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Thu Nov 26 20:40:10 2015

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QGIS Planet

The man with the golden gun ( and some examples of installing and using QGIS on Windows)

I’m not Scaramanga (maybe a little bit of Nick Nack) but anyway, this article could be be a golden bullet for helping you to eliminate a lot of obstacles if you are using QGIS in some kind of class-room setup, networked environment and/or are struggling with the “new versions 3 times a year” policy of QGIS.


My interest for a hassle free and fast installation of QGIS stems from an experience last year: Some colleagues and I was giving a QGIS workshop for attendants from all over the world. We were told that QGIS was installed on all the computers in the “out-of-town” computer lab and indeed, the computers we checked had a working installation of QGIS. Next day, 15 minutes before the workshop should start, we discovered that the QGIS installations was either non-existent or badly mangled on a large portion of the rest of the computers. And no person with “local admin” rights within sight. It would be an understatement to say that the first hour of the workshop was an interesting time for us. Well, all’s well that ends well, and in the end the workshop was a success (Lucky us!)

A couple of months later I stumbled on this article “A QGIS class room setup on Windows ” – thanks to Richard Duivenvoorde – and tried the setup by copying the qgis program directory from the initial install to another “clean” computer. Alas, QGIS did work on some – but not on all of the computers, I tried it on. The QGIS installation had some dependencies to dll’s in the windows/system32 directory. If they already were present, the “copy” installation would work but otherwise it would fail. I discovered a somewhat complicated solution to the problem and publicized it in the article “How to make a ‘QGIS on a stick’ implementation

Then, some weeks ago at the “QGIS 2015 conference at Nødebo“, I had a chat with QGIS core developer Jürgen E. Fischer about my installation problems and viola! Two days after the chat, the OSGEO4W network installation contained the missing dll’s, Thanks Jürgen.

So now we have two bits of information:

  • By using the “–configpath” qualifier we can redirect where QGIS is looking for plugins, user selected values for options, values and files normally saved in the .qgis2 directory or in the registry.
  • The OSGeo4W network installation creates QGIS without any dependencies to external dll’s outside the installation directory. You could make an installation by simply copy an existing QGIS program directory to another computer.

This gives us some interesting possibilities:

  • Use case I : “QGIS on a stick”
    You can make a QGIS installation located on a memory stick and completely self contained; simply plug in the stick into a Windows computer and start QGIS by double clicking on the QGIS startup file.
  • Use case II: “Simple ‘xcopy’ installation of QGIS”
    Make an installation procedure for QGIS that consists of a simple copy of the QGIS program directory to a new computer. Like the answer to: “How the heck am I going to install QGIS on 24 computers in half an hour ?”
  • Use case III: “Network install of QGIS with floating profiles”
    Install QGIS on a network file share and put the QGIS setup information into the “Floating profile”. A large part of a user profile including will be cached on a central server in the windows domain. If the user logs on to another computer than the usual, his/her profile will automatically be copied to the new computer, giving the user his “normal” desktop and setups.
  • Use case IV: “QGIS on Citrix”
    Normally it ain’t my cup of tea to install any kind of program on a Citrix server where the program has a “canvas” area with fast changing images/pixels. For example: A GIS program like QGIS showing a map with an orthofoto background with millions of pixels – all with a slightly different hues of greens or browns.
    However, many IT departments swears by Citrix, so….
  • Use Case V: “Smart installation and update of a large amount of QGIS installations”
    If you have to install QGIS on dozens or hundreds of computers and keep the installation up-to-date, this is the use-case for you.

Step 1: Creating the common template..

First you have to create a common template for your future installation(s) whatever use case you implement afterwards. I use the 32-bit edition of the network installation as a basis for this although it’s perfectly possible to use the 64 bit version.

