QGIS Shortcuts to optimise efficiency

You probably already know that QGIS has shortcuts, afterall we all use CTRL+C & CTRL+V but did you know that you can simply exit QGIS by using CTRL+Q?….

You probably already know that QGIS has shortcuts, afterall we all use CTRL+C & CTRL+V but did you know that you can simply exit QGIS by using CTRL+Q?….

In the search for more efficiency I went through the QGIS configuration and extracted the list of default keyboard shortcut settings, you can either view here or download a PDF copy Here

QGIS Default Shortcuts

What I didn’t realise before downloading the list was the similarities to other software which makes it so easy to transfer over to your everyday tasks….Zoom in & Out are identical to Adobe PDF, the refresh is the standard F5 and of course, the life saving “undo” is CTRL+Z.

It gets better though…..

If you are like me, you don’t do things liek everyone else. By that I mean that I am “special”, I work between multiple coordinate systems and tend to pull up the coordinate system(s) frequently or am buffering constantly….well IF you are a little like me, you can configure your own shortcuts. If you need to buffer, you could set your QGIS to bring it up when you hold CTRL+B [or your own] or you could set it to bring up the Custom CRS window when you hold CTRL+ALT+C


Open your QGIS and under the settings tab you will find an option for “Configure Shortcuts”.


From here it is quite simple to update and change your QGIS shortcuts, giving you better efficiency. Just don’t tell your boss as they’ll expect you to work faster…much better just to keep quiet and use that extra time for more coffee 😉

Nick D

Dynamic text with QGIS

It’s not until you need it that you realise how much you miss it….such is the case with the ESRI ArcGIS dynamic text functionality, on the surface it seemed easy to put a little reference into a text box and then every time I opened a template or new map it would automatically show the user/coordinate system/date/time of print or any of a hundred plus options.

Originally posted on xyHt.com

It’s not until you need it that you realise how much you miss it….such is the case with the ESRI ArcGIS dynamic text functionality, on the surface it seemed easy to put a little reference into a text box and then every time I opened a template or new map it would automatically show the user/coordinate system/date/time of print or any of a hundred plus options.

With a huge workload looming and setting up templates in QGIS, I turned to the text boxes to provide some small automation…..and fell a cropper. That is not to say it can’t be done but I am not a native coder, so I became stuck, how else do others put their coordinate systems on the map….I asked and apparently the done thing is to write it all in the text box. Not very efficient or cool for such a sofisticated piece of software. So I turned to Google+ and Lord Ninja of all that is QGIS [Nathan Woodrow] as always provided a solution.

As a starter for discussion I’ll outline what I have found so far, then if any of you awesome geoninjas and Q superusers have any code or further insight you can help fill the gaps or provide snippets for the rest of us.

Date & Time labels

[% day( $now) %]/[% month( $now)%]/[% year( $now)%]
[% day( $now) %]/[% month( $now)%]/[% year( $now)%]
Date is one of the easier automatic attributes you can add. Open a new textbox and then insert expression.


On the right you will notice that you have a list of functions [as above]. If we double-click “day” and then double-click “$now” (and then close with a bracket), we have


If you select OK in the bottom right, you will see that you now have the day number in the textbox…..we can therefore extend this to day, month and year by copy & pasting this:

[% day( $now) %]/[% month( $now)%]/[% year( $now)%]

directly into the “main properties” box – note here that the expression in the building looks different to the expression in the properties box.


There are 2 ways of doing this, first is by using the method above and using the “$scale” referenced to a feature OR the easist way is by adding a scalebar….I know, just bear with me…


Select the “add new scalebar” option on the left, then create a box to place it [marquee an area]. You’ll end up with a jumble/scalebar as indicated below.


Go to the properties on the right and select “numeric” as indicated above, you will then find the scalebar turns to scale TEXT…..just make sure that you reference it to the correct map frame!

Coordinate System

Okay, so this is where a little QPy is going to help. What I wanted from this was just the EPSG code as I figured that it would relate most of the primary parameters that were important. Then I found that there was a LOT more that could be done.

