QuickMapServices post featured image

Working with QuickMapServices QGIS Plugin

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.

QGIS Desktop plugins website page


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.

QGIS Desktop Shortcut on GNOME Taskbar

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.

QGIS Destop Shortcut alternative search result

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.

QGIS Deskttop splash screen on an Ubuntu Desktop

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 .

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.

QGIS Desktop Plugins menu shortcut

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.

Fetching QGIS plugins from repository

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.

QGIS Plugins widget containing plugins

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.

QuickMapSevice plugin search

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.

QMS  checkbox is checked

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.

QMS docked widget

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.

QuickMapServices menu shortcut

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.

QuickMapServices plugin settings menu

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.

QuickMapServies plugin settings widget

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.

Additional services downloaded successfully message

Click OK above and in the settings widget click on save button shown as below.

Save QMS settings button

To show the added services, click on the QuickMapServices menu under Web QGIS menu and they will appear as shown below.

QuickMapServices menu after download service pack

We shall begin by loading a Google Satellite base map by selecting the options as shown below.

Google Satellite option in Quick Map Services plugin

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.

Google Satellite layer loaded in QGIS Desktop

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.Google Satellite layer zoomed inThe second service to load will be ESRI Satellite basemap that appears under the ESRI option as shown below.

ESRI Basemap service in QMS plugin

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.

ESRI Satellite basemap layer

The final service that we will load in this tutorial will be Stamen Terrain whose options appear as shown below.

Stamen Terrain Layer in QMS plugin

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.

Stamen Terrain layer in QGIS Desktop


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.

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