Posts Tagged ‘table joins’

Updates for QGIS 1.7 Wroclaw

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

The latest version of QGIS, 1.7 “Wroclaw” was released a few weeks ago. Some of the recent updates render parts of my GIS Practiucm out of date (unless you’re sticking with versions 1.5 or 1.6), so I’ll be making updates later this summer for the upcoming workshops this academic year. In the meantime, I wanted to summarize the most salient changes here for the participants in this past spring’s workshops, and for anyone else who may be interested. Here are the big two changes that affect the tutorial / manual:

Transforming Projections – In previous versions you would go under Vector – > Data Management Tools > Export to New Projection. In 1.7 this has been dropped from the ftools vector menu. To transform the projection of a file, you select it in the Map Legend (ML), right-click, hit Save As, give it a new name and specify the new CRS there. The QGIS developers have provided some info on how QGIS handles projections that’s worth checking out. You can go in the settings and have QGIS transform projections on the fly, which is fine depending on what you’re going to do. My preference is to play it safe – do the transformations and make sure all your files and the window share the same CRS. It can save you headaches later on.

Table Joins – In previous versions you would also accomplish this under Vector – > Data Management Tools > Join Attributes, where you’d join a DBF or CSV to a shapefile to create a new file with both the geometry and the data. Now that’s out, and QGIS can support dynamic joins, similar to ArcGIS where you couple the attribute table to the shapefile without permanently fusing the two. To do this you must add your DBF or CSV directly to your project; do this the same way you’d add a vector layer. Hit the Add Vector button, and change the drop down at the bottom so you can see all files (not just shapefiles) in your directory. Add your table. Then select your layer in the ML and double click to open the properties menu. You’ll see a new tab for Joins. Hit the tab and hit the plus button to add a new join. You’ll select your table, the table’s join field, and the layer’s join field. Hit OK to join em, and it’s done. Open the attribute table for the layer and you’ll see all columns for the layer and the joined field.
New Join Menu QGIS 1.7

This sounds great, but I had some trouble when I went to symbolize my data. Using the old symbology tab, I couldn’t classify any of my columns from my attribute table using Equal Intervals; it populated each class with zeros. Quantiles worked fine. If I switched to the new symbology, I still couldn’t use Equal Intervals, and Quantiles and Natural Breaks only worked partially – my dataset contained negative values which were simply dropped instead of classified. Grrrrr. I got around this by selecting my layer in the ML (after doing the join), right clicked, and saved it as a new layer. This permanently fused the shapefile with the attributes, and I had no problem classifying and mapping data in the new file. I went to the forum and asked for help to see if this is a bug – will report back with the results.

Here are some other updates worth noting:

  • Feature Count – if you right click on a layer in the ML, you can select the Feature Count option and the number of features will be listed under your layer. If you’ve classified your features, it will do a separate count for each classification.
  • Feature Count QGIS 1.7

  • Measuring Tool – it looks like it’s now able to convert units on the fly, so even if you’re using a CRS with units in degrees, it can convert it to meters and kilometers (you can go into the options menu if you want to switch to feet and miles).
  • Labels – it looks like the experimental labelling features have been made default in this verson, and they do work better, especially with polygons.
  • Map Composer Undo – undo and redo buttons have been added to the map composer, which makes it much easier to work with.
  • Undo Redo Button Map Composer

  • Map Composer Symbols – if you go to insert an image in the map composer, you’ll have a number of default SVG symbols you can load, incuding north arrows
  • Export to PDF – from the map composer, this was pretty buggy in the past but I was able to export a map today without any problems at all.

Joining CSV Files in QGIS

Monday, April 4th, 2011

DBF files are the other thorny issue that comes up when I’m teaching the Intro to GIS workshops with QGIS – specifically how do you create and edit them? Doing that has been pretty inconvenient in the Windows world since they were deprecated in Excel 2007. You can download plugins or basic stand-alone software to do the job. Since I’m a Linux user I have the Open Office suite by default, and I can easily work with DBFs in Calc. That’s an option for Windows and Mac users too, but it’s kind of a drag to download an entire office suite just for working with DBFs (assuming most folks are use MS Office).

Another possibility is to dump DBF all together; even though the join table option in the fTools menu in QGIS only presents you the option of joining shapfiles or DBF, it turns out if you choose the DBF radio button option you can actually point to DBFs OR CSV files when you’re browsing to point to your data table. The join proceeds the same way, and you get a new shapefile with the data from the CSV joined to it. CSVs can be easily created from any spreadsheet, text editor, or database program in any operating system, so you can prep your attribute data in your program of choice before exporting to CSV and importing to GIS.