  1. Browse to and click on OSGeo4W Network installer (32 bit) . This will download the installer.
  2. Start the installer and choose “Express Desktop Install”.
  3. Check “QGIS” and uncheck everything else.
  4. Check “I agree yadda yadda…” to every license message.This will install a default QGIS installation in directory C:\OSGeo4W and create a QGIS user directory in C:\Users\<my username>\.qgis2, i.e. the directory .qgis2 in your home directory. These 2 directories is the basis for the template. You can check the installation by starting QGIS from the “OSGeo4W” program group in “Start” –> “All Programs”. It should work without problems.
  5. Copy the C:\Users\<my username>\.qgis2 directory with contents to C:\OSGeo4W, so you’ll have a C:\OSGeo4W\.qgis2 directory.
  6. Copy the startup file for QGIS: C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS.bat to C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS.ref. This is insurance ! If you utterly mangle QGIS.bat in the next steps you have this file as a backup. Otherwise you are not going to use it for anything.
  7. Edit the file: C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS.bat with a simple text editor like notepad.
    Insert 2 lines between line 2 and 3 in the bat file:

    call “%~dp0\o4w_env.bat”
    call “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\apps\grass\grass-6.4.4\etc\env.bat

    so it looks like this:

    call “%~dp0\o4w_env.bat”
    set QGIS_OAS=”%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\.qgis2
    if exist “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\bin\QGIS_OAS.bat call “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\bin\QGIS_OAS.bat
    call “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\apps\grass\grass-6.4.4\etc\env.bat

    and replace the last line in the bat file:

    start “QGIS” /B “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\bin\qgis-bin.exe %*

    with this line:

    start “QGIS” /B “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\bin\qgis-bin.exe –configpath %QGIS_OAS% %*

    and save the result.

    What the edits mean:

    • Create an environment variable %QGIS_OAS% which works as a pointer to the location of the .qgis2 directory. Initially it points to the .qgis2 directory inside the OSGeo4W installation directory we created in (5).
    • Execute a command-file “QGIS_OAS.bat” if it exists. This command-file is the basis for all our different use-cases. There will be a different version for each use-case. Initially we don’t use this file.
    • Add the “–configpath %QGIS_OAS% qualifier to the actual start of QGIS. This means, that QGIS will look for all setup information, user-defined options, plugins and whatnot in the directory specified by the %QGIS_OAS% environment variable. And QGIS will not use any settings in the registry.
  8. Start QGIS by double clicking the revised C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS.bat file and make all the changes to the initial setup of QGIS that should be included in your future QGIS installation(s). This could be change of language, default projection, extra plugins, snap options, yadda yadda yadda. Come on, make you dream QGIS setup !!

Thanks to the –configpath qualifier now on the start line for QGIS all these changes will be saved in the C:\OSGeo4W\.qgis2 directory. After this, you have a complete setup of QGIS – with your own changes – all located in the C:\OSGeo4W directory. This is the common template for all use cases.

Step 2: Do one of the use cases…

Use case I : “QGIS on a stick “

You have already done this use case. The template made in step 1 is a ready made “QGIS on a stick” installation:

  1. Copy the entire C:\OSGeo4W template directory from your computer to the root of your memory stick.
  2. Insert the memory stick into any Windows computer and start QGIS by double clicking on \OSGeo4W\bin\qgis.bat on the memory stick.
    QGIS will use \OSGeo4W\.qgis2 on the memory stick as the QGIS user directory.

Use case II : “Simple ‘xcopy’ installation of QGIS “

In this use case we will have to extend the template by creating the QGIS_OAS.bat file. This example will put the QGIS user directory “.qgis2” in the users home directory, just like the normal installation does – with one exception: This installation will not use the registry but save all user options in a ini-file placed in the QGIS user directory.

