In ArcGIS I am used to being able to have a couple of MXD documents open and copy-paste groups of layers from one MXD's table of contents to another. This can save a LOT of time ensuring consistent styles, but also in setting up the drawing order, pulling in the data, defining its CRS etc. for the group

I would like to do the same thing in QGIS. I have two QGS documents open but there is no apparent option to save or copy a group of layers and dragging/dropping doesn't work (I get a little 'No Entry' symbol).

Is this possible and, if so, how?

  • I've recently published the 'Copy layers and groups to clipboard' plugin. You can select layers and/or groups from the Layers Panel and paste them into the same or another QGIS instance. plugins.qgis.org/plugins/CopyLayersAndGroupsToClipboard, preserving position (inside selected groups), symbology, and encoding, among other settings. Feb 6, 2017 at 21:05

2 Answers 2


You can open layers contained in a project into the current QGIS session by using the Import Layers to Project plugin.

This will let you choose which layers you would like to load into your current QGIS session.

You could also take a look at the Embed Layers and Groups functionality. This allows you to open layers from a project. It stops you from changing these layers in the project you have opened them into, but if you update them in the base project, it will automatically update the styles of the embedded layers.

  • Many thanks! I was a bit disapointed with the Import Layers plugin. This only seems to work when you have a new blank QGS document and fails for my existing QGS documents, but with no error message. However, the Embed Layers and Groups functionality is exactly what I want. Jun 6, 2012 at 13:02
  • Is there any update on this? When I drag layers between QGIS instances these layers appear as layers but without any content.
    – hilpers
    Oct 5, 2016 at 13:00

The new release of QGIS 1.8 may provide the functionality you want. See http://underdark.wordpress.com/tag/qgis/

  • That's the version I'm using :) Copying and pasting styles is nice as is the SLD feature and they would certainly help reduce effort if you have only a couple of layers to handle. However, what I really wanted to do was set up a whole group once and then move that about between projects - and this is where the embed layers and groups comes in VERY handy and I'm very pleased to find it now. Jun 6, 2012 at 15:15

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