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QGIS 3.0: the time has come...

QGIS 3.0 was released in February, and although it's labelled an 'early adopter' release, with the long term release (LTR) available in October, there's plenty in it to excite not just the early adopters, but the rest of us too. We've had a chance now to have a good look at it, kick the tyres a bit and see what everyone has to say about it, so here are our thoughts.

There are a few big steps forward - for example 3D support and multiple map canvasses - and while many of the other changes are relatively minor on their own, put together they represent a major leap in usability and effectiveness. There's been work on consolidation, upgrades of core packages, efficiency and speed improvements, resulting in a slicker, easier to use and more tightly integrated application.

You could say that the 'easier to use' bit is the best thing about QGIS 3.0 - and when you think about it, that's not a description that could be applied to most application upgrades or new versions. The QGIS team have kept the all the good stuff, and made the rest better.

The changelog gives the detail, and although it's a hefty document, habitual QGIS users should have a scan through to see what they can now do. It gives QGIS trainers like me a bit of a problem, as we have to work out how fit to all this into our courses - or more to the point, what we can possibly leave out. While we grapple with this, here are a few highlights, in no particular order.

The Data Source Manager

Click on this and you get to a dialogue where you can either browse to a location - file, database, web services - and pick your data source, or choose a data source type to open a dialogue specific to that type. What could be easier?

Point Cluster Renderer

Grouping of points into a single marker, based on a set proximity. No more hidden points....


Searches everything - layers, processing algorithms, layouts. An end to menu trawling.

Multiple Map Views

Show multiple map views at the same time - docked, tabbed or floating, like all panels.


GeoPackage as default format: the developers have taken the plunge and waved goodbye to the venerable but now outdated shapefile as the default QGIS format (though shapefile is still supported), ushering in the OGC GeoPackage as the file-based format of choice - see the FAQ on this page for more details. This will take some getting used to for most of us, but GeoPackage, apart from having the advantage of being an OGC standard, offers a more extensive set of capabilities than shapefile, without its limitations, so it's to be hoped that this is the format of the future.

Print Layouts

Print Composers are now Print Layouts - a sensible name change, and not much change to the UI for now, but a lot of code rewriting to fix bugs and provide more flexibility for the future.


There's plenty more of course - download it yourself and have a look. Huge thanks are due to developers, sponsors donors, documentors, translators, and all the people who make QGIS possible - it's an extraordinary project which opens up desktop GIS to everyone.

Astun Technology will provide Enterprise Support to the QGIS 3 LTR version once it's released in the Autumn, and will be announcing dates for its first QGIS 3 courses as soon as I've finished rewriting them, or maybe even before... In the meantime, for more reports of QGIS 3.0 highlights and case studies, see:


  1. Thanks and I've got another QGIS 3.0 report :)


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