Little Known QGIS Parlor Tricks

Caitlin Dempsey


QGIS is a popular open source GIS software that offers extensive tools for mapping and spatial data analysis. While QGIS is most valued for its GIS tools and user-friendly interface, QGIS harbors some hidden features baked into the program. These little GIS parlor tricks are often referred to as “Easter eggs.”

What are Easter eggs?

The term “Easter egg” in the context of software refers to hidden features, messages, or jokes embedded within a program or work, typically not documented and left for users to discover.

QGIS Easter Eggs

The coordinate box is an information box located at the bottom of the QGIS interface towards the lower left corner. The coordinate box is typically located at the bottom of the QGIS interface, just to the right of the search box. The coordinate box displays the current coordinates of the mouse pointer as you move it across the map canvas.

The coordinate box in QGIS is also a feature within the QGIS interface that allows users to quickly navigate to specific geographic locations by entering coordinates

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A little known use of the QGIS coordinate box is the ability to type in certain words to trigger QGIS Easter eggs. As with most Easter eggs, these parlor tricks found within QGIS are not publicly documented but the programming for them can be seen in the source code for the GIS software.

World map trick

The first Easter egg is probably also the most practical hidden trick in QGIS. Type in ‘world’ in the coordinate box to add in a simple geospatial dataset of the countries of the world. This geopackage layer has basic attribute information containing variations of the names of the different countries and can be symbolized.

A screenshot showing a basic light tan outline map of the world in QGIS.
The ‘world’ Easter egg in QGIS.

Retro look in QGIS trick

Make your layer patterns look old school by typing ‘retro’ into the coordinate box.

Screenshot showing a retro pattern in QGIS.

Contributor Easter egg in QGIS

The “contributors” Easter egg in QGIS is a hidden feature that maps out the locations of contributors who have helped develop the software. This Easter egg is a tribute to the collaborative effort of the QGIS community and developers who have dedicated their time and skills to create new functionality, fix bugs, and overall improve this open source GIS software.

To trigger this Easter egg, type ‘contributors’ in the coordinate box.

Screenshot in QGIS of a world map with smiley face emojis mapped across it.

Typing ‘contributors’ into the coordinate box will add a map layer of the location of 74 QGIS contributors. At the top of the attribute information is Gary Sherman, the founding developer of QGIS. In 2002, Sherman released the first version of QGIS.

Each happy face marks the location of a QGIS developer, their first commit message and date, and their GIT handle.

Screenshot showing the location of a happy face with a popup with attribute information about that location.

Hackfest QGIS Easter egg

This QGIS Easter egg is yet another nod to the collaborative focus of QGIS development. QGIS Hackfests are collaborative events where developers, users, and enthusiasts of QGIS come together to work on the software. 

Type ‘hackfests’ into the coordinate box to see a map of past QGIS hackfests along with some interesting notes about each event. A November 2009 Hackfest in Vienna, Austria noted that, “Werner’s girlfriend Verena made awesome cake.” Each Hackfest’s location is symbolized with a pizza.

A map in QGIS of the location of past hackfests symbolized as pizzas.

Sliding puzzle QGIS trick

If you’re tired of looking at your map canvas in order to tweak those pesky labels, here’s a silly game you can play with your map. Type ‘bored’ into the coordinate box and your map canvas will turn into a slider puzzle.

A QGIS map canvas that has been turned into a slider puzzle.

Click on the map tiles next to the gray box to move them around and try to put your map back into its original configuration. If you need help, you can toggle the numbered order of the map tiles on and off by clicking your cursor in the gray box.

You can reset your map canvas back to its original form by simply toggling a map layer of and back on again.

Dizzy trick in QGIS

Typing ‘dizzy’ into the coordinate box in QGIS leads to a slightly nauseating, at least for me, shaking of the map canvas.

Animated gif showing the shaking 'dizzy' effect in QGIS.

Tired of the shaking? The trick to getting the dizzy effect to stop is to type ‘dizzy’ again in the coordinate box.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.