As with the date & time, create a textbox and open the expression editor. This time open the “functional editor”

coord5Remove the scratch text and add the text:

from qgis.core import *
from qgis.gui import *
from qgis.utils import iface

@qgsfunction(args=’auto’, group=’Custom’)
def crsstring(stringformat, feature, parent):
      settings = iface.mapCanvas().mapSettings()
      if stringformat == ‘wkt’:
            return settings.destinationCrs().toWkt()
             return settings.destinationCrs().toProj4()

Save this with a rememberable name and run…..nothing happens

So, take this text:

[% crsstring(‘wkt’) %]

and paste it in the label textbox, like this:


…then refresh your screen. If you’ve done it all correctly you should have all your coordinate system information as WKT.

What if you only want a selective bit of that information OR what if you want to display a couple of those pieces of information?…..

Nathan Woodrow kindly sent me this: QGIS API Documentation

Using this you can cater the script above to extract what you [might] need. Remembering that I need the EPSG, the documentation tells me that I need QString “AuthID” (bear with me on this)….note that I have only had success playing with the QString functions for this.

from qgis.core import *
from qgis.gui import *
from qgis.utils import iface

@qgsfunction(args=’auto’, group=’Custom’)
def authid(stringformat, feature, parent):
      settings = iface.mapCanvas().mapSettings()
      if stringformat == ‘wkt’:
            return settings.destinationCrs().toWkt()
             return settings.destinationCrs().toProj4()

Note that this time instead of “def crsstring” I am using “def authid” – Even though I am still using the same text in the textbox, when I hit run script it provides me with the EPSG, it even has the text “EPSG” before it!

coordOkay…so now we are getting there! If I then open another new textbox and add the same “authid” script in again and change the references from “authid” to “description” (then save & run the script) I get the coordinate system description (change the main properties text to :

[%description(‘wkt’) %]

If you are still with me and understanding this, then you can see how this can be used to build an automated coordinate system box on your map IN QGIS.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Many thanks to Nathan Woodrow for his patience!

Nick D

Environment Agency makes LiDAR data open

The Environment Agency is placing two sets of LiDAR data – an aerial map created by laser scans – into the open data realm as part of a move to encourage more third parties into flood risk modelling.

From UKAuthority 18th June 2015

Latest move in open data campaign encourages businesses and communities to build flood risk models

The Environment Agency is placing two sets of LiDAR data – an aerial map created by laser scans – into the open data realm as part of a move to encourage more third parties into flood risk modelling.

LIDAR_Paghm_aerialIt plans to release the full tiled dataset of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data gathered since 1998, and a composite set derived from a merged and resampled combination from the tiled set. The move is scheduled for September and they will be available under the Open Government Licence through the agency’s Datashare portal.

In an agency blogpost, its geomatics manager Dr Alison Matthew said it will be free of charge, even for commercial use.

“We hope that by removing any cost barriers, our data will improve the quality of flood risk modelling used by businesses and local communities and allow for the development of innovative tools and techniques to further benefit the environment,” she said.

The move comes two years after the Environment Agency released the LIDAR data for non-commercial use, following which more than 1 million sq km have been downloaded. After the winter floods of 2014 it said it would make as much of its data as possible free of any charges and restrictions.

LiDAR data now covers 72% of England, mainly flood plains, coastal zones and urban areas. Its cost has fallen to the point that it now used by most people who work with maps, according to the blogpost.

The move adds more momentum to the open data campaign, following the announcement by Ordnance Survey in March that it would it make its OS Open Map of street level data freely available.


Image from gov.uk under Open Government Licence v3.0

Terminology used in the GIS Industry


Definitions Provided By: Maps for America – Third Edition – Text obtained from World Atlas