  1. Create the file C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS_OAS.bat with the following content:
    set QGIS_OAS=”%USERPROFILE%”\.qgis2
    if exist %QGIS_OAS% exit /B
    xcopy “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\.qgis2 %QGIS_OAS% /e /i
    nircmd shortcut “””%OSGEO4W_ROOT%””\bin\qgis.bat” “~$folder.desktop$” “Start QGIS” “” “””%OSGEO4W_ROOT%””\bin\qgis-bin.exe” “0” “min” “””%OSGEO4W_ROOT%””\bin” “”

    (First the pointer to the QGIS user directory is changed to the “users home directory”\.qgis2. Secondly, The command file will check if the QGIS user directory exists in the users home directory. If it doesn’t exist, the command file will create a copy of the QGIS user directory template into the users home directory; create a shortcut to start QGIS and place this shortcut on the user’s desktop.)

  2. You can now install QGIS on a new PC by copying the entire C:\OSGeo4W directory to the new pc (using a memory-bird, network drive, zip-copy-unzip, whatever). The directory can be copied to any directory location on the new PC. Please note that some locations will require “local admin” rights for creating the new directory, for example if you copy it to “C:\Program Files”. I usually try the avoid this.

First time use on the new pc:

  • Start QGIS by double clicking on C:\OSGeo4W\bin\qgis.bat (or wherever you placed the OSGeo4W directory). When QGIS starts, the combined command files QGIS.BAT and QGIS_OAS.BAT will automatically create the QGIS user directory on the new pc; create a shortcut to QGIS on the user desktop and start QGIS.

After that you can start QGIS by double clicking on the shortcut placed on the desktop.


Use case III: “Network install of QGIS with floating profiles

This usage scenario will have the QGIS installation located in a directory on a common network file-share. A normal user need only to have read and execute rights to this directory. The QGIS user directory will be placed in the users “roaming profile” on the client PC, a special region which is cached to a central server.

The computers and users are members of a AD domain. If the user logs on to another pc in the domain, the “roaming profile”, including the desktop and the QGIS user directory, will automatically be copied the new computer and the user will see the usual desktop and applications.

With this setup, there is no dependencies to any particular client pc after the first start of QGIS by the user. If the user logs on any other client PC in the domain it will be possible for her to start QGIS simply by double clicking on the QGIS shortcut on desktop.

There is some requirements: The user has to have access to the common file share (!) and the network connection has to be stable and relatively fast.

In this use case we will do the following:

  1. Copy the QGIS directory C:\OSGeo4W to the common share: X:\QGIS\Current (The drive letter X: is arbitrary; it could be any drive letter). I will explain the naming scheme of the directory later.
  2. Create the file X:\QGIS\Current\bin\QGIS_OAS.bat with the following content
    set QGIS_OAS=”%APPDATA%”\.qgis2
    if exist %QGIS_OAS% exit /B
    xcopy “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\.qgis2 %QGIS_OAS% /e /i
    nircmd shortcut “””%OSGEO4W_ROOT%””\bin\qgis.bat” “~$folder.desktop$” “Start QGIS” “” “””%OSGEO4W_ROOT%””\bin\qgis-bin.exe” “0” “min” “””%OSGEO4W_ROOT%””\bin” “”

    (First, The QGIS_OAS environment variable points to the qgis user directory in the roaming profile. Secondly, the command file will check if the QGIS user directory exists. If it doesn’t, the command file will copy the QGIS user directory template to the users roaming profile; create a shortcut to start QGIS and place this shortcut on the user desktop.)

First time use on the new pc:

  • Start QGIS by double clicking on X:\QGIS\Current\bin\qgis.bat. When QGIS starts, the combined command files QGIS.BAT and QGIS_OAS.bat will automatically create the QGIS user directory on the new pc, create a shortcut on the user desktop and start QGIS.
  • After the first time you start QGIS by double clicking on the shortcut placed on the desktop.

