16.2. Mit Attributtabelle arbeiten

The attribute table displays information on features of a selected layer. Each row in the table represents a feature (with or without geometry), and each column contains a particular piece of information about the feature. Features in the table can be searched, selected, moved or even edited.

16.2.1. Foreword: Spatial and non-spatial tables

QGIS allows you to load spatial and non-spatial layers. This currently includes tables supported by GDAL and delimited text, as well as the PostgreSQL, MS SQL Server, SpatiaLite and Oracle providers. All loaded layers are listed in the Layers panel. Whether a layer is spatially enabled or not determines whether you can interact with it on the map.

Non-spatial tables can be browsed and edited using the attribute table view. Furthermore, they can be used for field lookups. For example, you can use columns of a non-spatial table to define attribute values, or a range of values that are allowed, to be added to a specific vector layer during digitizing. Have a closer look at the edit widget in section Eigenschaften Attributformular to find out more.

16.2.2. Introducing the attribute table interface

To open the attribute table for a vector layer, activate the layer by clicking on it in the Layerfenster. Then, from the main Layer menu, choose openTable Open Attribute Table. It is also possible to right-click on the layer and choose openTable Open Attribute Table from the drop-down menu, or to click on the openTable Open Attribute Table button in the Attributes toolbar. If you prefer shortcuts, F6 will open the attribute table. Shift+F6 will open the attribute table filtered to selected features and Ctrl+F6 will open the attribute table filtered to visible features.

This will open a new window that displays the feature attributes for the layer (figure_attributes_table). According to the setting in Settings ► Options ► Data sources menu, the attribute table will open in a docked window or a regular window. The total number of features in the layer and the number of currently selected/filtered features are shown in the attribute table title, as well as if the layer is spatially limited.


Abb. 16.67 Attributtabelle des regions Layer

Die anderen Knöpfe im Kopf der Attributtabelle stellen die folgenden Funktionalitäten zur Verfügung:

Tab. 16.1 Available Tools




Default Shortcut


Toggle editing mode

Enable editing functionalities



Toggle multi edit mode

Update multiple fields of many features


Save Edits

Save current modifications


Reload the table


Add feature

Add new geometryless feature


Delete selected features

Remove selected features from the layer


Cut selected features to clipboard



Copy selected features to clipboard



Paste features from clipboard

Insert new features from copied ones



Select features using an Expression


Select All

Select all features in the layer



Invert selection

Invert the current selection in the layer



Deselect all

Deselect all features in the current layer



Filter/Select features using form



Move selected to top

Move selected rows to the top of the table


Pan map to the selected rows



Zoom map to the selected rows



New field

Add a new field to the data source



Delete field

Remove a field from the data source


Organize columns

Show/hide fields from the attribute table


Open field calculator

Update field for many features in a row



Conditional formatting

Enable table formatting


Dock attribute table

Allows to dock/undock the attribute table



Lists the actions related to the layer


Depending on the format of the data and the GDAL library built with your QGIS version, some tools may not be available.

Below these buttons is the Quick Field Calculation bar (enabled only in edit mode), which allows to quickly apply calculations to all or part of the features in the layer. This bar uses the same expressions as the calculateField Field Calculator (see Editiere Attributwerte).

The attribute table support Shift+Mouse Wheel scrolling in attribute table to switch to a horizontal scrolling action instead of vertical. Table view vs Form view

QGIS provides two view modes to easily manipulate data in the attribute table:

  • The openTable Table view, displays values of multiple features in a tabular mode, each row representing a feature and each column a field. A right-click on the column header allows you to configure the table display while a right-click on a cell provides interaction with the feature.

  • The formView Form view shows feature identifiers in a first panel and displays only the attributes of the clicked identifier in the second one. There is a pull-down menu at the top of the first panel where the „identifier“ can be specified using an attribute (Column preview) or an Expression. The pull-down also includes the last 10 expressions for re-use. Form view uses the layer fields configuration (see Eigenschaften Attributformular).

    You can browse through the feature identifiers with the arrows on the bottom of the first panel. The features attributes update in the second panel as you go. It’s also possible to identify or move to the active feature in the map canvas with pushing down any of the button at the bottom:

    • highlightFeature Highlight current feature if visible in the map canvas

    • panTo Automatically pan to current feature

    • zoomTo Zoom to current feature

You can switch from one mode to the other by clicking the corresponding icon at the bottom right of the dialog.

You can also specify the Default view mode at the opening of the attribute table in Settings ► Options ► Data Sources menu. It can be ‚Remember last view‘, ‚Table view‘ or ‚Form view‘.


Abb. 16.68 Attribute table in table view (top) vs form view (bottom) Configuring the columns

Right-click in a column header when in table view to have access to tools that help you control:

Resizing columns widths

Columns width can be set through a right-click on the column header and select either:

  • Set width… to enter the desired value. By default, the current value is displayed in the widget

  • Set all column widths… to the same value

  • Autosize to resize at the best fit the column.

