Open Source, qgis

A QGIS user poll

I have just whipped up a small user poll for QGIS users. The poll is just to give me (and indirectly the team) some idea of people’s opinions about QGIS and what it could do better. The poll is only short (9 questions) and one of the main things is “What could QGIS do better?”.

The poll can be found here:

All the answers are anonymous so feel free to say what you like about anything. In the end if something isn’t working the way you think it should, write it down. It’s not going to hurt anyone’s feelings :)

If you are a partial QGIS users who mostly uses MapInfo or ESRI stuff I would also like to get your opinion.

Open Source, qgis

Another cool open source project – OSGeo-Live

Another cool open source project that I have become a part of (as a QGIS packager and tester) is the OSGeo-Live project.  The OSGeo-Live project is a live DVD/USB/Virtual Machine built on xUbuntu(striped down Ubuntu linux) that has a lot of cool open source geo spatial programs all set up and ready to use.

The OSGeo-Live project contains:

  • Browser clients
  • A small sample of crisis management software
  • All the popular database engines (PostGIS, SpaitalLite etc)
  • Pretty much all the open source desktop GIS apps (QGIS, uDig etc)
  • Open Source GPS navigation apps and globes.
  • A collection of handy spatial tools
  • A ready to go web services ready to try in your browser or desktop GIS.
  • Some sample data to get started with for each project
  • And quick starts for each program.

The full list of software contained on the OSGeo-Live project can be found at

This is a good project if you want to get into the OSGeo tools and experiment but don’t want to install them on main machine until you know what you need.

As it is a live DVD/USB/Virtual Machine some apps will run slower than what they do on a native install but overall the speed is usable and good enough for testing.

Even better is that it was born in Australia :)

The project is also commercial supported by a Australian company

So give it a try if you are interested in the OSGeo movement, which you should be if you are reading my blog :)

Open Source, qgis

Fresh off the press – QGIS 1.7 is released!

Tonight Tim Sutton officially made the release announcement for QGIS 1.7, so I’m guess I’m free to blog about the newest version now and its cool features.





What are you still doing here? Go and get it!

I am, as a heavy QGIS user and a guy-who-tries-to-write-features-and-patches-for-the-code, very happy with this release. I know a lot of people have put a lot of hard work and free time into working on features and bug fixes that keep making this free GIS system even better.

Some of the more notable new features in this release are…well there are just way to many for me to list here so go and check out the official list at

The QGIS team has shifted their source control system to using GIT, which I am very happy about as a lot of the guys on the #qgis IRC channel will know :). The bug tracer has also been moved to

Since the release of QGIS 1.6 there have been 1199 commits (using git to count: git log –pretty=oneline upstream/release-1_6_0..upstream/release-1_7_0 | wc -l). Not a bad effort if I may so myself.


If you are still reading this, I really hope it’s because you are waiting for QGIS 1.7 to install.

Open Source, qgis

Opening MS SQL Server 2008 Spatial tables in QGIS – Correctly

EDIT (22-07-12): QGIS 1.8 and above now ships with a native MS SQL data provider.  Look for Add MSSQL Spatial Layer in the Layer menu.

Turns out the last blog post I did on this subject contained a few errors, mainly that QGIS wouldn’t render the layer when you opened it.

The answer is so obvious it’s almost embarrassing :)

In order to open and display a SQL Server 2008 layer in QGIS correctly, via OGR, you must have a geometry_columns table in your database with the name, geometry type and srid of the layer. That’s it! Oh look, it was even right in front of me in the OGR code for the mssqlspatial driver.

int OGRMSSQLSpatialTableLayer::FetchSRSId()
    CPLODBCStatement oStatement = CPLODBCStatement( poDS->GetSession() );
    oStatement.Appendf( "select srid from geometry_columns "
                    "where f_table_schema = '%s' and f_table_name = '%s'",
                    pszSchemaName, pszTableName );

    if( oStatement.ExecuteSQL() && oStatement.Fetch() )
        if ( oStatement.GetColData( 0 ) )
            nSRSId = atoi( oStatement.GetColData( 0 ) );

    return nSRSId;

So the process to open a MS SQL 2008 spatial layer in OGR is as follows.

There are two main tables which tell OGR how to read a layers projection:

  • geometry_columns
  • spatial_ref_sys

geometry_columns contains the table name and the key for the table spatial_ref_sys which contains the projection string. The projection string is the info that QGIS needs in order to correctly render a layer.

The easiest way to get the correct tables is to let OGR handle it for you via ogr2ogr, then just adding any other tables you may have already in your database to the geometry_columns table.