Oh .. and why did I use this particular naming scheme for the directory ? It is used to make it easy to update QGIS:

When you have a new version of QGIS, do the following:

  1. Make a template of the new qgis version as described in step 1 and use case III, but in another directory: X:\QGIS\Testing and leave the X:\QGIS\Current unchanged.
  2. Test the new installation. You might even let some of your users test it!! You can start the “testing” version of QGIS by double clicking on X:\QGIS\Testing\bin\qgis.bat
  3. When you are satisfied with the new installation:
    • Rename the directory X:\QGIS\Current to X:\QGIS\Deprecated
    • Rename the directory X:\QGIS\Testing to X:\QGIS\Current 

After the last rename operation all the networked users will execute the new version using their existing shortcut. This method will probably work with all minor updates (2.8 -> 2.10), but probably not with a major update (2.10 -> 3.0)

Use case IV : “QGIS on Citrix “

If you have a Citrix environment you probably have a personal network-based share for each an every user on the domain. For this use case I call this directory M:\Personal. But the naming convention can be anything.

The idea is to place the QGIS user directory on the personal network share, so there won’t be anything saved or registered on the Citrix server that’s user related:

Do the following:

  1. Create a working installation of QGIS on the Citrix sever using the techniques described in Step 1.
  2. Create the file C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS_OAS.bat on the Citrix server with the following content:
    set QGIS_OAS=M:\Personal\.qgis2
    if exist %QGIS_OAS% exit /B
    xcopy “%OSGEO4W_ROOT%”\.qgis2 %QGIS_OAS% /e /i

    (First, The QGIS_OAS environment variable points to the qgis user directory placed on the users personal network share. In this case “M:\Personal”. Secondly, the command file will check if the QGIS user directory exists. If it doesn’t, the command file will copy the QGIS user directory template to the users personal network share.)

  3. Create the usual application startup definition for Citrix pointing to C:\OSGeo4W\bin\QGIS.bat on the Citrix server.

Bingo ! That’s it. I’ll leave the last use case “Smart installation and update of a large amount of QGIS installations” to a separate article, because it is more complicated than any of the previous use cases. I’ll try to publish that article in a week or so, so stay tuned !!

This article has a zip file “” attached. It contains the revised QGIS.BAT file plus all the different types of QGIS_OAS bat files described in the article. The suffix is renamed to “.usecase_1”, “.usecase_2” and so on. Download the zip file and rename the suffix to “.bat” on the files you’re going to use.

A final note: I’ve used QGIS 2.8.2 in my tests. So the use cases works for this version of QGIS and will probably work for other QGIS 2.x versions.


Bo Victor Thomsen

A Quick Guide to Getting Started with PyQGIS on Windows

Getting started with Python and QGIS can be a bit overwhelming. In this post we give you a quick start to get you up and running and maybe make your PyQGIS life a little easier.

There are likely many ways to setup a working PyQGIS development environment---this one works pretty well.



  • OSGeo4W Advanced Install of QGIS
  • pip (for installing/managing Python packages)
  • pb_tool (cross-platform tool for compiling/deploying/distributing QGIS plugin)
  • A customized startup script to set the environment (pyqgis.cmd)
  • IDE (optional)
  • Vim (just kidding)

We'll start with the installs.


Almost everything we need can be installed using the OSGeo4W installer available on the QGIS website.


From the QGIS website, download the appropriate network installer (32 or 64 bit)

  • Run the installer and choose the Advanced Install option
  • Install from Internet
  • Choose a directory for the install---I prefer a path without spaces such as C:\OSGeo4W
  • Accept default for local package directory and Start menu name
  • Tweak network connection option if needed on the Select Your Internet Connection screen
  • Accept default download site location
  • From the Select packages screen, select the following for installation:
    • Desktop -> qgis: QGIS Desktop
    • Libs -> qt4-devel (needed for lrelease/translations)
    • Libs -> setuptools (needed for installing pip)

When you click Next a bunch of additional packages will be suggested---just accept them and continue the install.

Once complete you will have a functioning QGIS install along with the other parts we need. If you want to work with the nightly build of QGIS, choose Desktop -> qgis-dev instead.

