I searched exhaustively over the internet as well as at this Exporting Symbology from ArcGIS for Desktop to Microstation or QGIS? but didn't find a satisfactory answer. Hope to get the answers from the experts over here.

Suppose I have styled a polygon shapefile (e.g.: Border width = 0.26, border color = green, red colored simple fill, label displayed, etc ). When I save the style in QGIS, it is saved in XML format which is specific only to QGIS. Same is the case with other software which they store it in their own format. Which means, I cannot exchange styling information between different software.

Though the OGC SE standard is in place, I was just confused why this is not being implemented by any software. QGIS 1.8 supports SLD but then what is the purpose of storing the style as QGIS specific .qml file ?

Also, since SLD standard is used for web-services, is it OK to use this standard in this case (for exchanging data between different software)?

  • It isn't really clear what you are asking. Do you want to know how to use SLD and SE in a particular software package, or are you asking for a more subjective assessment of why SLD and SE are not implemented everywhere?
    – BradHards
    Jan 19, 2013 at 9:12
  • SLD is not intended as a data exchange format.
    – nmtoken
    Aug 1, 2018 at 4:50

1 Answer 1


Really not a definitive answer but an answer to complete more (waiting community :) !

The main ideas why SLD is not used everywhere as a data exchange is history, verbosity, extensibility, output support.


ArcGIS comes before the SLD standard exists.

MapInfo format doesn't separate style from content so you can't separate data from rendering like for SLD and GML.

Also because of history and retrocompatibily with older software version, models to represent map styles are not two ways compatible.

One main difference come too when comparing GIS software and CAD software. Two ecosystem, well separated for a long time and where CAD symbology is more complex.


All people are not XML lovers and so they prefer other syntax like CartoCSS


You can't do every type of styling with SLD as it is.

See for example the limitation concerning hatching so Geoserver team extend the default.

You can also think about shadow and compositing that SLD standard does not support.


Depending of support (paper, devices, ...) and screen resolutions, a width of 1 in a software is not equal to the same width in other one.

Paper width 1 is different from on screen.

Units matters!!

Some softwares to deal better with SLD

  • Somehow I've never got arcmap2sld to work for me. Arc2Earth community edition is a better option, but even that can give strange outputs. May 17, 2013 at 4:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.