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I am a novice to the field of GIS so please forgive my ignorance.

I am required to plot a shapefile (.shp) on a basemap which is an openlayers map. The shapefile is published in GeoServer as a wms layer.

How do I extract the legends information from the shapefile so that I can display it on the webpage?

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GeoServer supports the WMS GetLegendGraphics request. See: http://docs.geoserver.org/latest/en/user/services/wms/get_legend_graphic/legendgraphic.html

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