QGIS Desktop plugins extend the base functionalities of the GIS desktop software. On its own, QGIS Desktop can help users achieve a lot of tasks from digitizing, connecting to a database and creating of maps among others. Plugins enrich QGIS Desktop functionality and in this post we shall see our first example plugin that is the QuickMapService plugin. The tutorial highlights how to download, install and use the plugin.
QuickMapServices is a QGIS Desktop plugin that comprises of several web services, datasets and basemaps that can be used as a help to digitizing, comparing vector feature locations, change detection studies among many other tasks. It has been developed by NextGIS and its code repository can be accessed using this link. To install a plugin in QGIS Desktop, one can either download a zipped file from the QGIS Python Plugins repository or download directly from the QGIS Desktop Plugins menu. Below is a screenshot of the QGIS Plugins repository.
This tutorial assumes that QGIS Desktop is already installed in the computer. If not, refer to my post on Installing QGIS Desktop in Windows 10 and if using Ubuntu Linux refer to Installing QGIS Desktop in Ubuntu Linux this tutorial uses Ubuntu. Run the QGIS Desktop by clicking on the shortcut either pinned in the GNOME taskbar as shown below.
Alternatively, the QGIS Desktop shortcut can be accessed by clicking the home key in the keyboard (could be marked as a windows key) and type in the search area QGIS and the shortcut shall appear as shown below as long as one has QGIS installed in the computer.
After clicking the QGIS Desktop shortcut, then the splash screen is displayed for few seconds and appears as shown below. Note that the splash screen differs with the QGIS Desktop version installed in the computer.
After the splash screen disappears, the QGIS Desktop user interface is displayed and contains different controls and menus. The screenshot below shows the user interface in its default state and may differ with others if user interface settings have been customized. To understand the QGIS Desktop user interface, view my post on Exploring the QGIS Desktop User Interface .
In the Menu Bar at the top just below the black title bar lies all the menus that are shown in the QGIS by default. Some plugins once installed populate or insert additional menus. Identify the Plugins menu that is between Settings and Vector menus above and click on it and the drop down containing a list of two menus pops down as shown below.
Click the Manage and Install Plugins… shortcut which triggers a connection to the QGIS Plugins Repository shown at the beginning of this post but from the QGIS user interface.
If the connection is successful then the plugins widget appears as shown below containing all the install-able plugins from the plugin repository. Otherwise a message box showing error in connection is displayed and the plugins menu shown will only have the QGIS core plugins under the Installed tab menu.
Click in the search bar at the top and type QuickMapService and the plugins will be filtered as typing continues and will finally show the plugin of our interest as shown below.
Click on the Install Plugin button at the bottom right of the widget. If already installed then the buttons will be labelled Uninstall Plugin and another one labelled Re-install Plugin. Ensure that connection to the internet is working as it downloads the plugin files from the internet.
Once installed, ensure that the left checkbox is checked as shown below for the QuickMapServices plugin meaning that it will be active in the QGIS Desktop user interface.
Close the plugin widget and in the QGIS Desktop user interface, there will be a docked widget which for now can be closed since it is not being used in this task.
Identify and click the Web menu in the menu bar area and a dropdown appears as shown below. Hover the cursor on top of the QuickMapServices.
The drop down shows only five services however these could be very few for most usages and tasks. Therefore there would be need to add more services.
Luckily, instead of using an additional plugin or looking for web map services’ urls on the web which could be time consuming, QuickMapServices plugin has settings to add these extra services if they appear as shown above. On the plugin menus just below the services shown above, identify and click settings which is highlighted below.
The settings comprise of a number of tabs in which the More Services tab is of our interest therefore click on it if not active and the contents will appear as shown below. Click on the button labelled Get contributed pack below.
The additional services are installed from the internet and this process will only be successful if there is working internet connection otherwise an error in connection message will be shown.
Click OK above and in the settings widget click on save button shown as below.
To show the added services, click on the QuickMapServices menu under Web QGIS menu and they will appear as shown below.
We shall begin by loading a Google Satellite base map by selecting the options as shown below.
By clicking on the Google Satellite option, the layer from Google Satellite is loaded on the QGIS map canvas area and on the layers panel all as shown below.
One can also zoom into the image and an example of the layer display after zooming in appears as shown below. The area shown is a part of Lake Victoria located in western part of Kenya in East Africa region.The second service to load will be ESRI Satellite basemap that appears under the ESRI option as shown below.
On selecting the ESRI Satellite option, the basemap is loaded as a layer in the QGIS map canvas just like in the previous step. It may seem somewhat similar but also with some differences to the previous but the provider (ESRI in this case) is different.
The final service that we will load in this tutorial will be Stamen Terrain whose options appear as shown below.
On selecting Stamen Terrain, the layer is visualized in the QGIS map canvas layer and is as shown below. As it can be noticed, the style of the layer below is different from the previous layers.
We have been able to install QGIS plugin named QuickMapServices and can come in handy for tasks such as having a base map layer for map, digitizing of features from layer and Geo-referencing tasks just to mention a few. This plugin is also flexible on the number of services that on e can work with therefore give it a try.