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QGIS Introduction: Import Data

Overview

Although there are a myriad of different types of data sources you can import into QGIS, this guide will focus on the more commonly used data types including shapefiles, csv files, and raster files. For information on obtaining GIS data, view this GIS Data Sources Library Guide.  Here's more information on different GIS file types.

Shapefiles

GIS data found online is often in a shapefile format.  To import a shapefile follow these steps:

  1. Click on the "Layer" menu, mouse-over "Add Layer" and click "Add Vector Layer..."  You can also click the "Add Vector Layer" button in the left hand column of QGIS.                      
  2. If the shapefiles you have are on your local machine, all you need to do is click on the Browse button and navigate to the folder where your shapefiles are.   
  3. After you find the folder with your shapefilse, you will need to be sure the data type is selected to shapefile.  Click on the drop-down box next to file name and select ESRI Shapefiles (.shp *SHP).  You have many different vector data types to choose from if you have another data type.
  4. Click Open.

Raster Data

If you have a georeferenced image or aerial imagery, you will need to import them using the Add Raster Layer button.  To import a raster file, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the "Layer" menu, mouse-over "Add Layer" and click on "Add Raster Layer..." or click on the "Add Raster Layer icon in the left column of QGIS.            
  2. You will automatically be directed to your folders.  Go to the folder where your rasters are stored and change the raster data type if needed by click on the drop-down menu next to the file name.            
  3. Click Open.

CSV file

Once the csv files are formatted properly, you can add them into QGIS.  

  1. Click on the "Layer" menu, mouse-over "Add Layer" and click on "Add Delimited Text Layer..." or click on the "Add Delimited Text Layer" icon in the left column of QGIS.               
  2. The next GUI will have many different options you may need to change depending on the specific data set you have.  Here is an outline of the most common fields needed to be changed.      
    1. Browse - click on Browse and find the folder where the csv file is saved and open the file.
    2. Layer name - the name of the CSV will show up here.
    3. File format - depending on the version of QGIS you are using, you may need to verify the file format.
    4. Geometry definition - If you have x, y coordinates you will choose the "Point coordinates" option.  Verify the X Field is pointing to your Longitude field and the Y Field is pointing to your Latitude Field.  If you have a table with no x,y coordinates you will choose the "No Geometry" option.
    5. Layer settings - you will see a preview of the table.  Verify that everything looks correct.  
  3. Click OK.
  4. If you have a field with no x, y coordinates you are done importing the csv file.  However, depending on the version of QGIS you are using, you may be prompted to define the coordinate reference system (CRS) of your x, y coordinates.  Longitude/Latitude coordinates are unprojected, and you should choose the CRS of WGS 84 (EPSG:4326). If you have coordinates using something else, like meters in a UTM zone, search for that using the filter box in the CRS Selector Dialog.  For instance, type in <utm 17> to get a short list that includes the UTM zone for Durham, 17N (e.g., NAD83 / UTM zone 17N, or EPSG:26917).