Category Archives: QGIS

QGIS 3.4 Released!

On November 2nd QGIS 3.4 ‘Madeira’ was released. It is the first long-term release in the new 3.x platform.  To install it you can visit the QGIS Download page. Installers are ready for Windows, Max OSX and Linux.

QGIS VERSIONS
Remember QGIS always has two main versions available. There is the long-term release, which is the most stable because it is supported for one calendar year. In addition there is always a latest release. QGIS 3.4 falls into this former category.

QGIS 3.4
This is a great time to update your version of QGIS. Especially if you are still using the 2.x line. QGIS 3.x is fast, stable and feature rich. If you are still a 2.x user there is a huge list of new features and useful changes. At this point most of the popular plugins have been migrated over from 2.x to 3.x. The chart below shows the steady migration and growth of 3.x plugins. You can review the visual changelog for this version here. You can also find the changelogs for versions 3.0 and 3.2.

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QField – A QGIS Related App for Data Collection

QField is an application for collecting field data via an Android device. It was started 4-5 years ago by the Swiss company OPENGIS.ch LLC which also employs several core QGIS developers. QField has reached the point where it rivals most data collection apps. The only reason we have not been using it for Community Health Mapping workshops is that it is not available for iOS. This is simply because the open source license used by QField does not allow it to be wrapped into a proprietary software license like the one Apple employs for it’s store.  If however, you are a Community Health Mapper who uses Android it is a fantastic choice.

NOTE: It is possible to set up an app which is compatible with iOS but does not participate in the App Store. This solves the licensing issue. Setting up an app this way necessitates becoming part of the iOS Enterprise Program which costs money.  QField developers would like to make this happen, and it will likely involve iOS users donating to QField.

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QField Logo

Although QField is rooted in QGIS code it is not a miniature version of QGIS. Rather it is a streamlined data collection app. As they say, “the buttons are few and they are large,” so you can work with it out in the field. QField lets you create a map in QGIS and upload that map to your mobile device. From there you can collect data.

The workflow for QField looks like this. You begin by making a QGIS project on  your computer. Importantly this project will contain the point, line or polygon layer(s) you want to populate in the field. (NOTE that Fulcrum only allows the collection of points!) This means you think of your survey form and data to be collected in the office, and create fields in your GIS layer(s) for each question you want to answer. With a little bit of QGIS editing familiarity this isn’t any more difficult or time consuming than creating a form in Fulcrum.  You then upload the folder containing the QGIS project and data to your mobile device. The GeoPackage data format, which is the default for QGIS 3.x, works great with QField. There is even a QGIS Plugin named QFieldSync that facilitates migrating your project to your device. Once the data has been copied to your mobile device you can open your QGIS map file using QField.

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Screenshots showing (left to right) selecting Mode, setting the Mode to Digitize and choosing the active layer. Images from http://johnhickok.com/

QField uses the same rendering engine as QGIS so the map will look identical to how it did in the office.  Once the map is open you can select from one of two modes: Browse or Digitize. When collecting data you would choose Digitize. Then select the layer you want to work with.

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Screenshots (left to right) showing the map in QField, clicking the edit button, populating the attributes and the resulting point. Images from http://johnhickok.com/

For public health officials with security concerns QField is a great fit because there is no third party cloud platform involved. The data is not being streamed across the internet. All the data is stored locally on your mobile device. You can simply use the My Files app on your device to navigate to your GeoPackage file and email it to yourself. If it is too large you can connect your device to you computer to download it or use a data sharing app such as DropBox or Google Drive.

Since this is an open source project you can request new features and report any bugs you encounter by contacting the developers! Since QField doesn’t cost anything to download and use, you can also consider donating to the project to help it continue. Even small donations are helpful to projects like this. Doing this makes QField better for everyone. I encourage you to try it out.

A Pair of Community Health Maps Workshops at the ASTHO Climate and Health Summit

During the last week of May the Community Health Maps team (Janice Kelly, John Scott and Kurt Menke) traveled to Honolulu to participate in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Insular Area Climate and Health Summit. There were representatives from:

  • American Samoa
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guam
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico
  • Marshall Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Hawaii Department of Health
  • Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA)
  • ASTHO
  • CDC
  • NOAA
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Insular Climate & Health Summit Group Photo

The first afternoon was focused on the impacts of climate change, preparedness and building resilience. There were great presentations on climate change (Capt. Barry Choy – NOAA), an overview of the tools and programs available from the CDC (Paul Schramm), and issues with vector-borne diseases and mosquitoes (Janet McAllister).  The ASTHO grantees then gave some some sobering presentations on current issues people are dealing with in the Mariana Islands, Micronesia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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The opening session

The second day focused more on tools and resources. There were more detailed talks given by the CDC on Technical Assistance for Vector Control and Tools and Resources for Climate and Water Safety. That afternoon we taught a 3.5 hour Community Health Maps Train-the-Trainers workshop to a group of health officials from each territory.  We went through the entire CHM workflow: A) how to design a data collection form, B) how to collect data, C) how to make a map in Carto and D) how to bring the data into QGIS.

