I have a problem setting angled text labels with the new-style labelling dialog. The situation is this:

I have a shape file which only contains only labelling texts. This is a point layer, and it contains all information needed for the label, like text size, font etc. - while the placement of the label is steered by the cordinates of the geometry of the point, so there are no attributes containing the X and y coordinate. This is legacy data, so I have no choice in the matter - the labels aren't linked to objects in other shapefiles, they're just there by themselves, having originally made up a separate toponym layer.

If I use the old labelling mechanism, I can enter the text angle field in the appropriate place (in my data it's called TextAngle), and the text is displayed at the desired angle. But if I use the new-style labelling dialog, the text angle field in the 'position' section of the 'data defined settings' tab remains greyed out unless I set the fields 'x-coordinate' and 'y-coordinate'. Yet I don't have fields containing x and y coordinates in my data - they are implicit, being the very coordinates my data points occupy. They appear when I get info for the elements as 'derived', but they aren't in the attribute table. If I try and trick the dialog by entering something else in the 'x-coordinate' and 'y-coordinate' fields, I can enter my text angle field, but it has no effect.

Am I missing something? I'd really rather use the new-style labelling, since the buffering is nicer.


In fact, it's very easy to add x-ordinate and y-ordinate columns automatically to the attribute table of a point shapefile: Vector -> Geometry Tools -> Export/Add geometry columns.

  • Having tried this solution and also the one proposed by underdark I found they both work. Thanks! But I have over 1000 of these shape files. Is there a command line tool to do the same thing? – Kay F. Jahnke May 13 '12 at 15:40

Currently it's not possible to rotate new labels without specifying the x/y position. It's one (if not the) major blocker for removing old labeling engine.

You can add explicit x and y attributes using Field Calculator $x and $y operators as a work-around.

  • Having browsed the thread you link to, I think that noone seems to make much of this problem. Yet in a point layer it is absurd to ask for x- and y-coordinates - this only makes sense in line and polygon layers. On the other hand, if the layer in question is a point layer, the x- and y-coordinate is defined and shouldn't be too hard to acquire (say I, not having looked at the code) – Kay F. Jahnke May 13 '12 at 8:23

I found a python module to do the job. It's called shapefile.py and I found it at


Using this module, adding the x and y coordinate as attributes was quite straightforward. I wrote a little script called add_xy.py:

#! /bin/python

import sys
import shapefile

sf = shapefile.Reader(sys.argv[1])
shapeRecs = sf.shapeRecords()
fields.append ( ['x-coord', 'F', 19, 11] )
fields.append ( ['y-coord', 'F', 19, 11] )
w = shapefile.Writer(shapefile.POINT)
for f in fields:
w.field (*f)
for r in shapeRecs:
for r in shapeRecs:
    w.point ( *r.shape.points[0] )
for r in shapeRecs:
    w.record ( *r.record )

I called this like

python add_xy.py input.shp output

Now when I load output.shp into QGIS, I have the additional coordinate fields and I can use the angle defined in the data. Bit of a circuitious route, but it works :)

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