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ArcGIS Pro

GPX Files in QGIS

How-to Guide: Working with GPX Files in QGIS

1. Introduction

GPX (GPS Exchange Format) is a widely used XML format for geospatial data from GPS devices. QGIS, an open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) software, allows users to import and work with GPX files seamlessly.

2. Preparing Your GPX Files:

  • Ensure your GPS device is connected to your computer.
  • Navigate to the storage location of the GPS device and locate the GPX files you wish to work with.
  • Copy these files to a convenient location on your computer.

3. Importing GPX Files into QGIS:

  • Open QGIS.
  • Go to Layer > Add Layer > Add Vector Layer.
  • In the Source section, click on Browse and navigate to the location where you saved your GPX files.
  • Select the GPX file and click Open.

4. Selecting Data Types:

GPX files can contain various types of data, such as waypoints, tracks, and routes.

WaypointsSpecific point locations recorded and stored for reference.Mark significant locations like start/end of a trail, campsite, viewpoint, etc.Latitude, longitude, optional altitude, name, description, timestamp, symbol.
TracksRecord of an over-time journey, showing the path that was traveled.Record the path taken during activities like hiking, biking, or boating.List of trackpoints with latitude, longitude, elevation, timestamp. Metadata like name, description.
RoutesPre-determined path made up of a list of waypoints for future travel.Outline a path intended to be followed, often used for planning purposes before the actual journey.Waypoints with associated details. Route metadata like name, description, intended activity type.
This table provides a concise overview of the primary differences between waypoints, tracks, and routes in the context of GPX files and GPS navigation.
  • A dialog box will appear asking you to select which data type you want to import (e.g., waypoints or tracks).
  • Choose the appropriate data type and click OK.

5. Viewing and Styling the Data:

  • Once imported, the GPX data will appear in the QGIS Layers panel and on the map canvas.
  • You can style the data by right-clicking on the layer in the Layers panel, selecting Properties, and navigating to the Symbology tab.
  • Adjust the symbols, colors, and labels as desired.

6. Converting GPX to Other Formats:

If you wish to work with the GPX data in a different format or share it with others, you can convert it to another format, such as a shapefile.

  • Right-click on the GPX layer in the Layers panel.
  • Choose Export > Save Features As.
  • In the dialog box, select the desired format (e.g., ESRI Shapefile).
  • Choose a save location, provide a name for the file, and click Save.

7. Coordinate Reference Systems (CRS):

  • GPX files typically use the WGS 84 CRS. If you need to work in a different CRS, ensure you reproject the data accordingly.
  • During the export process, you can choose a different CRS if needed.

8. Final Thoughts:

Working with GPX files in QGIS is straightforward. Whether you’re importing data from a recent field trip or sharing geospatial data with colleagues, QGIS provides the tools you need to work efficiently with GPX files. Always remember to save your project and back up your data.

Frequently asked questions about working with GPX files in QGIS:

  1. What is a GPX file?
  • A GPX (GPS Exchange Format) file is an XML schema designed for transferring GPS data between software applications. It can store waypoints, tracks, and routes, making it a standard format for sharing location data.
  1. How do I import a GPX file into QGIS?
  • Open QGIS, go to Layer > Add Layer > Add Vector Layer. Browse to your GPX file, select it, and click Open. Choose the data type (waypoints, tracks, routes) you want to import.
  1. Why can’t I see my GPX data after importing it into QGIS?
  • This could be due to a mismatch in the Coordinate Reference System (CRS) or the data might be outside the current map extent. Ensure both the project and the GPX layer are using the same CRS and try zooming to the layer’s extent.
  1. Can I edit GPX data directly within QGIS?
  • Yes, you can edit GPX data in QGIS. First, toggle the layer into edit mode by right-clicking on it and selecting Toggle Editing. Then, you can use the editing tools to modify the data.
  1. How do I convert a GPX file to a shapefile in QGIS?
  • Right-click on the GPX layer in the Layers panel, choose Export > Save Features As, select ESRI Shapefile as the format, specify the output location and name, and click Save.
  1. Why are there multiple layers (like waypoints, tracks, routes) when I import a GPX file?
  • A single GPX file can contain multiple types of data, such as waypoints, tracks, and routes. When importing, QGIS allows you to choose which type of data you want to import as separate layers.
  1. Can I merge multiple GPX files into a single layer in QGIS?
  • Yes, you can use the Merge Vector Layers tool found under Vector > Data Management Tools to merge multiple GPX layers into one.
  1. How do I change the symbology or style of my GPX data in QGIS?
  • Right-click on the GPX layer, select Properties, and navigate to the Symbology tab. Here, you can customize the appearance of your data.
  1. Is there a way to filter or select specific data from my GPX file in QGIS?
  • Yes, you can use the Attribute Table to filter and select specific records. Additionally, the Select Features tool allows you to manually select data on the map canvas.
  1. How do I reproject my GPX data to a different Coordinate Reference System (CRS) in QGIS?
  • Right-click on the GPX layer, select Export > Save Features As, choose your desired format, and under the CRS section, select the desired CRS.
  1. Can I export my edited data back into a GPX format from QGIS?
  • Yes, right-click on the edited layer, select Export > Save Features As, and choose GPX as the format.
  1. Why does my GPX data not align correctly with other layers in QGIS?
  • This is likely due to a CRS mismatch. Ensure that all layers, including the GPX layer, are set to the same CRS.
  1. How can I label my GPX waypoints or tracks in QGIS?
  • Right-click on the GPX layer, select Properties, and navigate to the Labels tab. Choose the attribute you want to use for labeling and customize the label appearance.
  1. Is there a file size limit for importing GPX files into QGIS?
  • There’s no strict file size limit for importing GPX files into QGIS. However, very large files might slow down the software or require more memory to process.
  1. Can I perform spatial analysis on GPX data within QGIS?
  • Yes, QGIS offers a wide range of spatial analysis tools that can be applied to GPX data, just like any other vector data in the software.

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.

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