or by category
  • Export raw or rendered raster data directly to Soar via a Processing tool
  • Batch upload multiple maps to Soar
  • Incorporate Soar map publishing into a Processing model or Python based workflow

Soar will be presenting their new plugin at the QGIS Open Day in August so check out the details here and tune in at 2300 AEST or 1300 HR UTC. You can follow along via either YouTube or Jitsi.

Browsing Soar maps from QGIS

One of the main goals of the Soar QGIS plugin was to make it very easy to find new datasets and add them to your QGIS projects. There’s two ways users can explore the Soar catalog from QGIS:

You can open the Soar Browser Panel via the Soar toolbar button  Soar browser . This opens a floating catalog browser panel which allows you to interactively search Soar’s content while working on your map.

Soar browser panel

Alternatively, you can also access the Soar catalog and maps from the standard QGIS Data Source Manager dialog. Just open the “Soar” tab and search away!

When you’ve found an interesting map, hit the “Add to Map” button and the map will be added as a new layer into your current project. After the layer is loaded you can freely modify the layer’s style (such as the opacity, colorization, contrast etc) just like any other raster dataset using the standard QGIS Layer Style controls.

Sharing your maps

Before you can share your maps on Soar, you’ll need to first sign up for a free Soar account.

We’ve designed the Soar plugin with two specific use cases in mind for sharing maps. The first use case is when you want to share an entire map (i.e. QGIS project) to Soar. This will publish all the visible content from your map onto Soar, including all the custom styling, labeling, decorations and other content you’ve carefully designed. To do this, just select the Project menu, Import/Export -> Export map to Soar option.

Upload via Project to Soar

You’ll have a chance to enter all the metadata and descriptive text explaining your map, and then the map will be rendered and uploaded directly to Soar.

Soar Metadata

All content on the Soar atlas is moderated, so your shared maps get added to the moderation queue ready for review by the Soar team. (You’ll be notified as soon as the review is complete and your map is publicly available).

Alternatively, you might have a specific raster layer which you want to publish on Soar. For instance, you’ve completed some flood modelling or vegetation analysis and want to share the outcome widely. To do this, you can use the “Publish dataset to Soar” tool available from the QGIS Processing toolbox:

Upload product to Soar via processing tools

Just pick the raster layer you want to upload, enter the metadata information, and let the plugin do the rest! Since this tool is made available through QGIS’ Processing framework, it also allows you to run it as a batch process (eg uploading a whole folder of raster data to Soar), or as a step in your QGIS Graphical Models!

Some helpful hints

All maps uploaded to Soar require the following information:

  • Map Title
  • Description
  • Tags
  • Categories
  • Permission to publish

This helps other users to find your maps with ease, and also gives the Soar moderation team the information required for their review process.

We’ve a few other tips to keep in mind to successfully share your maps on Soar:

  • The Soar catalog currently works with raster image formats including GeoTIFF / ECW / JP2 / JPEG / PNG
  • All data uploaded to Soar must be in the WGS84 Pseudo-Mercator (EPSG: 3857) projection
  • Check the size of your data before sharing it, as a large size dataset may take a long time to upload

So there you have it! So simple to start building up your contribution to Soar’s Digital Atlas. Those who might find this useful to upload maps include:

  • Community groups
  • Hobbyists
  • Building a cartographic/geospatial portfolio
  • Education/research
  • Contributing to world events (some of the biggest news agencies already use this service i.e. BBC)

You can find out more about the QGIS Soar plugin at the QGIS Open Day on August 23rd, 2023 at 2300 HR AEST or 1300 HR UTC. Check here for more information or to watch back after.

If you’re interested in exploring how a QGIS plugin can make your service easily accessible to the millions of daily QGIS users, contact us to discuss how we can help!

‘Add to Felt’ QGIS Plugin

The gift economy of Open Source is community driven and filled by folks with ideas that just go for it!

We at North Road are blessed that we get to join these creatives on their journey in order to get their products to you. Recently, the first QGIS flagship sponsor, Felt, engaged us to further strengthen their support for the up to 600,000 daily QGIS users to integrate their workflows between QGIS and Felt.

The result is the “Add to Felt” QGIS Plugin, which makes it super-simple to publish your QGIS maps to the Felt platform.