  • Autosize all columns

A column size can also be changed by dragging the boundary on the right of its heading. The new size of the column is maintained for the layer, and restored at the next opening of the attribute table.

Hiding and organizing columns and enabling actions

By right-clicking in a column header, you can choose to Hide column from the attribute table (in „table view“ mode). For more advanced controls, press the editTable Organize columns… button from the dialog toolbar or choose Organize columns… in a column header contextual menu. In the new dialog, you can:

  • check/uncheck columns you want to show or hide: a hidden column will disappear from every instances of the attribute table dialog until it is actively restored.

  • drag-and-drop items to reorder the columns in the attribute table. Note that this change is for the table rendering and does not alter the fields order in the layer datasource

  • add a new virtual Actions column that displays in each row a drop-down box or a button list of enabled actions. See Eigenschaften Aktionen for more information about actions.

Sorting columns

The table can be sorted by any column, by clicking on the column header. A small arrow indicates the sort order (downward pointing means descending values from the top row down, upward pointing means ascending values from the top row down). You can also choose to sort the rows with the Sort… option of the column header context menu and write an expression. E.g. to sort the rows using multiple columns you can write concat(col0, col1).

In form view, features identifier can be sorted using the sort Sort by preview expression option.


Sorting based on columns of different types

Trying to sort an attribute table based on columns of string and numeric types may lead to unexpected result because of the concat("USE", "ID") expression returning string values (ie, 'Borough105' < 'Borough6'). You can workaround this by using eg concat("USE", lpad("ID", 3, 0)) which returns 'Borough105' > 'Borough006'. Formatting of table cells using conditions

Conditional formatting settings can be used to highlight in the attribute table features you may want to put a particular focus on, using custom conditions on feature’s:

  • geometry (e.g., identifying multi-parts features, small area ones or in a defined map extent…);

  • or field value (e.g., comparing values to a threshold, identifying empty cells…).

You can enable the conditional formatting panel clicking on conditionalFormatting at the top right of the attributes window in table view (not available in form view).

The new panel allows user to add new rules to format rendering of radioButtonOnField or radioButtonOffFull row. Adding new rule opens a form to define:

  • the name of the rule;

  • a condition using any of the expression builder functions;

  • the formatting: it can be choosen from a list of predefined formats or created based on properties like:

    • background and text colors;

    • use of icon;

    • bold, italic, underline, or strikeout;

    • Schriftart.


Abb. 16.69 Bedingte Formatierungsregeln für Attributtabellen

16.2.3. Interacting with features in an attribute table Selecting features

In table view, each row in the attribute table displays the attributes of a unique feature in the layer. Selecting a row selects the feature and likewise, selecting a feature in the map canvas (in case of geometry enabled layer) selects the row in the attribute table. If the set of features selected in the map canvas (or attribute table) is changed, then the selection is also updated in the attribute table (or map canvas) accordingly.

Zeilen können ausgewählt werden, indem Sie auf die Zeilennummer links neben der Zeile klicken. Mehrere Zeilen können ausgewählt werden, indem die Strg Taste während der Auswahl gedrückt wird.Eine kontinuierliche Auswahl ist möglich, indem Sie bei der Selektion die Umschalt Taste gedrückt halten, während Sie die Zeilennummern auswählen. Alle Zeilen zwischen der aktuell ausgewählten Zeile und der Mauspfeilposition werden dadurch selektiert. Bewegt man den Mauszeiger in der Attributtabelle indem man in eine Zelle in der Tabelle klickt ändert die Zeilenauswahl nicht. Verändert man die Auswahl im Kartenfenster bewegt sich der Mauszeiger in der Attributtabelle nicht.

In form view of the attribute table, features are by default identified in the left panel by the value of their displayed field (see Eigenschaften Anzeige). This identifier can be replaced using the drop-down list at the top of the panel, either by selecting an existing field or using a custom expression. You can also choose to sort the list of features from the drop-down menu.

Click a value in the left panel to display the feature’s attributes in the right one. To select a feature, you need to click inside the square symbol at the left of the identifier. By default, the symbol turns into yellow. Like in the table view, you can perform multiple feature selection using the keyboard combinations previously exposed.

Beyond selecting features with the mouse, you can perform automatic selection based on feature’s attribute using tools available in the attribute table toolbar, such as (see section Automatic selection and following one for more information and use case):

  • expressionSelect Select By Expression…

  • formSelect Select Features By Value…

  • deselectActiveLayer Deselect All Features from the Layer

  • selectAll Select All Features

  • invertSelection Invert Feature Selection.

