QGIS style dock – Part 2 – Plugin panels

In part 1 I talked about the new style dock and the in built functions it has in this post I would like to cover how you can extend that dock using plugin panels.

While building the dock it became evident that being able to add your own panels with be super neat, why lock the user to what styling controls we have built into core.

After one, or two, API iterations it is now possible to add your own panels to the style dock.

First we need to make a new widget using QgsLayerStylingPanel

class CustomPanel(QgsLayerStylingPanel):
    def __init__(self, layer, canvas, parent):
        super(CustomPanel, self).__init__(layer, canvas, parent)
        self.layer = layer

    def apply(self):

then we need to create a factory object (QgsLayerStylingPanelFactory) which will hold the metadata for the panel widget, things like icon, title, and the widget it self as required. The factory object looks like this:

class PanelFactory(QgsLayerStylingPanelFactory):
    def icon(self):
        return QIcon(r"F:\icons\SVG\book.svg")

    def title(self):
        return ""

    def supportsLayer( self, layer):
        return layer.type() == QgsMapLayer.VectorLayer

    def createPanel(self, layer, canvas, parent):
        return CustomPanel(layer, canvas, parent)

# Also make a instance and tell the style dock about it
# make sure you keep a instance of the the factory around
factory = PanelFactory()

You can also see we have a supportsLayer() method. This must return True if the layer can be supported for the widget, if the layer isn’t support it’s not shown in the layer style dock. We also have the createPanel method which just returns the widget, you could also use this method to return different widgets based on layer type if you needed. This createPanel method will be called any time the item is selected in the left panel of the style dock. Using the above code we will see a new icon on the side panel


Remember, the create method is called any time this new item is selected.    If your widget is expensive to create you can create a cache here.

Now lets add some logic.  As an example I’m going to load the style xml and show it in the panel. Adding some logic to the __init__ method of the CustomPanel class

class CustomPanel(QgsLayerStylingPanel):
    def __init__(self, layer, canvas, parent):
        super(CustomPanel, self).__init__(layer, canvas, parent)
        self.layer = layer

        # Create the editor and set the xml from the layer.
        self.editor = QgsCodeEditorHTML()
        doc = QDomDocument( "style" ) 
        rootNode = doc.createElement( "qgis" )
        doc.appendChild( rootNode )
        iface.activeLayer().writeStyle( rootNode, doc, "")
        xml = doc.toString()


Nifty.  Now can we 1 UP it and make it live edit?  Sure can!  The style dock will call apply() whenever we raise the widgetChanged signal.  We can just connect this to the text changed event and add some logic to the apply method.

class CustomPanel(QgsLayerStylingPanel):
    def __init__(self, layer, canvas, parent):
        super(CustomPanel, self).__init__(layer, canvas, parent)

    def apply(self):
        # Read the xml and set it back to the style.
        doc = QDomDocument( "style" ) 
        node = doc.documentElement()
        self.layer.readStyle(node, "")



Pro Tip: Raise widgetChanged whenever you need to tell the style dock to trigger the apply method. The style state of the layer will also be saved to the undo stack so you don’t have to worry about that.

This is just an example, hand editing xml is well gross, but I’m sure you can see great uses for being able to expand the style dock.

QGIS style dock – Part 1 – Live Styles!

This post is part of a series exploring the new style dock.

  • Part 1 – Styles
  • Part 2 – Plugin pages
  • Part 3 – New panel API

A while ago did a post about the new style dock in QGIS. The first stage was getting labels working and then moving on to styles. After many iterations of the UIs and the APIs I’m pretty happy with the release state of the dock. We now have styles (vector and raster), labels, saved styles, undo redo, and plugin support (yep!)

Of all the features I have added to QGIS this is my favorite. Nothing has made me feel more productive then working on this feature and seeing the gains it allows in day to day work.

If you haven’t used the style dock yet I would strongly encourage you to grab the nightly QGIS builds and give it a crack, F7 to open anytime, or use the paint brush icon on the layers panel.   I’m not bragging when I say that it will change your life in QGIS for the better, it has become a part of my daily workflow. No going back!

Dock break down


As you can see in the image there is a few main things in the dock, the layer selection, style options selector (come back to this later), undo/redo, live update and apply.

Live Updates

One of the key things for me when doing this dock was instant feedback. I really hated the open close, change, apply, repeat workflow of the old dialogs.  Every widget in the dock can request a redraw on change so you can see feedback instantly in the canvas.  This might not always be what you want so you can disable it for those cases and use manual apply.

Undo Stack

Live updates come with a risk. What happens if you apply something you didn’t mean. There is no cancel button. Well not to fear we now have a undo/redo stack.  Any style change will now add an entry to the style undo stack so you can rollback and forward any changes. Undo/Redo now allows for fearless style changes, so style away to your hearts content and rollback anything you don’t like.

I will also add that the undo stack is stored on the layer object itself, so closing the dock doesn’t clear the stack nor does changing the active layer. You can also access the stack via the Python bindings if needed.

Style Options

On the side of the dock we have the different style options.  These buttons change the style options in the main panel.

