I have all the settings right to generate pictures using Atlas, but I can't access the 'Controlled by Atlas' checkmark in the print layout. It's greyed out, and whatever I try I'm unable to change this. I have a shapefile as layer, and an XLS file as Coverage layer. No background. Any idea what I'm doing wrong?

  • Can you post a screenshot of your Atlas panel?
    – csk
    Jul 31, 2018 at 19:17
  • Which QGIS version are you using?
    – underdark
    Jul 31, 2018 at 20:02
  • I tried version 2.18, 3.0 and 3.2. Printscreen of the problem: imgur.com/a/1l5I2Ow
    – Trajan
    Jul 31, 2018 at 21:00
  • Printscreen of the Atlas panel: imgur.com/a/7flmhiG Printscreen of attribute table of the coverage layer: imgur.com/a/PahQz7s
    – Trajan
    Jul 31, 2018 at 21:06
  • Even when I open QGIS (3.2), start a new project, go straight to new print layout, add a map, the controlled by atlas is greyed out with no option to turn it on. So I'm guessing it has nothing to do with my shapefiles, but it's something else.
    – Trajan
    Jul 31, 2018 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


In your question you state that you have a XLS file as the coverage layer. I suspect that this means your coverage layer is a table only, without any geometry information.

A geometryless table CAN be used as an atlas coverage layer (e.g. to iterate over text in the rows), but it can't be used to automatically set a map item's extent (since there's no geometry information in that table to set the extent to!). You should still be able to use the data defined scale/x min/x max/etc settings to setup the map's view, if your table has information present which would allow you to derive these values.

  • It looks like you're right. I set a random geometry layer as coverage layer, and then I got to the controlled by atlas! I'll try to find a good coverage layer. Thanks for your help, fixed.
    – Trajan
    Aug 1, 2018 at 6:42

In QGIS3, Atlas is not visible by default, and hence "Controlled by Atlas" is greyed out. To enable Atlas, go to View-->Panels-->Atlas and enable it. You will see Atlas tab added in the items window. Check the "Generate an Atlas" box and navigate to item properties tab to see "Controlled by Atlas" enabled.

  • I only saw "Controlled by Atlas" enabled after I choosed the shape in the Atlas tab
    – Kaz Miller
    Aug 10, 2021 at 21:09

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