If you've already installed QGIS using the OSGeo4W installer, just install the qt4-devel and setutools packages. If you installed QGIS using the standalone installer, the easiest option is to remove it and install from OSGeo4W. You can run both the standalone and OSGeo4W versions on the same machine, but you need to be extra careful not to mix up the environment.

Setting the Environment

To continue with the setup, we need to set the environment by creating a .cmd script. The following is adapted from several sources, and trimmed down to the minimum. Copy and paste it into a file named pyqgis.cmd and save it to a convenient location (like your HOME directory).

@echo off
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\bin\o4w_env.bat
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\etc\env.bat
@echo off
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\bin
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\lib

set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\python;
set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\Python27\Lib\site-packages
set PATH=C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\cmd;C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\vim74;%PATH%
cd %HOMEPATH%\development

You should customize the set PATH statement to add any paths you want available when working from the command line. I added paths to my git and vim installs.

The cd %HOMEPATH%\development statement starts the shell in my normal working directory---customize or remove as you see fit.

The last line starts a cmd shell with the settings specified above it. We'll see an example of starting an IDE in a bit.

You can test to make sure all is well by double-clicking on our pyqgis.cmd script, then starting Python and attempting to import one of the QGIS modules:

Python 2.7.5 (default, May 15 2013, 22:44:16) [MSC v.1500 64 bit (AMD64)] on win
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import qgis.core

If you don't get any complaints on import, things are looking good.

Python Packages

We need a couple of Python packages as well.


There are several ways to install pip, but since we installed setuptools we can use easy_install:

easy_install pip

Make sure to issue this command from your customized shell (double-click on pyqgis.cmd to start it).


With pip installed we can use it to install pb_tool:

pip install pb_tool

More information on using pb_tool is available on the project website.

Working on the Command Line

Just double-click on your pyqgis.cmd script from the Explorer or a desktop shortcut to start a cmd shell. From here you can use Python interactively and also use pb_tool to compile and deploy your plugin for testing.

IDE Example

With slight modification, we can start our IDE with the proper settings to recognize the QGIS libraries:

@echo off
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\bin\o4w_env.bat
call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%"\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\etc\env.bat
@echo off
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\bin
path %PATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\grass\grass-6.4.3\lib

set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis\python;
set PYTHONPATH=%PYTHONPATH%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\Python27\Lib\site-packages
set PATH=C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\cmd;C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\vim74;%PATH%
cd %HOMEPATH%\development
start "PyCharm aware of Quantum GIS" /B "C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\PyCharm 3.4.1\bin\pycharm.exe" %*

We only changed the last line, adding the start statement with the path to the IDE (PyCharm). If you save this to something like pycharm.cmd, you can double-click on it to start PyCharm. The same method works for other IDEs, such as PyDev.

Within your IDE settings, point it to use the Python interpreter included with OSGeo4W---typically at: %OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin\python.exe. This will make it pick up all the QGIS goodies needed for development, completion, and debugging. In my case OSGEO4W_ROOT is C:\OSGeo4W, so in the IDE, the path to the correct Python interpreter would be: C:\OSGeo4W\bin\python.exe.

Make sure you adjust the paths in your .cmd scripts to match your system and software locations.


Here is an example of a workflow you can use once you're setup for development.

Creating a New Plugin

  1. Use the Plugin Builder plugin to create a starting point [1]
  2. Start your pyqgis.cmd shell
  3. Use pb_tool to compile and deploy the plugin (pb_tool deploy will do it all in one pass)
  4. Activate it in QGIS and test it out
  5. Add code, deploy, test, repeat

Working with Existing Plugin Code

The steps are basically the same was creating a new plugin, except we start by using pb_tool to create a new config file:

  1. Start your pyqgis.cmd shell
  2. Change to the directory containing your plugin code
  3. Use pb_tool create to create a config file
  4. Edit pb_tool.cfg to adjust/add things create may have missed
  5. Start at step 3 in Creating a New Plugin and press on


Assuming you have things properly installed, trouble usually stems from an incorrect environment.

