I have received some remote sensing and shapefiles and other data. And I want to import them to view in QGIS.

Given that each kind of data has multiple file type extensions associated with it, how do I know which one of the many I should be importing into QGIS?

For example, there is satellite remote-sensing data, and it has 5 different files:


Which of these should I drag and drop into QGIS?

Same thing with a tif:


And shapefiles


If I drag and drop all of shapefile associated files for example, QGIS errors on some of them saying it cannot load them. In the end, it was able to load the .dbf, .shp, .shx files. But all of them look the same when displayed in QGIS! So it seems like I shouldn't need to import all 3 of them. But it's unclear which individual one I should import.

3 Answers 3


This is something a lot of people struggle with when they are not use to the various file formats that GIS and particularly QGIS can accept.

Other than giving it a quick Google you can use QGIS browser to load the particular files in as it will only list the files that have a valid format for importing.

To get the browser panel right click on anywhere on the top panels of QGIS and tick the browser panel to enable it. You can then browse to your folders and load the layers from there by click and drag or right clicking and then choosing "Add layer to project"

  • This doesn't seem to be entirely true. I went to the QGIS browser, and it shows the .tab file, but when I add that layer, QGIS says it is not a valid format! Also it shows each .jp2 file twice. Once as a raster, and once as a vector. If I try to add the vector version, it says not valid. The raster layer works though.
    – rasen58
    Mar 9, 2020 at 16:28
  • There is a QGIS document docs.qgis.org/2.8/en/docs/user_manual/working_with_vector/… for vector and docs.qgis.org/2.8/en/docs/user_manual/working_with_raster/… for raster that cover the basics of vector and raster data. For a beginner a 'cheat sheet' is a good idea to start with but you will find most data presents in a fairly narrow selection of the available formats; Shapefiles are very common as are GeoTIFF and JP2 but some will find GML or GeoJSON as normal where others may not - many possible formats I've never encountered. Mar 10, 2020 at 6:58

In this instance you should import:

Raster 1:


Raster 2:


Vector ShapeFile:


for the vector part, you should import the .shp file only. ".tab" is the mapinfo source file. for the raster part, the .tif.

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