The last morning we taught a second Community Health Maps workshop open to everyone. We had about 30 attendees and again went through the entire CHM workflow.

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John Scott addresses the attendees on the final morning

Most of the trainees had little to no GIS training yet instantly knew how mapping could apply to their work and lives. They want to map everything related to hurricane relief, salt water resistant taro farms, infrastructure related to mosquito outbreaks etc. A benefit of having the community do this is that they can be in charge of their own data and it helps build community relationships.

Over the three days I heard a lot of side discussions about the usefulness of the free/low cost/open source CHM approach. The cost of proprietary solutions is often a significant barrier to entry into the world of community data collection and mapping. We were gratified to hear some very positive feedback on the workshops and CHM overall during the closing session. There seems to be a lot of potential in CHM helping both U.S. Territories and ASTHO deal with the immediate and long-term health issues related to climate.

QGIS 3 Released!


On February 23rd QGIS 3 was formally released. Since then the developers have been working on completing installers for Windows, Mac and Linux. As of yesterday the software is ready to be installed on every operating system! To install it you can visit the QGIS Download page.

QGIS VERSIONS
QGIS always has two main versions available. There is the long-term release, which is the most stable because it is supported for one calendar year. In addition there is always a latest release. QGIS 3 falls into this latter category, it is the latest release. At the moment the long-term release is version 2.18. The latest release is still considered stable, but a new one comes out every 4 months.

WHICH VERSION TO CHOOSE?
If you want to have one version of QGIS without having to worry about updates, use the long-term release (2.18). If you want to experience all the new features that come with version 3 you will want the latest release (3.0). As mentioned last month, version 3 is a major new release with a lot of changes and new features.

On Windows machines you can have both. You can easily install both versions of QGIS side by side with no conflicts by using the OSGeo4W Network Installer. On Mac and Linux machines you can only have one version, so you need to choose.

QGIS 3
QGIS 3 is fast, stable and feature rich. The main issue for many users is that not all Plugins have yet  to be ported to QGIS 3. This is because this responsibility falls onto the individual plugin authors. With that said, at last count there were already 117 plugins available for version 3.

 

QGIS 3.0 To Be Released in February!

It’s an exciting month for QGIS. On February 23rd there will be a major new release of QGIS: QGIS 3.0. We haven’t had a major new release since 2013 when 2.0 came out. The development team has been working on this for a solid year. This version will be faster and have a lot of new features. Kurt Menke has been closely following the development of QGIS3. Over the last few months he has been experimenting with the pre-release version (v2.99). This post will cover some of the highlights that will be useful to Community Health Mappers. In general QGIS is going to be faster, more powerful and more efficient to work with. First off QGIS 3.0 comes with a new logo!qgis-logo_anita02

Overall the look of QGIS is very similar.  There are  the Layers and Browser panels to the left, a Map Canvas and lots of buttons and menus above. However, upon closer inspection there are a lot of very useful changes. For example, instead of there being a row of add data buttons down the left side, there is now a Unified Data Source Manager button which opens up a browser.

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The Unified Data Source Manager can be used to access the myriad of data formats QGIS supports and add them to QGIS. This includes vector, raster, database, web services etc. You can even browse within Esri File Geodatabases. Any GIS layer you are interested in, can then be added to QGIS by dragging and dropping it onto the map. DataSourceManager.gif

 

The Processing toolbox was completely redesigned and many tools were rewritten. This means many are now faster, more flexible and stable. There are also many new tools that didn’t exist in QGIS v2.x. Additionally processing tasks also now run in the background. This means  you don’t have to stop working while a tool runs! Yet another new processing feature is that layers in different projections will automatically be reprojected, so there is no need to reproject beforehand.

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Map Labels: It now much easier to edit labels. Previously you had to set up attribute columns and set those as data defined overrides. If you don’t know what all that means, it’s OK. Now all you have to do is simply put the layer into edit mode and edit labels with tools on the Label toolbar. Maps also now redraw more quickly due to cached label renderers.

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There is now a Search bar in the lower left corner that can be used to search for map layers, features and processing tools. This makes finding things in QGIS quick and easy.

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The QGIS print composer was completely redesigned. They are now referred to as Layouts. Map insets can now be in a different map projection than the main map. There is a new and improved system of guides which include settings in any unit of measurement you could want (mm, cm, m, in, ft, pt, pica, pix). There are new controls for choosing fonts which include recently used fonts. When you export a map, a link to the folder shows up making it easy to track down the exported map.2018-01-31_163437.jpg

 

Other notable enhancements include:

  • A fully integrated 3D environment
  • Editing improvements including: a) widgets for layer attributes, b) CAD style digitizing tools that allow you to create perfect rectangles, circles, ellipses etc. and c) a new node editing tool with a lot of behavior improvements
  • Previews of where each map projection can be used. This will be a big help for beginners!2018-01-31_170602.jpg
  • User profiles that allow you to set up QGIS with different panels, plugins and toolbars for different projects or uses.
  • Improved hidpi/retina support

 

Where do you go from here?