  • Make sure QGIS runs and the Python console is available and working
  • Check all the paths in your pygis.cmd or your custom IDE cmd script
  • Make sure your IDE is using the Python interpreter that comes with OSGeo4W

[1] Plugin Builder 2.6 will support generation of a pb_tool config file

QGIS Development with Plugin Builder and pb_tool

The Plugin Builder is a great tool for generating a working plugin project that you can customize.

One of the main tasks in the development cycle is deploying the plugin to the QGIS plugin directory for testing. Plugin Builder comes with a Makefile that can be used on Linux and OS X to aid in development. Depending on your configuration, the Makefile may work on Windows.

To help in managing development of your projects, we've come up with another option---a Python tool called pb_tool, which works anywhere QGIS runs.

Here's what it provides:

Usage: pb_tool [OPTIONS] COMMAND [ARGS]...

  Simple Python tool to compile and deploy a QGIS plugin. For help on a
  command use --help after the command: pb_tool deploy --help.

  pb_tool requires a configuration file (default: pb_tool.cfg) that declares
  the files and resources used in your plugin. Plugin Builder 2.6.0 creates
  a config file when you generate a new plugin template.

  See for for an example config
  file. You can also use the create command to generate a best-guess config
  file for an existing project, then tweak as needed.

  --help  Show this message and exit.

  clean       Remove compiled resource and ui files
  clean_docs  Remove the built HTML help files from the...
  compile     Compile the resource and ui files
  create      Create a config file based on source files in...
  dclean      Remove the deployed plugin from the...
  deploy      Deploy the plugin to QGIS plugin directory...
  doc         Build HTML version of the help files using...
  list        List the contents of the configuration file
  translate   Build translations using lrelease.
  validate    Check the pb_tool.cfg file for mandatory...
  version     Return the version of pb_tool and exit
  zip         Package the plugin into a zip file suitable...

In the command summary, a description ending in ... means there is more to see using the help switch:

pb_tool zip --help
Usage: pb_tool zip [OPTIONS]

  Package the plugin into a zip file suitable for uploading to the QGIS
  plugin repository

  --config TEXT  Name of the config file to use if other than pb_tool.cfg
  --help         Show this message and exit.

The Configuration File

pb_tool relies on a configuration file to do its work. Here's a sample pb_tool.cfg file:

# Configuration file for plugin builder tool
# Sane defaults for your plugin generated by the Plugin Builder are
# already set below.
# Name of the plugin. This is the name of the directory that will
# be created in .qgis2/python/plugins
name: TestPlugin

# Python  files that should be deployed with the plugin

# The main dialog file that is loaded (not compiled)
main_dialog: test_plugin_dialog_base.ui

# Other ui files for dialogs you create (these will be compiled)
compiled_ui_files: foo.ui

# Resource file(s) that will be compiled
resource_files: resources.qrc

# Other files required for the plugin
extras: icon.png metadata.txt

# Other directories to be deployed with the plugin.
# These must be subdirectories under the plugin directory

# ISO code(s) for any locales (translations), separated by spaces.
# Corresponding .ts files must exist in the i18n directory
locales: af

# the built help directory that should be deployed with the plugin
dir: help/build/html
# the name of the directory to target in the deployed plugin
target: help

The configuration file is pretty much self-explanatory and represents that generated by Plugin Builder 2.6 for a new plugin. As you develop your code, you simply add the file names to the appropriate sections.

Plugin Builder 2.6 will be available the week of the QGIS 2.6 release. In the meantime, you can use pb_tool create to create a config file. See the pb_tool website for more information.


