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How to add vector data to QGIS

A predominant spatial data format is the shapefile. This is a format created for storing vector data.

Vector data consists of:

Image showing an example of points, lines and polygons

Since the advent of geospatial technology, shapefiles have been the most common format for storing vector information. Today, other file formats exist for storing vector information, such as the geopackage (.gpkg), or geoJSON (.geoJSON), but shapefiles are still widely used, and many of the datasets you will encounter will come in this format.

Adding vector data to QGIS

  1. Open QGIS. You can download the free program here.

  2. In QGIS, open a New empty project.

  3. From your computer file directory, drag the vector data file (shapefile, geojson, geopackage) into the map browser. If your data is in shapefile format, drag the file that ends in the .shp extension.

    You can click through any warning messages about the data projection at this point. Screen recording of dragging the file into the QGIS program

If the quick add approach is not cooperating, you can add data through the menu add.

  1. In the menu, select Layer → Add Layer → Add Vector Layer.

  2. Under Source → Vector Dataset(s) click the browse ellipses.

  3. Navigate to the file you want to add. If it is a shapefile, select the file with the .shp extension.

  4. Select Open.

  5. Select Close.