It is also possible to select features using the Filtering and selecting features using forms. Filtering features

Once you have selected features in the attribute table, you may want to display only these records in the table. This can be easily done using the Show Selected Features item from the drop-down list at the bottom left of the attribute table dialog. This list offers the following filters:

  • openTable Show All Features

  • openTableSelected Show Selected Features - same as using Open Attribute Table (Selected Features) from the Layer menu or the Attributes Toolbar or pressing Shift+F6

  • openTableVisible Show Features visible on map - same as using Open Attribute Table (Visible Features) from the Layer menu or the Attributes Toolbar or pressing Ctrl+F6

  • openTableEdited Show Edited and New Features - same as using Open Attribute Table (Edited and New Features) from the Layer menu or the Attributes Toolbar

  • Field Filter - allows the user to filter based on value of a field: choose a column from a list, type or select a value and press Enter to filter. Then, only the features matching num_field = value or string_field ilike '%value%' expression are shown in the attribute table. You can check checkbox Case sensitive to be less permissive with strings.

  • Advanced filter (Expression) - Opens the expression builder dialog. Within it, you can create complex expressions to match table rows. For example, you can filter the table using more than one field. When applied, the filter expression will show up at the bottom of the form.

  • Stored filter expressions ►: a shortcut to saved expressions frequently used for filtering your attribute table.

It is also possible to filter features using forms.


Filtering records out of the attribute table does not filter features out of the layer; they are simply momentaneously hidden from the table and can be accessed from the map canvas or by removing the filter. For filters that do hide features from the layer, use the Query Builder.


Update datasource filtering with Show Features Visible on Map

When for performance reasons, features shown in attribute table are spatially limited to the canvas extent at its opening (see Data Source Options for a how-to), selecting Show Features Visible on Map on a new canvas extent updates the spatial restriction. Storing filter expressions

Expressions you use for attribute table filtering can be saved for further calls. When using Field Filter or Advanced Filter (expression) entries, the expression used is displayed in a text widget in the bottom of the attribute table dialog. Press the handleStoreFilterExpressionUnchecked Save expression with text as name next to the box to save the expression in the project. Pressing the drop-down menu next to the button allows to save the expression with a custom name (Save expression as…). Once a saved expression is displayed, the handleStoreFilterExpressionChecked button is triggered and its drop-down menu allows you to Edit the expression and name if any, or Delete stored expression.

Saved filter expressions are saved in the project and available through the Stored filter expressions menu of the attribute table. They are different from the user expressions, shared by all projects of the active user profile. Filtering and selecting features using forms

Clicking the filterMap Filter/Select features using form or pressing Ctrl+F will make the attribute table dialog switch to form view and replace each widget with its search variant.

From this point onwards, this tool functionality is similar to the one described in Select Features By Value, where you can find descriptions of all operators and selecting modes.


Abb. 16.70 Attribute table filtered by the filter form

When selecting / filtering features from the attribute table, there is a Filter features button that allows defining and refining filters. Its use triggers the Advanced filter (Expression) option and displays the corresponding filter expression in an editable text widget at the bottom of the form.

If there are already filtered features, you can refine the filter using the drop-down list next to the Filter features button. The options are:

  • Filter within („AND“)

  • Extend filter („OR“)

To clear the filter, either select the Show all features option from the bottom left pull-down menu, or clear the expression and click Apply or press Enter.

16.2.4. Using action on features

Users have several possibilities to manipulate feature with the contextual menu like:

  • Select all (Ctrl+A) the features;

  • Copy the content of a cell in the clipboard with Copy cell content;

  • Zoom to feature without having to select it beforehand;

  • Pan to feature without having to select it beforehand;

  • Flash feature, to highlight it in the map canvas;

  • Open form: it toggles attribute table into form view with a focus on the clicked feature.


Abb. 16.71 Copy cell content button

If you want to use attribute data in external programs (such as Excel, LibreOffice, QGIS or a custom web application), select one or more row(s) and use the copySelected Copy selected rows to clipboard button or press Ctrl+C.

In Settings ► Options ► Data Sources menu you can define the format to paste to with Copy features as dropdown list:

  • Plain text, no geometry,

  • Plain text, WKT geometry,

  • GeoJSON

You can also display a list of actions in this contextual menu. This is enabled in the Layer properties ► Actions tab. See Eigenschaften Aktionen for more information on actions. Saving selected features as new layer

The selected features can be saved as any OGR-supported vector format and also transformed into another coordinate reference system (CRS). In the contextual menu of the layer, from the Layers panel, click on Export ► Save selected features as… to define the name of the output dataset, its format and CRS (see section Creating new layers from an existing layer). You’ll notice that checkbox Save only selected features is checked. It is also possible to specify GDAL creation options within the dialog.

