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I have been trying to teach myself QGIS by using this forum and others to help. Most of my questions can be answered by downloading plugins that are available through 3rd party repositories but for some reason I am not able to connect with these. Anyone have any ideas why this is the case?

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In Qgis, Plugins>Fetch Python Plugins, click the Repositories tab. What is the "Status" that you see there for existing repositories? – vinayan May 10 '12 at 12:17
On the Respositories tab the status is 'unavailable'. Clicking 'Add 3rd party repositories' makes no difference. – BNA May 10 '12 at 12:32
are you behind a proxy? I do get that error while i am... – vinayan May 10 '12 at 12:34
i work in the NHS so probably... – BNA May 10 '12 at 13:22
the HTTPProxy fix worked for me, thanks Hawken. – user18610 May 29 '13 at 1:35

I was able to set up proxy settings in QGIS (Settings->Options->Network) so that it could communicate through our proxy server. In my case, the Default proxy type didn't work--I had to use HTTPProxy. Once that was done, I had no problem getting to the plugins on the repo servers.

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I am behind a firewall and Hawken answer worked for me...Thanks – user9122 Jul 26 '12 at 6:10

Here is a workaround if you are behind proxy and not getting the repositories. This would work for all python plugins.

  1. Download the plugin directly from the repository url using your browser. For example, for CadTools, download the zip file from the here repo link
  2. Unzip the file. Copy the folder(usually one directory down the extracted folder) to your python plugins directory. In windows, this would be C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Wroclaw\apps\qgis\python\plugins
  3. Restart Qgis and now you can see this plugin installed. Just enable this plugin in the Plugin Manager.
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And in OSX the directory is ~/.qgis/python/plugins – Simbamangu May 10 '12 at 20:34
In vinayan's step #1, you can access the repository urls, by double-clicking on a listed repository and copy/pasting its .xml url to your browser. Many of the repositories have a .xsl stylesheet that renders the plugin listings as HTML. For example: If the repository does not have a stylesheet, have a look at the .xml source in your browser for the download links. – dakcarto May 11 '12 at 0:00
Update for QGIS 2.0 and later: the target path is C:\Users\username\.qgis2\python\plugins, and the repository is now – AndreJ Jan 8 '15 at 10:50

If you are running QGIS from behind some firewall/proxy setups, you can't get the repositories. I have the same issue when running QGIS behind a restrictive firewall via a proxy at work, but no problem when running QGIS from home.

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