At college we use ArcGIS Desktop 10, but that does not function on my Mac so I have QGIS there instead.

I want to do my exercises with QGIS, but we use .lyr files with ArcGIS Desktop, and they are not supported by QGIS.

Does anyone know, how I can connect the *.lyr files to my *.shp files to use them on my Mac with QGIS?

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    Do you need it to complete the exercise? It just has the display information, no? – Emily Apr 27 '12 at 16:12
  • there needs to be a tool built for QGIS to do this as ArcMap is the less accessible software package – gomapping Mar 16 '16 at 17:33

You need to convert the .lyr files to SLD. Then they should render fine in QGIS. Unfortunately, Converting ArcGIS layer style to Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD) file? requires that the conversion be done from within ArcGIS Desktop. Perhaps a classmate could help you by doing the conversion.

Another option, which I have not tested, would be to use this Arc2SLD converter. Perhaps another user can comment on that program's usability.

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    Okay as long as I can convert it with ArcGis it's OK. We have it on our computers at the college, I just don't want to have to walk there every time I want to work with GIS. :-) – David Apr 27 '12 at 16:34
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    @David this isn't what you asked, but you could also look at using Remote Desktop to control the PC (running ArcGIS) at your college from your Mac at home. – Stephen Lead Jul 1 '14 at 6:17

@ndawson, one of the core developers for QGIS, has created an experimental plugin for QGIS 3.2 or greater which could convert .lyr files:


  • I found this plugin, too. But I can not get it to work. Do you have any experice with this plugin? Where I have to put in the mdbtools binaries? – joe_gerner Sep 25 '18 at 9:45
  • @joe_gerner - Sorry, haven't used this plugin before. I just remembered that ndawson posted somewhere that he created such a plugin for this conversion :) – Joseph Sep 25 '18 at 9:56
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    AFAIK this plugin only takes .style files as input. Using .lyr files I got errors. (I used the plugin version, not the standalone one). – Kantan Nov 19 '18 at 10:15
  • @Kantan - Thanks for the comment, you could perhaps mention this to the author of the plugin. – Joseph Nov 19 '18 at 10:32
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    @Kantan - could you shed some light on how to use the plugin? I keep getting the following error: Traceback (most recent call last): File "slyr-master/slyr/tools/style_to_bin.py", line 9, in <module> from slyr.bintools.extractor import Extractor ModuleNotFoundError: No module named 'slyr' – user1655130 Feb 5 at 14:39

Esri's lyr format is binary, but the new lyrx format is readable and parseble.

We are working on a plugin to use *lyrx files in QGIS qlyrx
Feel free to contribute with issues/examples/qa/dev/etc. :)

If you have access to arcgis pro, you can convert lyr file to the new lyrx format. I've published a util webpage that enables lyrx-qml conversion. It supports simple and hatch fills, outline properties and translates lyrx units to qml units. http://mindthemap.info/util/index.html


I've used Arc2SLDconverter, but it only works with Arcmap 10.0.
You can see some examples in my blog.


This little software could do the work http://wald.intevation.org/projects/arcmap2sld/%20. Open your Arcmap project with only the layer + layer symbology you want to convert, then double clic on ArcGIS_SLD_Converter.exe in \ArcMap2SLD_Code_1.4.0\stp\ArcGIS_SLD_Converter.exe put the location of your output.

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