So to get ogr2ogr to create the right tables for you it’s as simple as running the following command from inside the OSGeo4W shell, changing the connection string part of course:

ogr2ogr -overwrite -f MSSQLSpatial "MSSQL:server=.\MSSQLSERVER2008;database=geodb;trusted_connection=yes" ""

(sample taken from

Uploading even just one table this way will create both tables and fill in the needed info.
The geometry_columns table:


geodb dbo rivers ogr_geometry


2 32768 POLYGON

The spatial_ref_sys table:


32768 NULL NULL PROJCS[“UTM_Zone_56_Southern_Hemisph…. +proj=utm +zone=56 +south +ellps=GRS80 +units=m +no_defs

So if you have already existing tables in your MS SQL 2008 database that were loaded, via say MapInfo’s EasyLoader, you would just upload one table via ogr2ogr to create the two tables needed by QGIS(using OGR) and then add the other tables to the geometry_columns table. If they are all in the same projection than you are in luck as you will only need to upload one in order to get the right strings in the spatial_ref_sys table, if not just upload a small sample for each projection.

Then you can open the table in QGIS using:

uri = "MSSQL:server={serverName};database={databaseName};tables={tableName};trusted_connection=yes"

Tip: In order to test you have correctly set the table in geometry_columns you can run another ogr tool ogrinfo:

ogrinfo -al "MSSQL:server=localhost;database={your database};tables={your table}" -fid 1

If you see a value in Layer SRS WKT: then chances are it’s set right and QGIS should be able to render it, however if you see: Layer SRS WKT:(unknown) Than chances are QGIS will not render it correctly.

Hopefully this help people use MS SQL 2008 Spatial with QGIS, a important step I think in the world of using QGIS on Windows (especially when you don’t have the freedom to run PostGIS:) ).

I might even do a video tutorial when I get some free time after my exams and my wedding.

Open Source, qgis

One of my favorite features of QGIS – Rule based styling.

One of my favorite features of QGIS is the rule based rendering.

QGIS rule based rendering dialog
QGIS rule based rendering dialog

If you’re using MapInfo think of thematics + queries but on steroids. Rule based rendering allows you to you set, well, rules on what gets rendered and how.  The rules are based on a simple SQL style query language that’s built into QGIS.

Take for example the above screen shot.   The screen shot is from a current project I am doing in QGIS to clean up our current stormwater/drainage layer.  The layer is a in a bit of a mess at the moment so I needed a way to visualize what I have cleaned up and what I haven’t, so enter QGIS rule based styling.

For example: A pipe that has an upstream and downstream invert and is part of the trunk (main) network is then considered valid (for this situation anyway), so I created the following rule:

network_type = 'Trunk' AND Description != 'Drainage Imaginary Pipe' AND (US_Invert > 0 AND DS_Invert > 0)

We also have little connecting pipes that I don’t want to include in valid trunk  as they are only used to connect pits to pipes and are just cosmetic, I have excluded them by adding “Description !=’Drainage Imaginary Pipe’” to the above filter.

Next I wanted to show invalid trunk network pipes (ones without an up or downstream invert), so we just invert the last condition and swap the last AND for a OR:

network_type = 'Trunk' AND Description != 'Drainage Imaginary Pipe' AND (NOT US_Invert > 0 OR NOT DS_Invert > 0)

I also need to show but no highlight the non trunk pipes and the connecting pipes, so I made the next two rules and set their styles to a light gray:

NOT network_type = 'Trunk' AND NOT Description = 'Drainage Imaginary Pipe'
Description = 'Drainage Imaginary Pipe'

Finally I want to show pipe direction on all pipes but not the connecting pipes, again as they are just cosmetic:

Description != 'Drainage Imaginary Pipe'

You will also note in the screenshot above that I have a max zoom scales set on the last three rules, this is because when I zoom out all that info becomes overwhelming at that scale and distracts from showing the invalid parts of the main trunk line.

So after all that, the results:

Screenshot of rules applied
Map rendered using rules

and if I zoom out pass 5,000:

Screenshot of rules applied, zoomed past 5,000
Map rendered when zoomed out pass 5,000

I think you can see how this rule based rendering could be very powerful, in fact I have about four different rule sets I use with the drainage layer to show different things to different people.

The rules I have shown above are pretty simple, you can go pretty crazy and use them to render OpenStreetMap data:

The worst part about the rule based rendering is that I have gotten so used to their power that I feel crippled when I go back to MapInfo and try to do styling :)

Happy mapping.

What is your favorite QGIS feature?

Open Source, qgis

Delete all branches on a github repo

I forked the QGIS repo on GitHub a little while ago although one thing that bothered me was that it gave me copies of all the branches that the main QGIS git repo had.  This is understandable as it’s the way it works however I don’t really need all these branches in my forked copy of the repo as I don’t care about them.   I only care the ones I am working on, and I don’t want to see a big list of branches in my git fork that have nothing to do with me.

So the next question was how do I delete all the branches on the remote repo at GitHub. Well you would normally do:

git push origin :branch_name

although doing that by hand for each branch is, well, a pain in the butt! After a chat with a guy (strk) on the #qgis IRC channel who is more skilled at bash then me (I’m still a Linux noob) he came up with this:

git branch -r | grep origin/ | grep -v master | grep -v HEAD| cut -d/ -f2 | while read line; do git push origin :$line; done;

Very handy.