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Cartographers use all kind of tricks to make their maps look deceptively simple. Yet, anyone who has ever tried to reproduce a cartographer’s design using only automatic GIS styling and labeling knows that the devil is in the details.

This post was motivated by Mika Hall’s retro map style.

There are a lot of things going on in this design but I want to draw your attention to the labels – and particularly their background:

Detail of Mike’s map (c) Mike Hall. You can see that the rail lines stop right before they would touch the A in Valencia (or any other letters in the surrounding labels).

This kind of effect cannot be achieved by good old label buffers because no matter which color we choose for the buffer, there will always be cases when the chosen color is not ideal, for example, when some labels are on land and some over water:

Ordinary label buffers are not always ideal.

Label masks to the rescue!

Selective label masks enable more advanced designs.

Here’s how it’s done:

Selective masking has actually been around since QGIS 3.12. There are two things we need to take care of when setting up label masks:

1. First we need to enable masks in the label settings for all labels we want to mask (for example the city labels). The mask tab is conveniently located right next to the label buffer tab:

2. Then we can go to the layers we want to apply the masks to (for example the railroads layer). Here we can configure which symbol layers should be affected by which mask:

Note: The order of steps is important here since the “Mask sources” list will be empty as long as we don’t have any label masks enabled and there is currently no help text explaining this fact.

I’m also using label masks to keep the inside of the large city markers (the ones with a star inside a circle) clear of visual clutter. In short, I’m putting a circle-shaped character, such as ◍, over the city location:

In the text tab, we can specify our one-character label and – later on – set the label opacity to zero.
To ensure that the label stays in place, pick the center placement in “Offset from Point” mode.

Once we are happy with the size and placement of this label, we can then reduce the label’s opacity to 0, enable masks, and configure the railroads layer to use this mask.

As a general rule of thumb, it makes sense to apply the masks to dark background features such as the railways, rivers, and lake outlines in our map design:

Resulting map with label masks applied to multiple labels including city and marine area labels masking out railway lines and ferry connections as well as rivers and lake outlines.

If you have never used label masks before, I strongly encourage you to give them a try next time you work on a map for public consumption because they provide this little extra touch that is often missing from GIS maps.

Happy QGISing! Make maps not war.

The BEV (Austrian Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen) has recently published the Austrian cadastre as open data:

The URLs for vector tiles and styles can be found on https://kataster.bev.gv.at under Guide – External

The vector tile URL is:

https://kataster.bev.gv.at/tiles/{kataster | symbole}/{z}/{x}/{y}.pbf

There are 4 different style variations:

https://kataster.bev.gv.at/styles/{kataster | symbole}/style_{vermv | ortho | basic | gis}.json

When configuring the vector tiles in QGIS, we specify the desired tile and style URLs, for example:

For example, this is the “gis” style:

And this is the “basic” style:

The second vector tile source I want to mention is basemap.at. It has been around for a while, however, early versions suffered from a couple of issues that have now been resolved.

The basemap.at project provides extensive documentation on how to use the dataset in QGIS and other GIS, including manuals and sample projects:

Here’s the basic configuration: make sure to set the max zoom level to 16, otherwise, the map will not be rendered when you zoom in too far.

The level of detail is pretty impressive, even if it cannot quite keep up with the basemap raster tiles:

Vector tile details at Resselpark, Vienna
Raster basemap details at Resselpark, Vienna

This is a guest post by Mickael HOARAU @Oneil974

As an update of the tutorial from previous years, I created a tutorial showing how to make a simple and dynamic color map with charts in QGIS.

In this tutorial you can see some of interesting features of QGIS and its community plugins. Here you’ll see variables, expressions, filters, QuickOSM and DataPlotly plugins and much more. You just need to use QGIS 3.24 Tisler version.

Here is the tutorial.

Today’s post is a follow-up and summary of my mapping efforts this December. It all started with a proof of concept that it is possible to create a nice looking snowfall effect using only labeling:

After a few more iterations, I even included the snowflake style in the first ever QGIS Map Design DLC: a free extra map recipe that shows how to create a map series of Antarctic expeditions. For more details (including project download links), check out my guest post on the Locate Press blog:

If you want to just use the snowflake style in your own projects, the easiest way is to grab the “Snowy Day” project from the QGIS hub (while the GeoPackage is waiting for approval on the official site, you can get it from my Dropbox):

The project is self-contained within the downloaded GeoPackage. One of the most convenient ways to open projects from GeoPackages is through the browser panel:

From here, you can copy-paste the layer style to any other polygon layer.

