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Sun Apr 20 05:45:19 2014

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Queries in QGIS pt2 – Spatial Query

In the previous post (Queries in QGIS pt 1 – Attribute Queries), I showed how to select features based on their attribute data, e.g. select shops which have the address entered as London. Now let’s imagine there isn’t an address attribute, or alternatively, we want to select features within flood plains for example, or identify areas of woodland that have high voltage power lines running through them.

Layers for spatial query

Spatial selection selects features in one layer based on their spatial relationship to features in another layer

To begin a spatial query either:

  • Use the menu to select Vector, Spatial Query
  • Press the Spatial Query button

The spatial query dialogue box:

QGIS Spatial Query Dialogue Box

Select Source Features From – this is the table that the selection will be from.

Where the feature – the options will change depending on the exact combination of point, line or region features that are being used for the selection. They include contains (e.g. a region layer may contain points), crosses (e.g. a line layer may cross a region layer), Is Within (e.g. a point layer may be within a region layer), Touches (where one object may touch another but not actually be within it).

Reference Features Of – this is the second layer. It will be used to select features from the first layer, but its features won’t be part of the selection

The selected geometries only will only use features that have already been selected. For example if I wanted to select all the woodland within a particular county I could set up the query to read

  • Select Source Features from Farmland
  • Where the Feature is Within
  • Reference features of County Boundaries (selected features only)

Click OK, the query will run. Once it has completed, the results will appear:-

QGIS Spatial Query Dialogue Box

It is possible to run a further query based on the selection

Press the Create Layer from Selected to add the selection to the map as a new layer:-

Spatial Query Results

Combined Spatial and Attribute Query

Quite often GIS is used to select features that contain a certain attribute within a certain area (e.g. all the A roads and motorways within Greater London).

These queries are carried out by combining the above Spatial and attribute selections. They can be carried out either order depending on which is most logical.

In this example I would overlay the roads and OS Boundary Line features. I would then select all the London Boroughs by clicking on them with the Select Single Feature tool

  • Select Source Features from Roads
  • Where the Feature is Within
  • Reference features of OS Boundaryline (selected features only)
  • Press OK
  • In the Results box, press the Create Layer from Selected to create a new layer
  • Right click on the newly added Selection from Roads layer in the Layer Panel
  • Select Query
  • Use the Query Builder to enter the following SQL “Classification” = ‘A Road’ OR “Classification” = ‘Motorway’
  • Press OK

Queries in QGIS pt 1 – Attribute Queries

Quick Select Tools

The Select Flyout button on the Main toolbar contains tools used to quickly select features:

QGIS Quick Select Tools

QGIS Quick Select Tools

Attribute Queries

One method to select features in a layer is to select features using an attribute query:-

To query a layer by its attribute data,

  1. Right click on the layer’s name in the Layer Panel
  2. Select Query from the short cut menu to open the Query Builder box
QGIS Select by attributes box

QGIS Select by attributes box

  1. It is possible to type the SQL query into the SQL where clause box. Alternatively:-
    1. Click the Field that contains the attributes you wish to base the query on
    2. Select the operator
    3. Press the All under the values box to list all the available values
    4. Double click the value that you wish to select
    5. You will see the query being built in the SQL where clauses box.

Boolean operations (And, Or, Not)

  • And: narrows the search by requiring all the criteria to be present. It is most commonly used when the criteria are in different columns. E.g. Select Business_type = “bank” And City = “London” will select banks with London addresses.
  • Or: broadens the search criteria by requiring just one of several criteria to be true. It is most commonly used to give different options to the same column e.g. select Business_type = “bank” Or Business_type = “shop” will select all the banks and shops within the data set.
  • Not: returns records that do NOT match the criteria e.g. select Business_type = “bank” AND City NOT “London” would return all the banks that do not have a London address. Note that QGIS uses != for not equal to

It is important to be clear about when to use And Or operators.

If the first example was worded Select Business_type = “bank” OR City = “London” this would return all the banks and any property with a London address

If the second example was worded select Business_type = “bank” AND Business_type = “shop” this would return only those business which had bank and shop entered as business type. This would probably be none at all as businesses tend to either be a shop or a bank but rarely both!

Mathematical Operations

It is possible to use mathematical formulae to select from columns that are formatted in a numeric format (e.g. integer):-

>Greater than e.g. Business_type = “shop” AND floor_space > 100

< Less than e.g. Business_type = “shop” AND floor_space < 100

>= greater than or equal to

<= Less than or equal to

!= Does not equal


Editing Vector Features in QGIS

Editing Features

A lot of of GIS work involves editing polygons and polylines as well as calculating the size of any overlapping features. For example when I provided GIS support to a local authority’s planning team, I was regularly asked to calculate what proportion of proposed developments overlapped constraints such as flood zones.

In this tutorial, I first look at the re-shaping features on the Advanced Digitising Toolbar. Then I will go through geo-processing tools such as buffer, union, intersect etc.

Advanced Digitising Tools

QGIS Advanced Digitising Toolbar

QGIS Advanced Digitising Toolbar


From left to right, the tools are:

  • Undo
  • Redo
  • Simplify feature
  • Add ring
  • Add part
  • Delete ring
  • Delete part
  • Reshape features
  • Merge selected features
  • Merge attributes of selected features

To use any of the tools,

  • Begin an edit session, by right click on the layer’s name in the Layer Panel and select toggle editing.
  • Select the feature that you wish to edit
  • Select the tool

This is the polygon at the start of the edit session, I will show a screen shot of each result:

Polygon in QGIS

Polygon in QGIS

Add Ring

is used to subtract a new internal region from the existing polygon. Select the tool and then draw the desired internal polygon:-

Add Ring in QGIS

Add Ring in QGIS

Delete Ring

deletes the selected internal region. Select the tool, and then click on the internal region’s nodes.

Add Part

adds a new external region to the existing region. Select the tool, then draw the new region, ensure it snaps to the existing region:-

Add Part in QGIS

Add Part in QGIS

Delete Part

deletes the selected region. Select the tool, and then click on the region’s nodes.

Reshape Features

draws a temporary region which is then subtracted from the existing region:

Reshape Features in QGIS

Reshape Features in QGIS

Reshape Features in QGIS

Reshape Features in QGIS

Split Features

draws a line through the region. The region is then split along the line

Split Features in QGIS

Split Features in QGIS

Merge Features – merges two or more selected features. Note Ctrl+click is used to select multiple features

Merge Features in QGIS

Merge Features in QGIS

A dialogue box allows you to choose which attributes to keep, discard. It is also possible to carry out mathematical operations such as sum, maximum on numeric fields and to concatenate text fields:-

Attributes in QGIS

Attributes in QGIS


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