I have shapefiles which were created in ArcGIS Desktop and I want to edit them in QGIS.
If this is possible, how do I open and edit shapefiles in QGIS?
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Yes, editing shapefiles is a very common task for any GIS, including QGIS. While Esri developed the shapefile, it is an open standard that can be used by nearly every GIS platforms.
The editing tools are in the "digitizing" toolbar. The pencil button starts an editing session. From there you can edit the attributes of a feature, or the vector geometry.
I would start here: https://docs.qgis.org/2.2/en/docs/user_manual/working_with_vector/index.html
And this is the best tutorial that I have found: http://www.qgistutorials.com/en/index.html