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Google Satellite Imagery and Google Maps in QGIS

How to add Google Maps services to QGIS

To add Google Satellite imagery to QGIS, you can use the “XYZ Tiles” service which allows you to add raster data from various online sources.

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Here’s a step-by-step guide to adding Google Satellite imagery to QGIS

  1. Open QGIS and make sure you have the “Browser” panel enabled. If it’s not visible, you can enable it from the menu by selecting View > Panels > Browser Panels.
  2. Right-click on XYZ Tiles in the Browser panel and select New Connection.
  3. In the “New XYZ Connection” dialog box that appears, you need to input a name and the URL for Google Satellite. Name it something like “Google Satellite”.
  4. Enter the following URL:{x}&y={y}&z={z}

This URL points to the Google Satellite service, where {x}, {y}, and {z} are placeholders for the map tile coordinates and zoom level.

  1. Click OK to save the connection.
  2. Now, you should see the new “Google Satellite” connection under XYZ Tiles in the Browser panel. Drag the Google Satellite layer from the Browser panel to your Layers panel or double-click on it to add it to your map.
  3. You can now view Google Satellite imagery in your project.

Important Note: Be aware of the terms of service and usage limits for Google Maps. Using Google Maps data, including satellite imagery, outside of its API can violate these terms. If you are using this data for anything other than personal use, consider using the Google Maps Platform and following the appropriate guidelines.

The list of URLs you’ve provided is used to access various types of Google Maps layers through QGIS using the XYZ Tiles method. Each URL corresponds to a different style of map offered by Google Maps. Here’s a detailed explanation of each type:

  1. Google Maps (Standard Road Map)
  • URL:{x}&y={y}&z={z}
  • Description: This URL provides the standard road map view. It includes streets, names, and other labels, similar to the default view on Google Maps. It is useful for general mapping and navigation purposes.
  1. Google Satellite
  • URL:{x}&y={y}&z={z}
  • Description: This link fetches satellite imagery. It provides high-resolution aerial images from satellite views. This imagery does not include labels like road names or place names.
  1. Google Satellite Hybrid
  • URL:{x}&y={y}&z={z}
  • Description: This is a hybrid view that overlays road and location names onto the satellite images. It combines the detailed imagery of satellite views with the helpful context of road maps, making it ideal for users who need a comprehensive visual understanding of an area.
  1. Google Terrain
  • URL:{x}&y={y}&z={z}
  • Description: This layer shows physical terrain information, such as elevation and vegetation. Contour lines and shading indicate the landscape features, which can be very useful for outdoor activities, planning, or landscape analysis.
  1. Google Roads
  • URL:{x}&y={y}&z={z}
  • Description: This layer focuses solely on roads without additional map features such as terrain or satellite imagery. It’s particularly useful for projects that require clear and concise road information without other geographical details.

Each of these layers serves different purposes depending on your needs for visual information or geographical analysis in QGIS. When adding them to QGIS, be mindful of Google’s Terms of Service regarding the use of their maps data, especially for commercial applications.

Frequently asked questions about using Google Maps layers in QGIS:

Is it legal to use Google Maps layers in QGIS?

    It is crucial to be aware of Google’s Terms of Service when using their map data. Using Google Maps via the XYZ Tiles method without an API key might violate these terms, especially for commercial use. Always review the current terms and consider using official APIs or other legal data sources if necessary.

    Can I use Google Maps layers in QGIS for commercial projects?

      Using Google Maps data in commercial projects without proper authorization can breach Google’s Terms of Service. If you intend to use this data commercially, consider using the Google Maps Platform, which includes proper licensing for commercial use.

      Are there any alternatives to Google Maps for using in QGIS?

        There are several alternatives to Google Maps that can be used in QGIS, such as OpenStreetMap, Bing Maps, and various governmental and institutional geospatial services. These services often have fewer restrictions compared to Google Maps.

        How do I update the Google Maps layers in QGIS?

          Google Maps layers in QGIS update automatically as they are streamed from Google’s servers. If you experience outdated imagery or maps, it may be due to caching issues or delays in updates on Google’s side.

          How can I cache Google Maps layers in QGIS for offline use?

            Caching Google Maps layers for offline use without Google’s explicit permission may violate their terms. If offline access is necessary, consider using other map services designed for offline usage or those that offer explicit caching options.

            What do the different parameters in the Google Maps XYZ URLs mean?

            In the XYZ URLs, lyrs specifies the type of layer (e.g., s for satellite, h for roads), and {x}, {y}, {z} are placeholders for the tile coordinates and zoom level. Adjusting these can change the type of map data retrieved and the detail level displayed.

              By considering these answers, you can effectively use and manage Google Maps layers in QGIS while respecting legal constraints and optimizing for your specific needs.

              About the Author
              I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.