16.2.5. Editiere Attributwerte

Editing attribute values can be done by:

  • typing the new value directly in the cell, whether the attribute table is in table or form view. Changes are hence done cell by cell, feature by feature;

  • using the field calculator: update in a row a field that may already exist or to be created but for multiple features. It can be used to create virtual fields;

  • using the quick field calculation bar: same as above but for only existing field;

  • or using the multi edit mode: update in a row multiple fields for multiple features. Using the Field Calculator

The calculateField Field Calculator button in the attribute table allows you to perform calculations on the basis of existing attribute values or defined functions, for instance, to calculate length or area of geometry features. The results can be used to update an existing field, or written to a new field (that can be a virtual one).

The field calculator is available on any layer that supports edit. When you click on the field calculator icon the dialog opens (see Abb. 16.72). If the layer is not in edit mode, a warning is displayed and using the field calculator will cause the layer to be put in edit mode before the calculation is made.

Based on the Expression Builder dialog, the field calculator dialog offers a complete interface to define an expression and apply it to an existing or a newly created field. To use the field calculator dialog, you must select whether you want to:

  1. apply calculation on the whole layer or on selected features only

  2. create a new field for the calculation or update an existing one.


Abb. 16.72 Feldrechner

If you choose to add a new field, you need to enter a field name, a field type (integer, real, date or string) and if needed, the total field length and the field precision. For example, if you choose a field length of 10 and a field precision of 3, it means you have 7 digits before the dot, and 3 digits for the decimal part.

Ein kurzes Beispiel zeigt wie der Feldrechner arbeitet, wenn Sie den Reiter Ausdruck verwenden. Wir wollen die Länge des ‚railroads‘ Layers aus dem QGIS Beispieldatensatz in km berechnen:

  1. Laden Sie das Shape railroads.shp in QGIS und öffnen Sie die den Dialog openTable Attributtabelle öffnen.

  2. Klicken Sie auf toggleEditing Bearbeitungsmodus umschalten und öffnen Sie den calculateField Feldrechner Dialog.

  3. Wählen Sie das checkbox Neues Feld anlegen Kontrollkästchen um die Berechnungen in ein neues Feld zu speichern.

  4. Set Output field name to length_km

  5. Select Decimal number (real) as Output field type

  6. Set the Output field length to 10 and the Precision to 3

  7. Double click on $length in the Geometry group to add the length of the geometry into the Field calculator expression box (you will begin to see a preview of the output, up to 60 characters, below the expression box updating in real-time as the expression is assembled).

  8. Complete the expression by typing / 1000 in the Field calculator expression box and click OK.

  9. You can now find a new length_km field in the attribute table. Creating a Virtual Field

A virtual field is a field based on an expression calculated on the fly, meaning that its value is automatically updated as soon as an underlying parameter changes. The expression is set once; you no longer need to recalculate the field each time underlying values change. For example, you may want to use a virtual field if you need area to be evaluated as you digitize features or to automatically calculate a duration between dates that may change (e.g., using now() function).


Virtuelle Felder benutzen

  • Virtuelle Felder sind nicht dauerhaft in den Layerattributen, was bedeutet, dass sie in der Projektdatei gespeichert und verfügabr sind, in der sie gespeichert wurden.

  • A field can be set virtual only at its creation. Virtual fields are marked with a purple background in the fields tab of the layer properties dialog to distinguish them from regular physical or joined fields. Their expression can be edited later by pressing the expression button in the Comment column. An expression editor window will be opened to adjust the expression of the virtual field. Using the Quick Field Calculation Bar

While Field calculator is always available, the quick field calculation bar on top of the attribute table is only visible if the layer is in edit mode. Thanks to the expression engine, it offers a quicker access to edit an already existing field:

  1. Select the field to update in the drop-down list.

  2. Fill the textbox with a value, an expression you directly write or build using the expression expression button.

  3. Click on Update All, Update Selected or Update Filtered button according to your need.


Abb. 16.73 Quick Field Calculation Bar Editing multiple fields

Unlike the previous tools, multi edit mode allows multiple attributes of different features to be edited simultaneously. When the layer is toggled to edit, multi edit capabilities are accessible:

  • using the multiEdit Toggle multi edit mode button from the toolbar inside the attribute table dialog;

  • or selecting Edit ► multiEdit Modify attributes of selected features menu.


Unlike the tool from the attribute table, hitting the Edit ► Modify Attributes of Selected Features option provides you with a modal dialog to fill attributes changes. Hence, features selection is required before execution.

In order to edit multiple fields in a row:

  1. Select the features you want to edit.

  2. From the attribute table toolbar, click the multiEdit button. This will toggle the dialog to its form view. Feature selection could also be made at this step.

  3. At the right side of the attribute table, fields (and values) of selected features are shown. New widgets appear next to each field allowing for display of the current multi edit state:

    • multiEditMixedValues The field contains different values for selected features. It’s shown empty and each feature will keep its original value. You can reset the value of the field from the drop-down list of the widget.