Here's what a deployment looks like with pb_tool:

$ pb_tool deploy
Deploying will:
            * Remove your currently deployed version
            * Compile the ui and resource files
            * Build the help docs
            * Copy everything to your .qgis2/python/plugins directory

Proceed? [y/N]: y
Removing plugin from /Users/gsherman/.qgis2/python/plugins/TestPlugin
Deploying to /Users/gsherman/.qgis2/python/plugins/TestPlugin
Compiling to make sure install is clean
Skipping foo.ui (unchanged)
Compiled 0 UI files
Skipping resources.qrc (unchanged)
Compiled 0 resource files
Building the help documentation
sphinx-build -b html -d build/doctrees   source build/html
Running Sphinx v1.2b1
loading pickled environment... done
building [html]: targets for 0 source files that are out of date
updating environment: 0 added, 0 changed, 0 removed
looking for now-outdated files... none found
no targets are out of date.

Build finished. The HTML pages are in build/html.
Copying test_plugin_dialog_base.ui
Copying icon.png
Copying metadata.txt
Copying help/build/html to /Users/gsherman/.qgis2/python/plugins/TestPlugin/help

Getting Started

For details on installing and using pb_tool, see:

Build and deploy c++ QGIS custom application on windows

After a lot of troubles, I managed to compile and deploy a QGIS c++ app on windows. This small guide will describe the steps I followed. This has been tested on win xp and windows 7, both in 32 bits.

Development environment

Your app must be built using MSVC 9.0 (2008) since QGIS in OSGeo’s package was built with it. Hence, MinGW cannot be used.

  1. Install Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2008.
  2. Install QGIS and Qt libs using OSGeo4W installer
  3. Install Qt Creator
  4. If you want a debugger,you should install CDB. This can be achieved by installing Windows SDK environment. In the installation process, only select Debugging toos for windows.

I wasn’t able to use the compiler yet, so I am not 100% sure about 4.

Now, if you want to build using Qt Creator, it must be started in a proper environment. Adapt this batch to launch Qt Creator:



call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin\o4w_env.bat"

@set QMAKESPEC=win32-msvc2008
@set PATH=%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis-dev\bin;%PATH%

@set INCLUDE=%INCLUDE%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\include;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis-dev\include
@set LIB=%LIB%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\lib;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis-dev\lib

path %OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin;%SYSTEMROOT%\System32;%SYSTEMROOT%;%SYSTEMROOT%\System32\wbem;C:\Progra~1\Git\bin;C:\Qt\qtcreator-3.0.1\bin;%PATH%

set VS90COMNTOOLS=C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\Tools\
call "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\VC\vcvarsall.bat" x86

start "Qt Creator" /B C:\Qt\qtcreator-3.0.1\bin\qtcreator.exe %*

Then, you need to configure a proper kit in Qt Creator.

  1. Go to Options -> Build & Run -> Compilers and check that Microsoft Visual C++ Compiler 9.0 is correctly detected.
  2. Then in Qt Versions tab, add Qt from the OSGeO installation, normally c:\OSGeo4W\bin\qmake.exe
  3. In Debuggers tab, add cdb.exe found in c:\Debugging tools for windows\ 
  4. Finally, check in Kits that it is properly configured.

Building the application

This is what looks like an application project file.

QT += core gui xml
greaterThan(QT_MAJOR_VERSION, 4): QT += widgets
TARGET = hfp
RESOURCES += images/images.qrc

win32:CONFIG(Release, Debug|Release) {
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtCore4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtGui4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtXml4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_core
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_gui
else:win32:CONFIG(Debug, Debug|Release) {
 PRE_TARGETDEPS += C:/OSGeo4W/lib/QtCored4.lib
 PRE_TARGETDEPS += C:/OSGeo4W/lib/QtGuid4.lib
 PRE_TARGETDEPS += C:/OSGeo4W/lib/QtXmld4.lib
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtCored4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtGuid4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtXmld4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_core
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_gui
 INCLUDEPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/include
 DEPENDPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/include
 INCLUDEPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/include
 DEPENDPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/include
 DEFINES += GUI_EXPORT=__declspec(dllimport) CORE_EXPORT=__declspec(dllimport)
unix {
 LIBS += -L/usr/local/lib/ -lqgis_core -lqgis_gui
 LIBS += -L/usr/local/lib/qgis/plugins/ -lgdalprovider
 INCLUDEPATH += /usr/local/include/qgis


