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I am trying to create an annotation feature from labels and then export this out as a polygon shapefile (the resulting shapefile can then be loaded into ArcGIS online to basically have labels without using feature services from ArcServer).

In ArcMap, you can label the features, turn the labels into annotation, and then use the "Feature Mask Outline" GP tool with a mask of "0" to essentially 'mask' the annotation labels into exact polygons of the label text (as a shapefile).

I am looking to do the same process described above, but do it in QGIS? Any thoughts on what tools may accomplish this?

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You can download the Create labeled layer plugin via:

Plugins > Manage and Install Plugins...

Manage and install

Icon

Once downloaded, run the plugin and it will ask you to provide a name for the output shapefile. Afterwards, you treat it like a point layer whereby you edit and add points to the layer.

Add feature

When you add a point, an options window pops up asking you to type your text and select how you want the text to be displayed:

Plugin options

Point examples

Since the points are visible, you can make them invisible by editing the Style options and altering the size to 0:

Style options

Labels without points

I do not have ArcGIS to test the importation of this but I don't see why it shouldn't be possible.

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