Adding Functionality with Plugins: Mastering QGIS



This section of the free chapter preview of Mastering QGIS looks at using plugins to extend the functionality of QGIS.  Mastering QGIS is designed to bring users who want to go beyond the basics of QGIS to an advanced level of QGIS expertise. 

Adding Functionality with Plugins

There are so many potential workflows, analysis settings, and data sets within the broad field of GIS that no out of the box software could contain the tools for every scenario. Fortunately, QGIS has been developed with a Plugin architecture. Plugins are add-ons to QGIS that provide additional functionality. Some are written by the core QGIS development team and others are written by QGIS users.

You can explore the QGIS plugin ecosystem by clicking Plugins | Manage and Install Plugins. This opens the Plugins Manager which allows you to browse All plugins, just those Installed, those Not Installed, and adjust Settings. If there are installed plugins with available upgrades there will also be an Upgradable option. The Search bar can be used to enter search terms and find available plugins related to the topic. This is the first place to look if there’s a tool or extra type of functionality you’re needing! To install a plugin simply select it and click the Install Plugin button. Installed plugins can be toggled on and off by checking the box next to each.

You will be notified by a link at the bottom of the QGIS Desktop application if there are available updates to your installed plugins. Clicking that link opens the Plugins Manager where an Upgrades tab will allow you to install all or some of the available updates. Plugins themselves may show up as individual buttons, toolbars or as items under the appropriate menu such as: Plugins, Vector, Raster, Database, Web, or Processing.

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To add a base map to QGIS enable the OpenLayer plugin. It appears under the Web menu and allows you to add base maps from OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, Bing Maps, Map Quest, OSM/Stamen, and Apple Maps. This plugin requires an internet connection.


You can also browse the QGIS Python Plugins Repository here:

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