I work at a small planning commission as 1 of 2 GIS people, where we have 2 ArcGIS licenses. A volunteer recently starting working with us. He is using QGIS and mostly editing shapefiles. I probably should have considered this question first.... Do ArcGIS and QGIS play nicely together? Ultimately everything will end up in ArcGIS, will there be any issues editing shapefiles or geodatabases in QGIS and then opening and/or editing them in ArcGIS? I don't know if I am pushing it here asking another question... If map annotation is edited in QGIS, can that map be opened in ArcGIS?

  • will they be accessing the geodatabase/shapefile files at the same time? arcmap/catalog will create lock file on both
    – Mapperz
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:47
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    This post goes into detail on the subject: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/120785/… Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:49
  • Is he using shapefiles and feature classes exported just for his work (which is what I would suggest), or for lack of a better term is he editing the base data? QGIS doesn't recognize the sbn and sbx index files ArcMap produces for shapefiles, nor the xml. If you just give him the basic files (shp, shx and dbf, and a prj) his work should show up in ArcGIS just fine. Or you can just delete the sbx & sbn if they cause (rarely) problems and ArcMap will recreate them. I've used QGIS to edit file geodatabases without problems too but I admit to being a bit more leery about it.
    – John
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:50
  • Right now he is only editing shapefiles for his work. We didn't dare to go beyond that with putting the question of compatibility out there. Sound like GDBs swapping is questionable. A task we were potentially going to give him was adjusting map annotation, but sounds like that may also be questionable too. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:23
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    It really isn't a matter of whether ArcGIS and QGIS play nice together. It is a matter of what data formats you choose to use. This is where you run into differences in support between the two software packages. Shapefiles are universally editable. Others, like File or Personal GDB, are editable in both, but not all feature types are supported. Others, like PostGIS/PostgreSQL without SDE, are editable in one, QGIS, but only viewable in the other, ArcGIS, through a query layer. It depends on what your end uses are as to what combination is going to be more appropriate for you. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 19:03

1 Answer 1


I work in an environment where we use both softwares and here are my impressions. I began to use QGIS about a year ago when I finally became fed up with paying for additional extensions and licence levels. I find QGIS to be good for manipulating data and getting it into more open source friendly formats while ArcGIS is much better for Map creation. That being said there are limitations. you can open file geodatabases within QGIS but not personal (to my knowledge). avoid multiple users editing a shapefile at the same time (I usually have one for each user and merge them together periodically). I don't believe annotation in QGIS will come over but I could be wrong.

that being said i have never experienced a problem editing shapefiles in one and then opening them in another and with the money you save on another licence... jet ski.

  • If using both, sounds like shapefiles are the safest bet. Are there any other limitations or hangups you ran into? Thanks in advance. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:29
  • I prefer to use shapefiles over the database for a couple of reasons. one they are easy to merge up in the end (all of the fields should be the same) and they are also easily imported into geoserver or PostGIS later on down the line. it may not be the slickest or most robust solution but it's simple and effective. And, jet ski. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:33
  • I'm starting to think it's all about the jet ski.. What are your thoughts on this. Export to a shp from a GDB in ArcGIS, edit shp in QGIS, load shp back into GDB? Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:49
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    @Slinn - Oddly enough, I had never tested this before, but I just successfully edited a layer from a File GDB in QGIS. I then viewed the edits back in ArcGIS. So, there would be no need to export GDB to shp or vice versa because the basic feature types supported by shapefiles are going to be editable in QGIS in the FGDB or PGDB. Your advanced feature types like annotation are where you become limited. Use of those will tie you more to the ESRI universe, which is not good or bad, just something to be aware of. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 19:07

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