Anyone that went to the inaugural Scottish QGIS UK user group meet would not only have had a great time & enjoyed the great company of Ross & Thinkwhere but would have also seen Neil Bennys’ presentation “Qgis Evangelism” which I only just caught a couple of days ago. Neil is a geoninja of the highest order, he sneaked in a little slide showing a tool for ArcGIS called Mxd2Qgs…

Over the last 6yrs of using both ArcGIS & Qgis alongside one another, the thought of a tool that could translate the MXDs is a godsend, I have been asked so many times by clients and other consultants whether this holy grail existed (in a working format) that I was ACTUALLY thinking of building one….so after seeing the presentation I got straight onto Lutra Consulting….then realised I got it completely wrong and got onto ThinkWhere!

Although the website which I was given was in Italian, it wasn’t too much effort to translate, below is the blog in English:

There is a little tool for ArcGIS created by Allan Maungu that lets you convert a project file format. Mxd owner of the software ESRI format. Qgs use with Quantum GIS. As is known, the project file. Mxd contains no data in it but only the links to any Shapefile, GeoTIFF and other datasets with their display settings. The installation of the tool is pretty simple.
MXD to QGS step 1

Once you have extracted the contents of the file. Zip need to install the Python library launching the application. Exe file inside the unzipped folder.

MXD QGS to step 2

Then we start ArcMap (guaranteed compatibility with ArcGIS 10 and later) with a right-click of the mouse & select “Add Toolbox …”

MXD to QGS step 3

From the next window we reach the path where the file is located just unzipped “Z_ArcMap to Qgs.tbx” and click on “Open” to add it to our ArcToolbox.

MXD to QGS step 4

Finally right-click on the new tool “Z_ArcMap to QGS> ArcMap to Quantum GIS” and select “Properties” to indicate the location of the script “,” also from the unzipped file. Downloaded zip.

MXD to QGS window

Although its use is immediate, there is no need to set any parameters except of course the destination of the output file.

MXD to QGS error

In a test carried out on a project of large size with considerable complexity and number of processing on the data, the operation of the toolbox has not been completed.

With a simpler design, there were no problems.

Nick D


  1. I tried MXD2QGS but had no success. The main problem is that the components for this program were written in May, 2011, and are designed to work with Python 2.6, ArcMap 9, and QGIS 1.6 (current versions are Python 2.7, ArcMap 10.2, and QGIS 2.4). One uses a Windows executable, PyXML-0.8.4.win32-py2.6.exe, to installxml.dom.ext in the Python library. The executable throw an error because it could not find Python 2.6. I was able to fix this problem using: I then followed the instructions to convert an ArcMap project (using the mxd file) to a QGIS project (with a qgs extension). The tool completed the job successful, but when I opened the new project in QGIS, I got a bunch of bad handle errors. QGIS asks to update the directory links for the bad handles, the items it points to are nowhere on my hard disk. When I look in the database directory created by MXD2QCS, there are no files consistent with those indicated by the bad handles nor does the file structure look anything like that used for version 2.4 of QGIS.

    My conclusion is that MXD2QGS is hopelessly out of date and no longer functional. I would be interested to hear more from people, including Nick above, that indicate that they have been able to get this conversion routine to work.

    because the windows registry could not find the old version of Python.

    1. The tool was a solution and could be made to function in Wroclaw (QGIS 1.8) & it even showed some capability in QGIS 2.0. As the text states, it is limited in the number of layers it can render & one would have thought by now that there would be an update.
      Now that both QGIS and ArcGIS supposedly support the new OGC “Geopackage”, I would hope that there is finally a way to work between systems…a blog for another day

      1. Thanks for the attempt, I am sure a few readers will be interested, though what we are interested in, is the conversion of the mxd map format to the qgs map format. Conversion to SLD can be done in many software.

  2. Can you summarize where things are now?
    I figure most here looking are here to find the easiest path to move from ESRI to QGIS.

    I am a very light user, but have substantial information in ArcMap. So, what is the best way to move things over? Is it still MXD 2 QGIS ?


    1. Rather than straight converting the whole map, I would suggest looking at the Geopackage format. This way you can export layers symbolised between both formats

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