  • GUI_EXPORT and CORE_EXPORT must be set to __declspec(dllimport). I don’t know exactly what it means, but I found out reading this thread, with some hazardous tries. If you don’t set these, you won’t be able to call any variable defined as extern in QGIS (e.g. cursors).
  • Qt release libraries shall not be mixed up with debug config in your project. In other words, use release libs for release mode and debug libs for debug mode.

With this, you should be able to compile your QGIS application in Qt Creator!

You can find some coding examples on github which are a bit old but still useful to start.

Now, to get the whole potential of QGIS libs, you must initialize the QgsApplication in your main window class:

#if defined(Q_WS_WIN)
  QString pluginPath = "c:\\OSGeo4W\\apps\\qgis-dev\\plugins";
  QString prefixPath = "c:\\OSGeo4W\\apps\\qgis-dev\\";
  QString pluginPath = "/usr/local/lib/qgis/plugins/";
  QString prefixPath = "/usr/local";

  QgsApplication::setPluginPath( pluginPath );
  QgsApplication::setPrefixPath( prefixPath, true);

Deploying on windows

Since QGIS is not to be installed on the target computer, the built app will not be able to find the path declared in previous code.
There is probably a better approach, but here is a way to solve this:
Change the path to

  QString pluginPath = "c:\\myapp\\qgis\plugins";
  QString prefixPath = "c:\\myapp\\qgis";

This means you must deploy the app to this exact location: c:\myapp. In this directory, you need to create a qgis folder in which you will copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\resources and c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\plugins.

Besides, this you will need to copy some DLLs to be able to run the applications. You might want to use the dependency walker to find which are needed.

The batch file hereafter creates a folder on the building machine that will contain all the needed files in my case (it might be different in your case).

rmdir c:\myapp /Q /S
mkdir c:\myapp
mkdir c:\myapp\iconengines
mkdir c:\myapp\qgis
mkdir c:\myapp\qgis\resources
mkdir c:\myapp\qgis\plugins

copy PATHTOMYAPP\build-myapp-Desktop-Release\release\myapp.exe c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtCore4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtGui4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtXml4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtNetwork4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtSvg4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtWebKit4.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\zlib_osgeo.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\msvcr71.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\phonon4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\proj.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\geos_c.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\gdal110.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\ogdi_32b1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libexpat.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\xerces-c_3_1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\LIBPQ.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\SSLEAY32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\LIBEAY32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\krb5_32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\comerr32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\k5sprt32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\gssapi32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\hdf_fw.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\mfhdf_fw.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\jpeg_osgeo.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\jpeg12_osgeo.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\netcdf.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\geotiff.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libtiff.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\sqlite3.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\spatialite4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\freexl.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\iconv.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libxml2.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\LIBMYSQL.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\hdf5.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\szip.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libcurl.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\zlib1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\openjp2.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\spatialindex1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\qwt5.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qt4\plugins\iconengines\qsvgicon4.dll c:\myapp\iconengines\

copy C:\Progra~1\Git\bin\libiconv-2.dll c:\myapp\
copy C:\Progra~1\Git\bin\libintl-8.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\bin\qgis_Core.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\bin\qgis_gui.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\bin\msvcp90.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\windows\system32\msvcp100.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\windows\system32\msvcr100.dll c:\myapp\

copy C:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\resources\* c:\myapp\qgis\resources
copy C:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\plugins\* c:\myapp\qgis\plugins

To be able to run the app, on a fresh windows XP, I had to install:

And copy the whole folder c:\myapp from the building machine to the target machine.

It seems that from Vista, the 2005 redistributable package is included. So, no need to install it.

And voilà!

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