    • multiEditSameValues All selected features have the same value for this field and the value displayed in the form will be kept.

    • multiEditChangedValues The field has been edited and the entered value will be applied to all the selected features. A message appears at the top of the dialog, inviting you to either apply or reset your modification.

    Clicking any of these widgets allows you to either set the current value for the field or reset to original value, meaning that you can roll back changes on a field-by-field basis.


    Abb. 16.74 Editing fields of multiple features

  4. Make the changes to the fields you want.

  5. Click on Apply changes in the upper message text or any other feature in the left panel.

Changes will apply to all selected features. If no feature is selected, the whole table is updated with your changes. Modifications are made as a single edit command. So pressing undo Undo will rollback the attribute changes for all selected features at once.


Multi edit mode is only available for auto generated and drag and drop forms (see Customizing a form for your data); it is not supported by custom ui forms.

16.2.6. Creating one or many to many relations

Relations are a technique often used in databases. The concept is that features (rows) of different layers (tables) can belong to each other. Introducing 1-N relations

Als Beispiel nehmen wir einen Layer mit allen Regionen von Alaska (Polygon) in dem einige Attribute über den Namen und den Regionstyp sowie eine eindeutige ID (die als Primärschlüssel eingesetzt wird) vorhanden sind.

Then you get another point layer or table with information about airports that are located in the regions and you also want to keep track of these. If you want to add them to the regions layer, you need to create a one to many relation using foreign keys, because there are several airports in most regions.


Abb. 16.75 Die Region Alaska mit Flughäfen

Layers in 1-N relations

QGIS makes no difference between a table and a vector layer. Basically, a vector layer is a table with a geometry. So you can add your table as a vector layer. To demonstrate the 1-n relation, you can load the regions shapefile and the airports shapefile which has a foreign key field (fk_region) to the layer regions. This means, that each airport belongs to exactly one region while each region can have any number of airports (a typical one to many relation).

Foreign keys in 1-N relations

In addition to the already existing attributes in the airports attribute table, you’ll need another field fk_region which acts as a foreign key (if you have a database, you will probably want to define a constraint on it).

This field fk_region will always contain an id of a region. It can be seen like a pointer to the region it belongs to. And you can design a custom edit form for editing and QGIS takes care of the setup. It works with different providers (so you can also use it with shape and csv files) and all you have to do is to tell QGIS the relations between your tables.

Defining 1-N relations

The first thing we are going to do is to let QGIS know about the relations between the layers. This is done in Project ► Properties…. Open the Relations tab and click on symbologyAdd Add Relation.

  • Name is going to be used as a title. It should be a human readable string, describing, what the relation is used for. We will just call say airport_relation in this case.

  • Referenced Layer (Parent) also considered as parent layer, is the one with the primary key, pointed to, so here it is the regions layer. You need to define the primary key of the referenced layer, so it is ID.

  • Referencing Layer (Child) also considered as child layer, is the one with the foreign key field on it. In our case, this is the airports layer. For this layer you need to add a referencing field which points to the other layer, so this is fk_region.


    Sometimes, you need more than a single field to uniquely identify features in a layer. Creating a relation with such a layer requires a composite key, ie more than a single pair of matching fields. Use the symbologyAdd Add new field pair as part of a composite foreign key button to add as many pairs as necessary.

  • Id will be used for internal purposes and has to be unique. You may need it to build custom forms. If you leave it empty, one will be generated for you but you can assign one yourself to get one that is easier to handle

  • Relationship strength sets the strength of the relation between the parent and the child layer. The default Association type means that the parent layer is simply linked to the child one while the Composition type allows you to duplicate also the child features when duplicating the parent ones and on deleting a feature the children are deleted as well, resulting in cascade over all levels (means children of children of… are deleted as well).


Abb. 16.76 Adding a relation between regions and airports layers

From the Relations tab, you can also press the symbologyAdd Discover Relation button to fetch the relations available from the providers of the loaded layers. This is possible for layers stored in data providers like PostgreSQL or SpatiaLite.

Forms for 1-N relations

Jetzt wo QGIS von der Beziehung weiss wird es dazu benutzt das Formular das es erstellt zu verbessern. Da wir die Standard Formular Methode (autogenerated) nicht verändert haben, wird es Ihrem Formular einfach ein neues Bearbeitungselement hinzufügen. Also lassen Sie uns einen Layer ‚region‘ in der Legende auswählen und das Objekte abfragen Werkzeug benutzen. Abhängig von Ihren Einstellungen öffnet sich das Formular entweder direkt oder Sie müssen den Identifizieren Dialog unter Aktionen öffnen.


