Overview of QGIS interface

From TOI-Pedia

General overview

This tutorial will provide a general overview of the QGIS user interface. The QGIS user interface consists of 7 main elements:

  1. Layers list
  2. Map canvas
  3. Browser panel
  4. Toolbars
  5. Side toolbar
  6. Status bar
  7. Locator bar

QGIS user interface - basic elements

Layers list

Right click on a layer to open a menu of options

This panel provides an overview of the layers loaded into your QGIS project. Some useful things to know about the layers panel:

  • The order of the layers in the list determines which layers will be shown above others on the map canvas. The order can be changed by clicking on a layer and dragging it to the position required.
  • Clicking on the tick-box beside the layer name changes whether that layer is visible or not. When the tick-box is unchecked and the layer name is italicised, then the layer is not visible on the map canvas.
  • Hovering over a layer provides some basic information about that layer including: the layer name, geometry type, coordinate reference system and file path.
  • Right clicking on a layer provides a list of extra options. Some useful basic options include: zoom to layer (which will show the entire layer on the map canvas) and show feature count (which will show the number of features contained in a layer beside the layer name).
  • Double clicking on a layer opens a pop-up window with different tabs about the layer's properties.
  • Clicking on the small arrow beside a layer expands a collapsed item containing more information about the layer's styling.

Map canvas

This is where the map is displayed. Within the map canvas you can perform many different operations. Some of the basics are:

  1. Pan - to move around the map
  2. Zoom in and out
  3. Identify - to identify the attributes of specific features
  4. Select - to select specific features on the map

QGIS map canvas basic operations

Browser panel

This is a panel that allows you to easily navigate to different datasets. Datasets stored on your own computer can be accessed via "Home". Other datasets accessed via web services can found here too when you have set up the appropriate connections (explained in further detail in the tutorial about adding WMS/WFS connections). OpenStreetMap can also be easily accessed via the Browser panel under the tab "XYZ tiles".

Note: The browser panel is just one of many panels that can be added to the QGIS interface. To remove a panel from the side bar, you can click the cross in the panel's top right corner. To add new panels, you can navigate to View » Panels and click on the name of the panel that you would like to add.

Browser panel
Adding new panels to the side bar


This is where QGIS tools are displayed. The basic tools are already included in the toolbar by default but you can add more tools to the toolbar by navigating to View » Toolbars and clicking on the name of the toolbars that you would like to add. Tools can also be accessed from the drop-down menus. For instance, you can either use the "save" button in the project toolbar to save the project or navigate to Project » Save.

Side toolbar

This is where more tools are displayed. By default this is set to include the buttons which can be used to load layers and create a new layer. You can add more tools to this toolbar in the same way as items in the top toolbar. Toolbars can be moved around the interface by clicking and dragging them to the spot where you would like them to be displayed.

Status bar

This bar shows information about the current project and map. In the bottom right corner you can see the project's coordinate reference system (recognised by the EPSG code). Next to this, the rotation and magnification of the map. Then, the current scale of the map and, on the very left, the coordinate's of your cursor on the map canvas. These items are interactive so you can also click on them and fill them with your own values. For instance, if you want to view the map at a particular scale or if you want to centre the map on specific coordinates.

Status bar

Locator bar

Using this bar you can access almost anything within QGIS including: tools, layers, algorithms, spatial bookmarks and more. See the QGIS user manual for more details.

Locator bar
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