  • 2.18 will be considered the supported long-term release (LTR) through June.
  • When 3.0 is released in a few weeks it will be considered the latest stable version.
  • 3.2 will become the LTR in June when it is released.
  • Starting on February 23rd you will be able to download and install it. Remember you can have multiple versions installed with no conflicts. I encourage  you to install it in a few weeks and begin to explore it! You won’t want to go back.

NOTE: QGIS 3 projects won’t be entirely backwards compatible with QGIS 2.x. So if you are going to open an existing project in QGIS 3, be sure to click Project –>Save As and save a new verion of the project for use in QGIS3.

A Busy Summer with a QGIS Conference in Denmark and FOSS4G in Boston

This summer Kurt Menke first attended the 3rd Annual QGIS User Conference, Hackfest and Developer meeting in Denmark. From there he traveled to Boston to attend the Free and Open Source for Geospatial (FOSS4G) International Conference. 

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Trip Map Created in QGIS using Live Layer Effects

The QGIS conference was small and intimate and a lot of new information was shared by the developers about the future of QGIS.

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QGIS Conference

There was so much presented that this will be a separate future blog post. While there Kurt conducted a full day workshop on Data Visualization and Cartography in QGIS.

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Kurt Menke teaching about Data Visualization & Cartography in QGIS

He shared many of the new sophisticated and powerful data styling tools now found in QGIS including: 2.5D, 3D, Live Layer Effects, Inverted Polygon Shapeburst Fills, Blending Modes, and some plugins such as Time Manager. Perhaps this could be a workshop shared with CHM partners at a future date? Some examples are shown below:

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Use of Blending Modes to highlight road density

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Lower Manhattan displayed in 3D via the QGIS2ThreeJS plugin

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Cyclones Annually from 1950 – 2015 in QGIS with the Time Manager plugin

In Boston Kurt presented the Community Health Maps project. The talk was well attended and there was a lot of interest. Fulcrum was a sponsor of the conference, and Kurt was able to meet with several of the Fulcrum representatives. While there he learned about Fulcrum Community. This is a new initiative designed to help humanitarian agencies, non-profits, NGOs, or Government entities. To begin you need to request a Fulcrum Community account. One important caveat is that data collected via a Fulcrum Community account is anonymized, free, and open to all by default. It is essentially an initiative that will help in larger crowd sourcing efforts. More details will be forthcoming as Kurt explores this and how it may apply to Community Health Mappers.

This month (September), Community Health Maps will be travelling to the University of Connecticut (Community Medicine and Health Care) and to Miami to teach workshops. The workshop at the University of Connecticut will be to a large diverse audience. The Miami workshops will be focused on showing community members how to map damage and issues related to King Tides.

Stay tuned for blog posts on: 1) the future of QGIS, 2) Fulcrum Community, 3) experiences in Connecticut and 4) Miami.

CHM Lab Exercises Updated!

One of the most valuable resources for Community Health Mappers remains the series of lab exercises created two years ago. Our workshops, while effective, are short and only scratch the surface of what you can do with mapping tools. They are basically a quick start guide to Community Health Mapping. The labs however, can be used as a resource to help you build your skills once you’ve taken the first steps towards mapping your community.

The technology changes rapidly. QGIS produces a new stable version every 4 months. Annually QGIS also produces a long-term release. Carto and Fulcrum also update their tools on a regular basis. This mean the lab exercises need to be updated to keep pace.

The good news is that this spring the labs were all updated and expanded. There is some foundational knowledge needed to really take the next step after a workshop. The current revised set of labs includes Lab 0: A Community Health Map Introduction and Reference. This lab has background on the Community Health Maps project and the workflow. It also contains a Glossary of GIS terms, and several appendices covering: A) available software, B) data sources and C) everything you need to know to better understand coordinate systems and projection.

The remaining labs are as follows:

Lab 1 covers field data collection and has been updated to work with Fulcrum. This has allowed us to unify the exercise into one document for both iOS and Android users.

Lab 2 shows you how to bring your field data into QGIS. This includes a tour of the QGIS interface, and how to map coordinate data stored in a spreadsheet.

Lab 3 is named Combining Field Data with other Organizational Data. It shows you how to work with coordinate systems in QGIS. It also covers how to join tabular data to the attribute table of a GIS layer. This is a step that often has to be done to merge socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to census geography such as tracts or block groups. It concludes with a lesson on address geocoding. This is the process you use to produce points from addresses.

Lab 4 shows you how to do some basic spatial analysis. You learn how to clip data to your study area, measure proximity, query your data to select features and calculate areas/ density.

In Lab 5 you learn how to use some of the great data visualization techniques found in only in QGIS. The lab then walks you through how to compose a map. Along the way you learn some data styling tricks and how to use the Print Composer.

The series concludes with Lab 6 Data Visualization with Carto. Carto underwent a major update and rebranding since the first edition of these labs were created. You can use this exercise to see how to work with the new Carto Builder interface and tools to create an online map of your results. It covers uploading your data, styling and sharing your map with others.

The four labs that deal with QGIS have been updated to include some exciting new features that have been added to QGIS in the last year. Links to the lab data are included. So head to the Resources page and build your Community Health Mapping skills!