Abb. 16.77 identifikationsergebnis Dialog von regions mit Beziehung zu airports

As you can see, the airports assigned to this particular region are all shown in a table. And there are also some buttons available. Let’s review them shortly:

  • Der toggleEditing Knopf ist zum Umschalten des Bearbeitungsmodus da. Seien Sie sich dessen bewusst dass es den Bearbeitungsmodus des ‚airport‘ Layers umschaltet, trotzdessen wir uns im Objektformular eines Objektes aus dem ‚region‘ Layer befinden. Die Tabelle jedoch stellt Objekte des ‚aiport‘ Layer dar.

  • The saveEdits button is for saving all the edits in the child layer (airport).

  • The capturePoint button lets you digitize the airport geometry in the map canvas and assigns the new feature to the current region by default. Note that the icon will change according to the geometry type.

  • The newTableRow button adds a new record to the airport layer attribute table and assigns the new feature to the current region by default. The geometry can be drawn later with the Add part digitizing tool.

  • The duplicateFeature button allows you to copy and paste one or more child features within the child layer. They can later be assigned to a different parent feature or have their attributes modified.

  • The deleteSelectedFeatures button deletes the selected airport(s) permanently.

  • The link symbol opens a new dialog where you can select any existing airport which will then be assigned to the current region. This may be handy if you created the airport on the wrong region by accident.

  • The unlink symbol unlinks the selected airport(s) from the current region, leaving them unassigned (the foreign key is set to NULL) effectively.

  • With the zoomToSelected button you can zoom the map to the selected child features.

  • The two buttons formView and openTable to the right switch between the table view and form view of the related child features.

If you use the Drag and Drop Designer for the regions feature, you can select which tools are available. You can even decide whether to open a new form when a new feature is added using Force hide form on add feature option. Be aware that this option implies that not null attributes must take a valid default value to work correctly.


Abb. 16.78 Drag and Drop Designer for configure regions-airports relation tools

In the above example the referencing layer has geometries (so it isn’t just an alphanumeric table) so the above steps will create an entry in the layer attribute table that has no corresponding geometric feature. To add the geometry:

  1. Choose openTable Open Attribute Table for the referencing layer.

  2. Select the record that has been added previously within the feature form of the referenced layer.

  3. Use the addPart Add Part digitizing tool to attach a geometry to the selected attributes table record.

If you work on the airport table, the widget Relation Reference is automatically set up for the fk_region field (the one used to create the relation), see Relation Reference widget.

In the airport form you will see the formView button at the right side of the fk_region field: if you click on the button the form of the region layer will be opened. This widget allows you to easily and quickly open the forms of the linked parent features.


Abb. 16.79 Objekte abfragen Dialog von ‚airport‘ mit Beziehung zu ‚regions‘

The Relation Reference widget has also an option to embed the form of the parent layer within the child one. It is available in the Properties ► Attributes Form menu of the airport layer: select the fk_region field and check the Show embedded form option.

Wenn Sie jetzt einen Blick auf den Objektdialog werfen werden Sie sehen dass das Formular der ‚region‘ in das ‚airports‘ Formular eingebettet ist und sogar eine Kombobox vorhanden ist mit dem der aktuelle ‚airport‘ zu einer anderen ‚region‘ zugeordnet werden kann.


Moreover if you toggle the editing mode of the airport layer, the fk_region field has also an autocompleter function: while typing you will see all the values of the id field of the region layer. Here it is possible to digitize a polygon for the region layer using the symbologyAdd button if you chose the option Allow adding new features in the Properties ► Attributes Form menu of the airport layer.

The child layer can also be used in the Select Features By Value tool in order to select features of the parent layer based on attributes of their children.

In Abb. 16.80, all the regions where the mean altitude of the airports is greater than 500 meters above sea level are selected.

You will find that many different aggregation functions are available in the form.


Abb. 16.80 Select parent features with child values Introducing many-to-many (N-M) relations

N-M relations are many-to-many relations between two tables. For instance, the airports and airlines layers: an airport receives several airline companies and an airline company flies to several airports.

This SQL code creates the three tables we need for an N-M relationship in a PostgreSQL/PostGIS schema named locations. You can run the code using the Database ► DB Manager… for PostGIS or external tools such as pgAdmin. The airports table stores the airports layer and the airlines table stores the airlines layer. In both tables few fields are used for clarity. The tricky part is the airports_airlines table. We need it to list all airlines for all airports (or vice versa). This kind of table is known as a pivot table. The constraints in this table force that an airport can be associated with an airline only if both already exist in their layers.