To get started, install the Add to Felt Plugin from the QGIS Plugin manager.

If you don’t have a free Felt account, you’ll need to sign up for one online (or from the Add to Felt plugin itself once you have installed it).

Within QGIS, users can easily publish their maps and layers to Felt. You can either:

  • Publish a single layer by right-clicking the layer and selecting “Share Layer to Felt” from the Export sub-menu
  • Publish your whole QGIS project/map by selecting the Project Menu, Export, “Add to Felt” action

Whilst Felt is loading up your map, you can continue working and it will let you know once your map is ready to open on Felt and share with others.

We are happy to let you know that the collaboration does not stop there! As with our SLYR tool, there is ongoing development as the requirements of the community and technology grow.  So install the Add to Felt Plugin via the QGIS Plugin manager, and let us know where you want it to go via the Add to Felt GitHub page.

Read more about it here:

Cesium Ecosystem Grant Win for QGIS 3D Tiles!

Success! Lutra and North Road have been rewarded a Cesium Ecosystem Grant to provide access to 3D tiles within QGIS. We will be creating the ability for users to visualise 3D Tiles in QGIS alongside other standard geospatial sources in both 3D and 2D map views.
3D Tiles Cesium integration ecosystem diagram
3D Tiles Cesium integration ecosystem
We are very excited about it, but to be included in the first cohort of awardees is also an added honour! We share this distinction with 3 other recipients:
The opportunity was brought to our attention by our friends over at Nearmap, which, along with the existence of this grant, shows how the geospatial community is working together by evolving the Open Source Economy. A movement close to our hearts and our core business. Working between commercial software and open-source, Cesium’s business model recognises the legitimacy of Open Source Software for use as a geospatial standard operating procedure by promoting openness and interoperability.
Our team of Nyall Dawson and Martin Dobias will create a new layer type, QgsTiledMeshLayer, allowing for direct access to Cesium 3D tile sources alongside the other supported geospatial layer types within QGIS. This will include visualisation of the tile data in both 3D and 2D map views (feature footprints). It will fulfill a critical need for QGIS users, permitting access to 3d data provided by their respective government agencies to work alongside all their other standard geospatial layers (vector, raster, point clouds). By making 3D Tiles a first class citizen in QGIS we help strengthen the case that those agencies should be providing their data in the Cesium format (as opposed to any proprietary alternatives).
Proposed Technical Architecture Cesium QGIS
Proposed Technical Architecture for Cesium 3D Tiles in QGIS
Here’s a breakdown of what we will be doing:
  • Develop a new QGIS layer type “QgsTiledMeshLayer”
  • Develop a parser for 3D Tiles format, supporting Batched 3D Model (with a reasonable set of glTF 2.0 features)
  • Develop a 3D renderer which dynamically loads and displays features from 3D Tiles based on appropriate 3D view level of detail. (A similar approach has already been implemented in QGIS for optimised viewing of point cloud data).
  • Develop a 2D renderer for 3D Tiles, which will display the footprints of 3D tile features in 2D QGIS map views. Just like the 3D renderer, the 2D renderer will utilise map scale information to dynamically load 3D tiles and display a suitable level of detail for the footprints.
  • Users will have full control over the appearance of the 2D footprints, with support for all of QGIS’ extensive polygon symbology options.
  • By permitting users to view the 2D footprints of features, we will promote use of Cesium 3D Tiles as a suitable source of cartographic data, eg display of authoritative building footprints supplied by government agencies in the Cesium 3D Tile format.

Through past partnerships, North Road and Lutra Consulting have developed and extended the 3D mapping functionality of QGIS. To date, all the framework for mature, performant 3D scenes including vector, mesh, raster and point cloud sources are in place. We are now ready to extend the existing functionality with Cesium 3D tiles support as QGIS 3D engine already implements most of the required concepts, such as out of core rendering and hierarchical level of detail (tested with point clouds with billions of points).

So there we go! Working together collaboratively with Lutra Consulting on another great addition to QGIS 3D Functionality thanks to Cesium Ecosystem Grants. Stay tuned on our social channels to find out when it will be released in QGIS.

Cesium Ecosystem grant Badge


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