Vector Style Options
  • Style
  • Label
  • Saved styles
  • Undo/Redo
Raster Style Options
  • Style
  • Transparency
  • Histogram
  • Saved styles
  • Undo/Redo

The Saved Styles and Undo/Redo will always be the last in the stack regardless of the active layer type.

Style UIs (Note: GIF heavy section)

Almost all the widgets have been tweaked to allow for better dock layout. Widgets are now in a more uniform layout which flows better when moving around in the dock and just generally look better.


When I talked about live updates before this applies to everything, even the data defined buttons.  Any changes in those will be reflected into the canvas without any extra clicks.


Changing renderers is now simple and quick. You go from nothing to seeing instant results in seconds.


A excellent side effect of the live updates is workflows that were never exposed before and now possible. Using the graduated renderer histogram for example. As the histogram allows for live edits we can now update the map on the fly from adjusting the histogram.


Style UIs (Raster)

As soon as I finished vectors it became pretty evident that raster layers were going to be the next main thing to move.   So the style dock fully supports raster styling.



For the final trick. Here we have the undo/redo stack in action. Unlimited undo/redo  on all layers when changing styles. Fearless change he we come


Trying to find a picture to sum up my feelings about the style dock and I think this fits

but of course I’m super bias.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I talk about adding your own style panels to the style dock.

Speeding up QGIS build times with Ninja

As a developer, feedback is important when you are working.  The quicker you have the feedback the quicker you can fix the issues.  This doesn’t just apply to feedback from users/clients but also from your tooling.

Finding a new tool that increases my productivity is one of the best feelings, and this is one of those cases.   I was told about using Ninja for building instead Make, Visual Studio, Jom (Qt Build Tool).

If you are not a developer and don’t know what those tools are, they are what we use to build and compile all the code in QGIS.  If this step is slow the feedback loop is slow and it becomes annoying.  Improving this feedback loop greatly increases your workflow and happiness, and by happiness I really do mean that.

Ninja is one of these tools that did this. It’s optimized to be fast.  It does very little work in order to be faster any time it can.  Ninja was built by a developer on the Google Chrome team in order to improve their build times (read the history here)

Building QGIS with Ninja is super easy:

Install Ninja from package manager or using the ninja.exe (the whole tool is a single exe) if you are on windows

cd qgis-src
mkdir ninja-build
cd ninja-build
ccmake -GNinja ..


You can build just the targets you need using

ninja qgis
ninja pycore


The ccmake setup generates the ninja.build file that ninja uses. Myself and Matthias Kuhn have already patched our QGIS cmake files to handle any odd things that got generated – only a handful of things which was nice

The best thing I find about Ninja is how smart it is on knowing if it needs to build something or not, and this is the point that I find other tools fail on. They spend ages wasting time looking for what to do. Ninja knows it in a instant.

When running Ninja with no code changes I get this (on Windows):

21:18:54: Running steps for project qgis2.15.0...
21:18:54: Starting: "C:\QtCreator\bin\ninja.exe" qgis
ninja: no work to do.
21:18:54: The process "C:\QtCreator\bin\ninja.exe" exited normally.
21:18:54: Elapsed time: 00:00. 

Not even a second. If I did the same with VS or JOM I could have written this post before it finished working out what to do.

Here is what happens changing a single file:

21:19:48: Running steps for project qgis2.15.0...
21:19:48: Starting: "C:\QtCreator\bin\ninja.exe" qgis
[1/6] Building CXX object src\core\CMakeFiles\qgis_core.dir\raster\qgshillshaderenderer.cpp.obj
[2/6] Linking CXX shared library output\bin\qgis_core.dll
21:19:51: The process "C:\QtCreator\bin\ninja.exe" exited normally.
21:19:51: Elapsed time: 00:03.

It’s super impressive. Even a cold build on Windows is shorter now. On Linux it’s even faster due to faster disk access in Linux vs Windows

If you build QGIS form source I would highly recommend giving it a crack because I know you will love it.

Styling maps in QGIS is better when it’s interactive

I’m sure you are all well aware of my hate of blocking dialogs, and when it comes to styling QGIS has a few and they annoy me to no end. With new fancy map making tools like MapBox and CartoDB all having nice non blocking styling options it’s about time QGIS followed suit to bring better control and faster workflows to users.

The first stage of the dock is complete, pending feedback of course, and merged into master.

Introducing the map styling dock:

2016-04-19 20_27_00-Action center

Having the style (label only at the moment) options in a dock widget opens up some really nice workflows to map styling.

Firstly, now you don’t have to do the Open -> Change Setting -> Apply -> Close -> Open dance each time you want to change a layer style.  The dock is linked to the active layer in the legend so you can move around freely, update settings, and move on.

Second, we can now have a great workflow and allow for live updating. Yes you did read that right, it will live update the map as you change values. How bloody great is that!  Reducing the feedback loop is always the best.  If it can be done live, do it live.  There is a Reset button if you make a mistake.

Third, all styling options will now live in a single location going forward. Once we have moved style, diagrams, blend modes, it will be a one stop shop for styles with no annoying dialogs getting in the way.