CREATE SCHEMA locations;

CREATE TABLE locations.airports
   id serial NOT NULL,
   geom geometry(Point, 4326) NOT NULL,
   airport_name text NOT NULL,
   CONSTRAINT airports_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id)

CREATE INDEX airports_geom_idx ON locations.airports USING gist (geom);

CREATE TABLE locations.airlines
   id serial NOT NULL,
   geom geometry(Point, 4326) NOT NULL,
   airline_name text NOT NULL,
   CONSTRAINT airlines_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id)

CREATE INDEX airlines_geom_idx ON locations.airlines USING gist (geom);

CREATE TABLE locations.airports_airlines
   id serial NOT NULL,
   airport_fk integer NOT NULL,
   airline_fk integer NOT NULL,
   CONSTRAINT airports_airlines_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id),
   CONSTRAINT airports_airlines_airport_fk_fkey FOREIGN KEY (airport_fk)
      REFERENCES locations.airports (id)
   CONSTRAINT airports_airlines_airline_fk_fkey FOREIGN KEY (airline_fk)
      REFERENCES locations.airlines (id)

Instead of PostgreSQL you can also use GeoPackage. In this case, the three tables can be created manually using the Database ► DB Manager…. In GeoPackage there are no schemas so the locations prefix is not needed.

Foreign key constraints in airports_airlines table can´t be created using Table ► Create Table… or Table ► Edit Table… so they should be created using Database ► SQL Window…. GeoPackage doesn’t support ADD CONSTRAINT statements so the airports_airlines table should be created in two steps:

  1. Set up the table only with the id field using Table ► Create Table…

  2. Using Database ► SQL Window…, type and execute this SQL code:

    ALTER TABLE airports_airlines
       ADD COLUMN airport_fk INTEGER
       REFERENCES airports (id)
    ALTER TABLE airports_airlines
       ADD COLUMN airline_fk INTEGER
       REFERENCES airlines (id)

Then in QGIS, you should set up two one-to-many relations as explained above:

  • a relation between airlines table and the pivot table;

  • and a second one between airports table and the pivot table.

An easier way to do it (only for PostgreSQL) is using the Discover Relations in Project ► Properties ► Relations. QGIS will automatically read all relations in your database and you only have to select the two you need. Remember to load the three tables in the QGIS project first.


Abb. 16.81 Relations and autodiscover

In case you want to remove an airport or an airline, QGIS won’t remove the associated record(s) in airports_airlines table. This task will be made by the database if we specify the right constraints in the pivot table creation as in the current example.


Combining N-M relation with automatic transaction group

You should enable the transaction mode in Project Properties ► Data Sources ► when working on such context. QGIS should be able to add or update row(s) in all tables (airlines, airports and the pivot tables).

Finally we have to select the right cardinality in the Layer Properties ► Attributes Form for the airports and airlines layers. For the first one we should choose the airlines (id) option and for the second one the airports (id) option.


Abb. 16.82 Set relationship cardinality

Now you can associate an airport with an airline (or an airline with an airport) using Add child feature or Link existing child feature in the subforms. A record will automatically be inserted in the airports_airlines table.


Abb. 16.83 N-M relationship between airports and airlines


Using Many to one relation cardinality

Sometimes hiding the pivot table in an N-M relationship is not desirable. Mainly because there are attributes in the relationship that can only have values when a relationship is established. If your tables are layers (have a geometry field) it could be interesting to activate the On map identification option (Layer Properties ► Attributes Form ► Available widgets ► Fields) for the foreign key fields in the pivot table.


Pivot table primary key

Avoid using multiple fields in the primary key in a pivot table. QGIS assumes a single primary key so a constraint like constraint airports_airlines_pkey primary key (airport_fk, airline_fk) will not work. Introducing polymorphic relations

Polymorphic relations are special case of 1-N relations, where a single referencing (document) layer contains the features for multiple referenced layers. This differs from normal relations which require different referencing layer for each referenced layer. A single referencing (document) layer is achieved by adding an adiditonal layer_field column in the referencing (document) layer that stores information to identify the referenced layer. In its most simple form, the referencing (document) layer will just insert the layer name of the referenced layer into this field.

To be more precise, a polymorphic relation is a set of normal relations having the same referencing layer but having the referenced layer dynamically defined. The polymorphic setting of the layer is solved by using an expression which has to match some properties of the referenced layer like the table name, layer id, layer name.

Imagine we are going to the park and want to take pictures of different species of plants and animals we see there. Each plant or animal has multiple pictures associated with it, so if we use the normal 1:N relations to store pictures, we would need two separate tables, animal_images and plant_images. This might not be a problem for 2 tables, but imagine if we want to take separate pictures for mushrooms, birds etc.

Polymorphic relations solve this problem as all the referencing features are stored in the same table documents. For each feature the referenced layer is stored in the referenced_layer field and the referenced feature id in the referenced_fk field.

Defining polymorphic relations

First, let QGIS know about the polymorphic relations between the layers. This is done in Project ► Properties…. Open the Relations tab and click on the little down arrow next to the symbologyAdd Add Relation button, so you can select the Add Polymorphic Relation option from the newly appeared dropdown.


