Published on 22.2.2024

Making QGIS your own

While working it is important to have your workspace organised. Most start with the basic ergonomics, the chair, the desk, the display(s) and the keyboard. Setting up your tools where you can conveniently reach them makes working more efficient and comfortable. This applies to desktop software as well, customising the view to your preferences is like setting up your office.

In QGIS you have roughly two methods to control your workspace: the user profile and the project

User profile

The term user profile might give the impression that each profile is user specific, and it is rather tempting to name the profile with the name of the person using the profile. In reality the user profile has more to do with the profile or role in which you are using QGIS.

For example if you educate others in use of QGIS you might have a training user profile where you have the very basic default settings and tools, or if you digitise and edit a lot of data you might have a separate user profile where you have all the digitising toolbars and specific plugins at hand, or you might have projects in different areas, and want to have profiles with area specific settings like CRS, measuring units and date and time format.

So what are the things you can personalise and set up in a user profile? The QGIS user manual gives the following rather extensive list.

  • all the global settings, including locale, projections, authentication settings, colour palettes, shortcuts…
  • GUI (graphical user interface) configurations and customization
  • grid files and other proj helper files installed for datum transformation
  • installed plugins and their configurations
  • project templates and history of saved project with their image preview
  • processing settings, logs, scripts, models.

Do you have to create different profiles? 

No, if you are happy with one set-up, you are using the default profile and all your changes are saved in it, then there is no need for multiple profiles. But if you have different workflows, you want to show demos, or want to test different settings, then making different profiles might be beneficial for you! A new profile is also a good trick to see if there are some problems with your current profile because creating a new profile is sort of a clean canvas. 

User profile(s) can be found in the Settings menu.

If you have some specific needs for a specific project there is also a possibility to customise your QGIS project instead of the whole profile.

The project 

Project in QGIS is what some other softwares might call workspace. It is the state of your QGIS session according to QGIS documentation. QGIS can work on one project at a time, therefore every time you click a new project QGIS prompts you to save the project that you were working on and opens a new one. There is a very easy go around to this one project at a time: just open more than one session in QGIS, maybe one for each user profile.

The User manual offers quite an extensive list of information stored in a project file:

  • Layers added
  • Which layers can be queried
  • Layer properties, including symbolization and styles
  • Layer notes
  • 2D and 3D map views
  • Projection for each map view
  • Last viewed extent for each map
  • Print layouts
  • Print layout elements with settings
  • Print layout atlas settings
  • Digitising settings
  • Table Relations
  • Project Macros
  • Project default styles
  • Plugins settings
  • QGIS Server settings from the OWS settings tab in the Project properties
  • Queries stored in the DB Manager

If the user profile is the set up of your desk; placing pencils and notebooks you often use in place they are easily accessed, then the project is the information on which notebook and which page you were on last time you worked, and what was the colour of your changeable notebook cover. 

All your visualisations are stored in the project. All colour and symbol choices as well as the order of layers and what layers are visible at the time. You can also store project-specific colour palettes.

Can I share user profiles and projects?

QGIS does not have a tool to import or export user profiles. If you wish to share a user profile with other users you’ll need to head to file management and do it manually. All the information for user profiles is stored in your home directory (for example in Windows the default is the AppData folder). Each user profile has a folder that you can copy and send to other users. The other user just has to place the profile folder in the corresponding folder in their computer. Note that you can open the profile folder under the Settings menu in User profiles > Open Active Profile Folder.

Project on the other hand is more easily transferable. The sender needs to send all the files used in the project for the project to open correctly along with all the data used in it. However, you might encounter problems with data sources, when receiving a project file from someone else. The Handle Unavailable Layers dialog in QGIS helps you to deal with these problems. Or you might even want to fix the file paths directly in the project file. Project file is in xml format so it is possible to edit the file directly if you know what you are doing. 

Project file can also be saved in a PostgreSQL database or GeoPackage. It is rather convenient to save the data and project in one GeoPackage, especially if you are forwarding your work to someone else. 

If the data is in PostgreSQL database it makes sense to have the project file there as well, again project and data in one place prevents problems with file paths.

What does your QGIS look like?


Meri Malmari

Meri is M.Sc. (economics and business administration) having majored in economic geography her interests lie in urban development, consumers and retail, all of which have spatial aspect that can be shown on a map. Relevant and precise (spatial) information is something Meri finds intriguing.