In QGIS 2.14 we also have this awesome feature for rule based labels, however that added another dialog, and I wasn’t going move to a dock just to have another dialog block me two steps down the road. So now all the rules based labels dialogs are panels inside the main dock. When adding a new rule it will show the rule editor, and the list when not.  Remember how I said the dock updates the map live, well that also applies when you add/update rules.  The dock will update the canvas as the rule changes even before you hit save on the rule

2016-04-19 20_48_36-Action center

2016-04-19 20_48_28-Action center

The new styling dock is in master now, although might not be in the nightly build for a day or so.

You can check out some videos of the dock in action here:

Super keen on any feedback and ideas anyone might have.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

EDIT: I would also like to add that what I have started/done is only possible because of the great work that has been done before me. Big thanks to all the people that have done work to enable me to make this feature,  label settings, threaded rendering, data defined buttons, etc.

UIs are for the weak. Welcome to ASCII QGIS land

Have you ever thought “gee I wish I could have a ASCII  QGIS map viewer for console use.  I’m so over these fancy UIs with their fancy graphics, fonts, and icons”.



You are still reading? OK good I thought I lost you.

Anyway. Here is a fun idea. A ASCII QGIS map viewer that renders your project files in a console window (with colour possible).  Still with me?

This project was mainly just a bit of fun to play with the curses Python library and QGIS. What started off as a random idea on the train seems to have turned into full “usable” thing, if viewing a project and the legend is considered usable.

If you are still with me and itching to see it in action here it is.  In all the ASCII glory


What can it do so far?

  • Load project
  • Pan
  • Zoom
  • Set colour mode on/off


The code is up at https://github.com/NathanW2/ascii_qgis (or http://nathanw2.github.io/ascii_qgis/)

It’s a bit of a fun side project at the moment so you might find bugs as I have only tested it on my machine.

Follow the README on github for notes on running.

Have fun.



Good news for QGIS MapInfo users

So some good news for QGIS users who also need/want to use MapInfo.  QGIS via GDAL 2.0 can support MapInfo TAB file editing. In all older versions of GDAL there was only support for read and/or write but not both.

MapInfo TAB editing has been supported in GDAL 2 but up until this point QGIS has only be built against GDAL 1.xx.  GDAL 2.x is now the default GDAL release in OSGeo4w.

From Jurgen:

2.0.2 is now the default GDAL in OSGeo4W and the nightlies (qgis-ltr-dev,
qgis-rel-dev and qgis-dev) already picked it up.

With the next release the regular packages (2.14 and 2.8) will also be updated
to use it

Even if you don’t want to make the switch to full QGIS you can now use both bits of software and edit in both.

QGIS will still only support a single geometry type per layer so if you open a mixed tab file you will get the geometry type selector.  You can load the layer 3 times if you need the 3 different geometry types.


Rendering web images as markers in QGIS

So here is an idea.  Say you have a point layer that has a link to a static image from a web cam. Lets say it is a traffic camera for this use case.

Selection_0272016-02-04 21_30_36-QGIS 0a64c16

We can use that feed to see the image in a browser. Cool. But what would be even cooler is if we could get the images into QGIS as markers without having to download each image each time for a update ourselves.

Turns out it’s pretty easy – could be easier no doubt but lets just go with this route for now.  For this you will need: a custom expression function, and data defined SVG path locations. (We have to use SVG markers because QGIS doesn’t have image markers just yet)

Lets write that custom expression function.  We need a SVG marker so lets set that for the layer and also edit the data defined path


Hit the New file button and define a new function called show_camera. 

import requests
import base64

@qgsfunction(args='auto', group='Custom')
def show_camera(feed, feature, parent):
    svg = """
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="no"?>
    <image xlink:href="data:image/jpeg;base64,{0}" height="256" width="320" />
    data = requests.get(feed, stream=True).content
    name = feed[-16:]
    b64response = base64.b64encode(data)
    newsvg = svg.format(b64response).replace('\n','')
    path = r"C:\temp\camera\{0}.svg".format(name)
    with open(path, 'w') as f:
    return path.replace("\\", "/")

This will take the image feed, load it with the Python request library, base64 the image, stick the data in to a SVG, save the SVG to disk, and return the path to the new SVG.

We have to save to disk because QGIS can’t load SVGS from strings, although that would be a cool feature. I am also using base64 because a linked file SVG didn’t render in QGIS.

Once we have defined that we can use the function like so

show_camera( "url" )

looking at the output preview we have


Which looks right. Hit OK on the expression.

Before hitting Apply just make the size of the marker a little bigger as it will make the image to small to see, I used 35 for the demo. You should also pick a SVG marker from the list that is used as the default one if there is no valid path returned.

Hit Apply. Magic :)


The images are getting download and saved into C:\temp\camera for this demo but you could add some more magic around that.

Something to note is that each time you refresh the map you are making a bunch of web requests to get the new images. You could avoid this by tracking the image times and only grabbing new ones if a set time has elapsed.  I will leave that up the reader, however here is a link to a Gist with the code if you wish to fork it

Big hat tip to QGIS and its multi threaded rendering that still allows you to continue to work while it renders and downloads the images in the background.