Abb. 16.84 Adding a polymorphic relation using documents layer as referencing and animals and plants as referenced layers.

  • Id will be used for internal purposes and has to be unique. You may need it to build custom forms. If you leave it empty, one will be generated for you but you can assign one yourself to get one that is easier to handle

  • Referencing Layer (Child) also considered as child layer, is the one with the foreign key field on it. In our case, this is the documents layer. For this layer you need to add a referencing field which points to the other layer, so this is referenced_fk.


    Sometimes, you need more than a single field to uniquely identify features in a layer. Creating a relation with such a layer requires a composite key, ie more than a single pair of matching fields. Use the symbologyAdd Add new field pair as part of a composite foreign key button to add as many pairs as necessary.

  • Layer Field is the field in the referencing table that stores the result of the evaluated layer expression which is the referencing table that this feature belongs to. In our example, this would be the referenced_layer field.

  • Layer expression evaluates to a unique identifier of the layer. This can be the layer name @layer_name, the layer id @layer_id, the layer’s table name decode_uri(@layer, 'table') or anything that can uniquely identifies a layer.

  • Relationship strength sets the strength of the generated relations between the parent and the child layer. The default Association type means that the parent layer is simply linked to the child one while the Composition type allows you to duplicate also the child features when duplicating the parent ones and on deleting a feature the children are deleted as well, resulting in cascade over all levels (means children of children of… are deleted as well).

  • Referenced Layers also considered as parent layers, are those with the primary key, pointed to, so here they would be plants and animals layers. You need to define the primary key of the referenced layers from the dropdown, so it is fid. Note that the definition of a valid primary key requires all the referenced layers to have a field with that name. If there is no such field you cannot save a polymorphic relation.

Once added, the polymorphic relation can be edited via the Edit Polymorphic Relation menu entry.


Abb. 16.85 Preview of the newly created polymorphic relation and it’s child relations for animals and plants.

The example above uses the following database schema:


CREATE TABLE park.animals
   fid serial NOT NULL,
   geom geometry(Point, 4326) NOT NULL,
   animal_species text NOT NULL,
   CONSTRAINT animals_pkey PRIMARY KEY (fid)

CREATE INDEX animals_geom_idx ON park.animals USING gist (geom);

CREATE TABLE park.plants
   fid serial NOT NULL,
   geom geometry(Point, 4326) NOT NULL,
   plant_species text NOT NULL,
   CONSTRAINT plants_pkey PRIMARY KEY (fid)

CREATE INDEX plants_geom_idx ON park.plants USING gist (geom);

CREATE TABLE park.documents
   fid serial NOT NULL,
   referenced_layer text NOT NULL,
   referenced_fk integer NOT NULL,
   image_filename text NOT NULL,
   CONSTRAINT documents_pkey PRIMARY KEY (fid)

16.2.7. Storing and fetching an external resource

A field may target a resource stored on an external storage system. Attribute forms can be configured so they act as a client to an external storage system in order to store and fetch those resources, on users demand, directly from the forms. Configuring an external storage

In order to setup an external storage, you have to first configure it from the vector attribute form properties and select the Attachment widget.


Abb. 16.86 Editing a WebDAV external storage for a given field

From the Attachment widget, you have to first select the Storage type:

  • Select Existing File: The target URL already exists. When you select a resource, no store operation is achieved, the attribute is simply updated with the URL.

  • Simple Copy: Stores a copy of the resource on a file disk destination (which could be a local or network shared file system) and the attribute is updated with the path to the copy.

  • WebDAV Storage: The resource is pushed to a HTTP server supporting the WebDAV protocol and the attribute is updated with its URL. Nextcloud, Pydio or other file hosting software support this protocol.

Then, you have to set up the Store URL parameter, which provides the URL to be used when a new resource needs to be stored. It’s possible to set up an expression using the data defined override widget in order to have specific values according to feature attributes.

The variable @selected_file_path could be used in that expression and represent the absolute file path of the user selected file (using the file selector or drag’n drop).


Using the WebDAV external storage, if the URL ends with a „/“, it is considered as a folder and the selected file name will be appended to get the final URL.

If the external storage system needs to, it’s possible to configure an authentication. Using an external storage

Once configured, you can select a local file using the button when editing a feature’s attribute. Depending on the configured storage type, the file will be stored on the external storage system (except if Select existing file has been selected) and the field will be updated with the new resource URL.


Abb. 16.87 Storing a file to a WebDAV external storage


User can also achieve the same result if he drags and drops a file on the whole attachment widget.

Use the taskCancel Cancel button to abort the storing process. It’s possible to configure a viewer using the Integrated document viewer so the resource will be automatically fetched from the external storage system and displayed directly below the URL. The above warning icon indicates that the resource cannot be fetched from the external storage system. In that case, more details might appear in the Log Messages Panel.