I mainly use QGIS and have a large project to complete. Once I am done I'll need submit my data to an ArcGIS user. The data will consist of mostly point and polygon shape files.

How do I set up a QGIS project from the start if I know that I'll be handing it over to someone who uses ArcGIS Desktop?

  • 1
    Which version of ArcGIS are they using? – dassouki Jun 2 '13 at 2:51
  • Probably the most up to date version (10.X) – NWT Adam Jun 2 '13 at 6:36
  • What are your requirements? I think we need more details to provide a good answer. Basically, you can always exchange Shapefiles if you really have to. – underdark Jun 2 '13 at 14:38
  • I mainly need to share point and polygon shape files. If the data gets more complex then that do issues arise? – NWT Adam Jun 2 '13 at 18:37
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    As Brad notes there are some files QGIS creates that ArcGIS won't see and vice versa in a shapefile. In addition to the qml, you might see qix (spatial index), ~dbf (backup table created by table plugin when changing field name), etc. in a QGIS shapefile, while ArcGIS may add to the shapefile sbn, sbx, aux, aux.xml, etc. (its spatial and attribute index files and default projection definition files). All you really need to transfer are the dbf, shx, shp and the projection definition information for each shapefile (a prj will work, a qpj won't); let them build the indexes. – johns Jun 5 '13 at 13:37

The basic data is usable in qgis.
Arcgis is the native software that shape files are used in.
Now shape files are in the open specification realm. There are many other data formats though that both qgis and arcgis read and write.

The only variable with shapefile transfer would be the coordinate system.
You might just ask the arcgis user what projection they normally use.

If you are only interested in transferring raw data to the Esri user then you are correct in your comment. The question seems to be answered by a comment.

My own reading of your question eludes to you wanting to transfer cartographic or other project configured information. i.e. the thematic settings of a data layer colors, thicknesses, visualisations; and possibly the map labeling, or other overall map conveyance.

I have seen similar questions asked about converting qgis project settings to other software.

These 2 searches show some of the relationships between the file types of the two software QGis asked here and ArcGIS.

QGIS uses qml files to apply layer configurations to other layers.
ArcGIS uses lyr files to apply layer configurations to other layers.
If this is not the type of information you are wanting to transfer with the project. Update (edit) your question with some description to clarify.


I'd look at following options:

  1. Shapefiles: The most common way with following drawbacks:

    • Field names lose mixed case and are truncated to 8 characters - so you lose meaning about the field contents.
    • field types are mapped to number and text (often even date gets lost).
    • no circular arcs.
    • Coordinate system (CRS): There is a way to store CRS in a .prj file and ArcGIS as far as I know can read it but doesn't write it (like Brad mentioned before).
  2. Spatialite format and OGR converter: One of the options to share a single file and not to lose field names.

  3. PostGIS: ArcSDE 10 and above can be configured to store data in PostgreSQL "PostGIS Option" so ArcGIS users can write and all can read.

If ArcGIS users have the lead and the use case is about publishing, then look e.g. at http://geocat.net/bridge/

  • 2
    Since when can ArcGIS not write prj Files? – Devdatta Tengshe Jun 3 '13 at 6:37
  • Regarding un-numbered bullet #4: Esri created the .prj-file-holds-CRS convention specifically to address the limitation of shapefiles not storing the CRS natively. If memory serves, this was about the time ArcView 3.2 was released, circa 2000. That said, the .prj contents do have to conform to the Esri syntax for coordinate systems (scan for "ESRI Well Known Text" at gdal.org/gdal_utilities.html) – matt wilkie Jun 10 '13 at 20:21

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