To change the snowflake color, go to the project properties and edit the “flake_color” variable.

Happy new year!

The Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) is Austrian’s meteorological and geophysical service. And as such, they have a large database of historical weather data which they have now made publicly available, as announced on 28th Oct 2021:

The new ZAMG Data Hub provides weather and station data, mainly in NetCDF and CSV formats:

I decided to grab a NetCDF sample from their analysis and nowcasting system INCA. I went with all available parameters for a period of one day (the data has a temporal resolution of one hour) and a bounding box around Vienna:

https://frontend.hub.zamg.ac.at/grid/d512d5b5-4e9f-4954-98b9-806acbf754f6/historical/form?anonymous=true

The loading screen of QGIS 3.22 shows the different NetCDF layers:

After adding the incal-hourly layer to QGIS, the layer styling panel provides access to the different weather parameters. We can switch between these parameters by clicking the gradient icon next to the parameter names. Here you can see the air temperature:

And because the NetCDF layer is time-aware, we can also use the QGIS Temporal Controller to step through the hourly measurements / create an animation:

Make sure to grab the latest version of QGIS to get access to all the functionality shown here.

One of the new features in QGIS 3.20 is the option to trim the start and end of simple line symbols. This allows for the line rendering to trim off the first and last sections of a line at a user configured distance, as shown in the visual changelog entry

This new feature makes it much easier to create decorative label callout (or leader) lines. If you know QGIS Map Design 2, the following map may look familiar – however – the following leader lines are even more intricate, making use of the new trimming capabilities:

To demonstrate some of the possibilities, I’ve created a set of four black and four white leader line styles:

You can download these symbols from the QGIS style sharing platform: https://plugins.qgis.org/styles/101/ to use them in your projects. Have fun mapping!

Even with all their downsides, CSV files are still a common data exchange format – particularly between disciplines with different tech stacks. Indeed, “How to Specify Data Types of CSV Columns for Use in QGIS” (originally written in 2011) is still one of the most popular posts on this blog. QGIS continues to be quite handy for visualizing CSV file contents. However, there are times when it’s just not enough, particularly when the number of rows in the CSV is in the range of multiple million. The following example uses a 12 million point CSV:

To give you an idea of the waiting times in QGIS, I’ve run the following script which loads and renders the CSV:

from datetime import datetime

def get_time():
    t2 = datetime.now()
    print(t2)
    print(t2-t1)
    print('Done :)')

canvas = iface.mapCanvas()
canvas.mapCanvasRefreshed.connect(get_time)

print('Starting ...')

t0 = datetime.now()
print(t0)

print('Loading CSV ...')

uri = "file:///E:/Geodata/AISDK/raw_ais/aisdk_20170701.csv?type=csv&xField=Longitude&yField=Latitude&crs=EPSG:4326&"
vlayer = QgsVectorLayer(uri, "layer name you like", "delimitedtext")

t1 = datetime.now()
print(t1)
print(t1 - t0)

print('Rendering ...')

QgsProject.instance().addMapLayer(vlayer)

The script output shows that creating the vector layer takes 02:39 minutes and rendering it takes over 05:10 minutes:

Starting ...
2020-12-06 12:35:56.266002
Loading CSV ...
2020-12-06 12:38:35.565332
0:02:39.299330
Rendering ...
2020-12-06 12:43:45.637504
0:05:10.072172
Done :)

Rendered CSV file in QGIS

Panning and zooming around are no fun either since rendering takes so long. Changing from a single symbol renderer to, for example, a heatmap renderer does not improve the rendering times. So we need a different solutions when we want to efficiently explore large point CSV files.

The Pandas data analysis library is well-know for being a convenient tool for handling CSVs. However, it’s less clear how to use it as a replacement for desktop GIS for exploring large CSVs with point coordinates. My favorite solution so far uses hvPlot + HoloViews + Datashader to provide interactive Bokeh plots in Jupyter notebooks.

hvPlot provides a high-level plotting API built on HoloViews that provides a general and consistent API for plotting data in (Geo)Pandas, xarray, NetworkX, dask, and others. (Image source: https://hvplot.holoviz.org)

But first things first! Loading the CSV as a Pandas Dataframe takes 10.7 seconds. Pandas’ default plotting function (based on Matplotlib), however, takes around 13 seconds and only produces a static scatter plot.

