Using ArcMap, it is possible to add a dataset (eg a shapefile) to the map, and configure the layer's properties (such as the symbology, table joins, switching some attributes off in the Identify results, etc).

This layer can then be saved as a Layer file:

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The resulting *.lyr file references the data source (the shapefile) and all of the properties which have been configured for that layer. This makes it easy to add this same layer to multiple map documents, inheriting all of the properties which have been set.

Is there an equivalent in QGIS?


2 Answers 2


It does now :)

Only in the dev version but something like this could be added in an older release using a plugin. If I get some time I might just do that.

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A QGIS Layer Definition file will have the *.qlr extension and is a XML dump of the maplayer node for the project.

The start of the file will look like this:

<!DOCTYPE qgis-layer-definition>
<maplayer minimumScale="-4.65661e-10" maximumScale="1e+08" simplifyDrawingHints="1" minLabelScale="0" maxLabelScale="1e+08" simplifyDrawingTol="1" geometry="Polygon" simplifyMaxScale="1" type="vector" hasScaleBasedVisibilityFlag="0" simplifyLocal="1" scaleBasedLabelVisibilityFlag="0">
  ... {style, etc}

QGIS 2.8 Update

As of 2.8 QLR files now support many layers as well as groups. Right click on a group in the legend to save it out to a QLR file everything under the group will be saved to the QLR file.

  • 7
    now that's what I call customer service Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 3:07
  • 1
    This will work for vector and raster, including WMS, etc. It doesn't work with a OpenLayers layer for example.
    – Nathan W
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 3:28
  • Will it work for database stored data? PostGIS, Spatialite, etc? Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 14:57
  • 1
    Customer service or insider trading... ; /
    – DavidF
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 18:55
  • 1
    Customer service
    – Nathan W
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 22:06

Not exactly. You can save your symbology to SLD file or qgis layer style file (.qml). Like .lyr file these files save your symbology options, however, they do not point to the data itself. You have to re-add the layers then apply the style or SLD file. The SLD file only stores symbology, .qml files store symbology, labeling options, even edit widgets for your fields.

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