The problem with this approach is that all of the fields from the CSV file are automatically saved as text or strings when they’re appended to the shapefile. This means that any numeric data you have can’t be treated numerically; you can’t perform calculations or classify data as value ranges for mapping. You can go into the attribute table, enter the edit mode, and use the field calculator to create new fields where you convert the values to integers, but this adds a bunch of duplicate fields and is rather messy. You can’t delete columns from shapefiles within QGIS; you have to edit the attributes outside the software to remove extra columns.

Here’s an easy work around: you can create a CSVT file to go along with your CSV file. Open a text editor like Notepad or gedit and create a one line file where you specify the data type for each of the fields in your CSV file. Save the CSVT with the SAME NAME as your CSV file. Now when you go to join your CSV to your shapefile in QGIS, it will read the CSVT and save all of your fields properly in the new shapefile.

So for a CSV file like this with six fields:

01, AL, ENU0100010551, 27013, ENU0100010510, 1570188
02, AK, ENU0200010551, 6988, ENU0200010510, 237708
04, AZ, ENU 0400010551, 41833, ENU0400010510, 2174919 …

You’d create a CSVT file like this:

“String”, “String”, “String”, “Integer”, “String”, “Integer”

So the 4th and 6th fields that have numeric values are saved as integers. There are a few other field types you can use, like Real for decimal numbers and some Date / Time options, and you can specify length and precision – see this post for details.

Using shapefiles, CSVs, and CSVTs are fine for small to medium projects and for the introductory workshops I’m teaching; geodatabases are another option and are certainly better for medium to large projects, but introducing them in my intro workshop is a little too much.

(NOTE – in QGIS 1.7 the join tool has been dropped from the ftools menu. To join a csv or dbf in 1.7+, you have to add your data table as a vector to your map, and then use the join tab within the properties menu of the feature you want to join it to. See this post for details.)

QGIS: Data Defined Labeling and Table Joins

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

A little while ago I posted a text file with geographic centroids (centers) for each of the world’s countries. The reason why I put this together was that I wanted to test the data defined labeling features in QGIS. While automatic labeling in QGIS isn’t so hot (overlapping labels, multiple lables for each polygon), there are some powerful features for storing and referencing columns for annotation within the attribute table of shapefiles. One of the neat features is the ability to place labels based on coordinates stored in the attribute table.

The first step was to take the centroids file and join in to a shapefile of the worlds countries based on a common ID field, in this case FIPS country codes. QGIS doesn’t support table joins directly, but you can accomplish this with a good plugin called fTools, which includes a lot of additional and useful features. The instructions for getting fTools up and running are available on the fTools website; the installation doesn’t require you to download any files, you just handle everything through the QGIS plugin manager (if you have trouble seeing the plugin manager or getting fTools to appear, check to make sure that you have python installed on your machine). Once fTools is up and running, you’ll see a Tools dropdown menu next to your other menus – drop it down, select data management tools and join attribute tables. You’ll get a dialog box asking which shapefile and field you want to join and which shapefile or table you want to join to it. The plugin only supports joins from other shapefiles and dbf tables, so you have to save the save the country centroids text file as a dbf before you do the join (you can do this in Calc or a pre-2007 version of Excel). These aren’t dynamic joins; fTools will create a new shapefile with the table fields attached.

Once the join is complete, you can add the new shapefile with the new fields, click on the layer, and navigate to the labels tab. Hit the checkbox to turn the labels on, select the field that contains the label in the dropdown box at the top, then select data defined position from the menu below. You’ll see a new series of dropdowns on the right, and you can select your longitude column for the X coordinate and latitude column for the Y coordinate. Hit OK, and voila! You’ll have labels that are centered in the middle of each country.

Of course, the label placement will not be perfect in every case. There will be label overlap in areas with small countries, areas with many countries clustered together, and with countries that have long names. The scale and size of the font will also be a factor, and placing the country name in the center is not always ideal for small island nations. However, you can easily change the label placement by going into an edit mode and changing the coordinates in the attribute table to get optimal placement. You can mouse over the map and use the coordinate information that’s displayed beside the scale in the lower right-hand corner of the window to determine which coordinates are most optimal for a given situation. If you produce several maps at the same area and scale, you can use the same settings over and over again. You can also globally change the placement of all the labels using some of the other label options, such as placing all labels above or to the top-right of the centroid.

Now in order for all of this to work, the coordinates in the country centroid file must be in the same coordinate system as the shapefile. Since the country centroid file uses basic latitude and longitude, I was able to do this with a shapefile that was in the basic WGS 84 geographic coordinate system. If you’re using a different geographic coordinate system or a projected coordinate system, you’ll have to convert the coordinates in the centroid file to match that system. I haven’t delved into this too deeply yet, but there are a number of free tools that you can download that should do this – one of them is called GEOTRANS, and it’s available for free download from the NGA. It can handle batch transformations of coordinate data stored in text files, and supports conversions to several different geographic and projected systems.

QGIS Label Placement With XY Coordinates

QGIS Label Placement With XY Coordinates

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