Loading and plotting the CSV with Pandas

hvPlot to the rescue!

We only need two more steps to get faster and interactive map plots (plus background maps!): First, we need to reproject the lat/lon values. (There’s a warning here, most likely since some of the input lat/lon values are invalid.) Then, we replace plot() with hvplot() and voilà:

Plotting the CSV with Datashader

As you can see from the above GIF, the whole process barely takes 2 seconds and the resulting map plot is interactive and very responsive.

12 million points are far from the limit. As long as the Pandas DataFrame fits into memory, we are good and when the datasets get bigger than that, there are Dask DataFrames. But that’s a story for another day.

If you are following QGIS topics on social media, you may have already seen this but if you don’t, I recommend having a look at Tim Sutton’s most recent adventures in building dashboards with QGIS:

The dashboard is built using labeling and geometry generator functionality. This means that they work in the QGIS application map window as well as in layouts. As hinted at in the screenshot above, the dashboard can show information about whole layers as well as interactive selections.

Here’s a full walk-through Tim published yesterday:

You can follow the further development via Tim’s tweets or the dedicated Github issue (where you can even find an example QGIS dashboard project in a GeoPacakge for download).

Update July 2021: the style hub is now part of the official QGIS infrastructure at https://plugins.qgis.org/styles/


The 2016 post More icons & symbols for QGIS still regularly makes it to the top 10 list of posts by visitors. I wouldn’t attribute this popularity to the quality of this particular post, however. Instead, it’s a pretty clear sign that QGIS users are actively searching for more styling resources to add to their installations.

When it comes to styling resources, the person to follow right now is clearly Klas Karlsson who’s been keeping a steady stream of styling-related posts coming to Twitter:

Additionally, he’s the master-mind behind QGIS Hub, a – currently prototypical – platform for sharing styling resources and print layout templates:

If you are interested in sharing styling resources, head over there. Similarly, if you want to lend a hand developing QGIS Hub, get in touch!

QGIS Temporal Controller is a powerful successor of TimeManager. Temporal Controller is a new core feature of the current development version and will be shipped with the 3.14 release. This post demonstrates two key advantages of this new temporal support:

  1. Expression support for defining start and end timestamps
  2. Integration into the PyQGIS API

These features come in very handy in many use cases. For example, they make it much easier to create animations from folders full of GPS tracks since the files can now be loaded and configured automatically:

Script & Temporal Controller in action (click for full resolution)

All tracks start at the same location but at different times. (Kudos for Andrew Fletcher for recordings these tracks and sharing them with me!) To create an animation that shows all tracks start simultaneously, we need to synchronize them. This synchronization can be achieved on-the-fly by subtracting the start time from all track timestamps using an expression:

directory = "E:/Google Drive/QGIS_Course/05_TimeManager/Example_Dayrides/"

def load_and_configure(filename):
    path = os.path.join(directory, filename)
    uri = 'file:///' + path + "?type=csv&escape=&useHeader=No&detectTypes=yes"
    uri = uri + "&crs=EPSG:4326&xField=field_3&yField=field_2"
    vlayer = QgsVectorLayer(uri, filename, "delimitedtext")
    QgsProject.instance().addMapLayer(vlayer)

    mode = QgsVectorLayerTemporalProperties.ModeFeatureDateTimeStartAndEndFromExpressions
    expression = """to_datetime(field_1) -
    make_interval(seconds:=minimum(epoch(to_datetime("field_1")))/1000)
    """

    tprops = vlayer.temporalProperties()
    tprops.setStartExpression(expression)
    tprops.setEndExpression(expression) # optional
    tprops.setMode(mode)
    tprops.setIsActive(True)

for filename in os.listdir(directory):
    if filename.endswith(".csv"):
        load_and_configure(filename)

The above script loads all CSV files from the given directory (field_1 is the timestamp, field_2 is y, and field_3 is x), enables sets the start and end expression as well as the corresponding temporal control mode and finally activates temporal rendering. The resulting config can be verified in the layer properties dialog:

To adapt this script to other datasets, it’s sufficient to change the file directory and revisit the layer uri definition as well as the field names referenced in the expression.


This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

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