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I was wanting to batch the tool 'simplify geometry' for a set of shapefiles, in the osgeo shell.

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As far as I know, that's not possible. QGIS functions cannot be accessed from OSGeo shell.

You could write a python script and execute it from within QGIS Python shell.

Or, if you want to use OSGeo shell, you can script GRASS v.generalize instead.

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