I have a Multiline layer A with about 900 Features loaded (only a few of those are actually multi part geometries) in QGIS 2.14. I try to do Vector -> Geoprocessing Tools -> Difference with Layer A as the input vector layer and Layer A as the difference layer, expecting to get as a result an empty layer. But, the Output Shapefile has ~150 Features in it. Topology Checker says, there are no invalid geometries, but there are about 90 pseudo nodes in the layer. I started snooping around and found other line shapes that behave this way. Have I fundamentally misunderstood what a difference is, or is there some specific geometry problem that causes difference to behave oddly? The use case is silly, but I started with comparing an exported shape to its source, got weird results, and then tried to compare the source to itself as a sanity check. Now I feel I might have lost sanity. Help?

I get the same result in 2.8, so this is not a 2.14 bug.

  • Could you perhaps share your shapefile on a public server? I tested a multiline shapefile on QGIS 2.12.3-Lyon and I received an empty output.
    – Joseph
    Mar 11, 2016 at 13:45
  • We are working in EPSG 31466. These are legacy shapes produced in ArcView. But saving them as new shapes or in a different coordinate System doesnt Change the result. I also went through with the Topology Checker and removed all the pseudo nodes, so I dont get any geometry Errors anymore. But it didnt have an effect. Mar 11, 2016 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


Not exactly sure why this occurs when you use the Difference tool on the shapefile (perhaps multilines are not being processed correctly?) but to clean it up, I suggest using the GRASS function v.clean with the break tool which:

break lines at each intersection


I left the threshold at 0.1 and only output the Cleaned layer. There are more line features now from the original 877 to 1263:

Cleaned layer

Now when running the Difference tool on the cleaned layer, on itself, the output is empty as you would expect:

Difference result

  • Hey Thanks! Although, that solution is going to cause some People some headaches. I wish there was a nice hearty topology error so that I would know that my results are nonsense. People doing a regular diff between data sets like this will not get real answers. Mar 11, 2016 at 15:13
  • @MonsterMushroom - Most welcome! There is the Geometry Checker plugin which you can download from Plugins > Download and Install Plugins which allows for both geometric and topographic error checking. This might be useful to use =)
    – Joseph
    Mar 11, 2016 at 15:23
  • 1
    Thats cool. Although it seems to not allow topology checks on lines or multilines. Mar 11, 2016 at 15:42

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