After loading a vector layer, viewing its attributes is the next logical step.

We previously noted that the addVectorLayer() function returns a QgsVectorLayer object. In this context “returns” means that this function creates an object that we can use. Telling the iface to add a vector layer is similar to telling a restaurant to make you a pizza. If everything works out (whether it’s cooking or object creating), you’ll get a pizza to eat – or a vector layer to continue working with.

We need to give a name to the returned QgsVectorLayer object so that we can refer to it later. We’ll chose to call it vlayer:

uri = "E:/Geodata/NaturalEarth/vector_v4/natural_earth_vector.gpkg_v4.1.0/packages/natural_earth_vector.gpkg|layername=ne_10m_admin_0_countries"
vlayer = iface.addVectorLayer(uri, "countries", "ogr")

When we call the addVectorLayer() function, a lot of things happen in the background: QGIS checks the vector layer path and tries to open it using the provider that we specified. If successful, it adds the layer to the project using the name we provided. It also makes sure that the map is redrawn so that we can actually see the new layer on the map. And last but not least, it returns the newly created QgsVectorLayer object so we can use it later.

Now that we have our vlayer object we can do something with it – like opening its attribute table using the iface.showAttributeTable function:


Every time we run addVectorLayer(), QGIS creates a new QgsVectorLayer object and adds the layer to the project. If you want to stop a particular piece of code from being executed, you can comment it out by putting a hashtag in front of the code:

uri = "E:/Geodata/NaturalEarth/vector_v4/natural_earth_vector.gpkg_v4.1.0/packages/natural_earth_vector.gpkg|layername=ne_10m_admin_0_countries"
#vlayer = iface.addVectorLayer(uri, "countries", "ogr")

Instead of just opening the attribute table dialog, we can of course use the attributes in code as well. As with the iface object we dealt with earlier, QqsVectorLayer objects have a whole lot of functions (methods). To get a list of the attribute (or field) names printed to the console, we can go through the layer’s fields provided by the fields() function. This function returns a QgsFields object. To print all field names to the console, we can use a for loop:

for field in vlayer.fields():

You can read these two lines of code as: For each field in the vector layer’s fields, print the field name. In this case, fields() is a function of our vector layer object while field is a variable name that can be chosen freely.

In a similar way, we can print the ADMIN attribute value of our layer’s features using the getFeatures() function:

for feature in vlayer.getFeatures():

This code is the first example of how Python code is structured by indenting lines of code (i.e. putting spaces or tabs at the beginning of the line). If you omit the spaces before the print function, you’ll see an error. The correct number of spaces (or whether to use spaces or tabs) has been a topic of many discussions. By default, the code editor will insert 4 spaces. It is important to be consistent and avoid mixing different indentation styles. It’s not uncommon to run into errors because tabs were mixed with spaces.

These are the basics of viewing vector layer attribute names and values. You also saw how to write a for loop to iterate through a vector layer’s  fields and features.


PyQGIS 101 is a work in progress. I’d appreciate any feedback, particularly from beginners!

  1. bwilkes said:

    My feedback so far would be to add instructions on how to save code after this lesson. I closed QGIS but neglected to save my code, and am now having to recreate it in order to continue with the next lesson.

    • Good point, thanks! I’ve added a reminder to “Loading a vector layer”.

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