Degree of conformity with a standard. Accuracy relates to the quality of a result and is distinguished from precision which relates to the quality of the operation by which the result is obtained.
Process designed to remove inconsistencies in measured or computed quantities by applying derived corrections to compensate for random or accidental errors.
adjustment, land- line
Positioning land lines on a map to indicate their true, theoretical, or approximate location relative to the adjacent terrain and culture, by reconciling the information shown on Bureau of Land Management plats and field records with the ground evidence of the location of the lines.
adjustment, standard accuracy
Adjustment of a survey resulting in values for positions and (or) elevations that comply with the National Map Accuracy Standards.
The process of developing a network of horizontal and or vertical positions from a group of known positions using direct or indirect measurements from aerial photographs and mathematical computations.
Instrument, or part of an instrument , for determining direction , either horizontal or vertical . In its simplest form, a peepsight or telescope mounted on a straightedge and used for plotting directions graphically. In such instruments as transits and theodolites, the alidade is the part containing the telescope and its attachments.
Instrument for measuring altitudes or elevations with respect to a reference level, usually mean sea level. The most common type is an aneroid barometer. A radar altimeter determines the height of an aircraft above the terrain by measuring the time required for an electromagnetic pulse to travel from aircraft to the ground and back.
Horizontal direction reckoned clockwise from the meridian plane.
Part of a beach that is usually dry and is reached only by the highest tides; by extension, a narrow strip of relatively flat coast bordering the sea.
base map
See: map, base.
bathymetric map
See: map, bathymetric
Science of measuring water depths (usually in the ocean) to determine bottom topography.
beach (seabeach)
Zone of unconsolidated material that extends landward from the low water line to the place where there is marked change in material or physiographic form, or to the line of permanent vegetation (usually the effective lint of storm waves).
bench mark
Relatively permanent material object, natural or artificial, bearing a marked point whose elevation above or below an adopted datum is known.
boundary monument
Material object placed on or near a boundary line to preserve and identify the location of the boundary line on the ground
boundary survey
Survey made to establish or to reestablish a boundary line on the ground, or to obtain data for constructing a map or plat showing a boundary line.
cadastral map
See: map, cadastral.
cadastral survey
Survey relating to land boundaries, made to create units suitable for title transfer or to define the limitations of title. Derived from “cadastre” meaning a register of land quantities, values, and ownership used levying taxes, the term may properly be applied to surveys of a similar nature outside the public lands, such surveys are more commonly called “land surveys” or “property surveys.”
Science and art of making maps and charts. The term may be taken broadly as comprising all the steps needed to produce a map: planning, aerial photography, field surveys, photogrammetry, editing, color separation, and multicolor printing. Mapmakers, however, tend to limit use of the term to the map-finishing operations, in which the master manuscript is edited and color separation plates are prepared for lithographic printing.
Unit of length equal to 66 feet, used especially in the U.S. public land surveys. The original measuring instrument (Gunter’s chain) was literally a chain consisting of 100 iron links, each 7.92 inches long. Steel-ribbon tapes began to supersede chains around 1900, but surveying tapes are often still called “chains” and measuring with a tape is often called “chaining.” The chain is a convenient unit in cadastral surveys because 10 square chains equal 1 acre.
Special-purpose map designed for navigation or to present specific data or information. The term “chart” is applied chiefly to maps made primarily for nautical and aeronautical navigation, and to maps of the heavens, although the term is sometimes used to describe other special-purpose maps.
chart, aeronautical
Charts designed to meet requirements of aerial navigating, produced in several series, each on a specified map projection and differing in scale, format, and content, for use as dictated by type of aircraft and whether flight is to be conducted under visual or instrument flight rules.
chart, bathymetric
See: map, bathymetric
chart, nautical
Representation of a portion of the navigable waters of the Earth and adjacent coastal areas on a specified map projection and designed specifically to meet requirements for marine navigation. Included on most nautical charts are depths of water, characteristics of the bottom, elevations of selected topographic features, general configurations and characteristics of the coast, the shoreline (usually the mean high water line), dangers, obstructions and aids to navigation limited tidal data, and information about magnetic variation in the charted area.
choropleth map
See: map, choropleth
clinometric map:
See: map, slope
color separation
Process of preparing a separate drawing, engraving, or negative for each color required in the printing production of a map or chart.
Preparation of a new or revised map or chart, or portion thereof, from existing maps, aerial photographs, field surveys, and other sources.
continuous tone
Image not broken into dots by photographic screen; contains unbroken gradient tones from black to white, and may be either in negative or positive form. Aerial photographs are examples of continuous-tone prints. Contrasted with halftone (screened) and line copy.
Imaginary line on ground, all points of which are at the same elevation above or below a specific datum.
contour interval
Difference in elevation between two adjacent contours.
control mapping
Points of established position or elevation, or both, which are used to fix references in positioning and correlating map features. Fundamental control is provided by stations in the national networks of triangulation and traverse (horizontal control) and leveling (vertical control). Usually it is necessary to extend geodetic surveys, based on fundamental stations, over the area to be mapped, to provide a suitable density and distribution of control points. Supplemental control points are those needed to relate the aerial photographs used for mapping with the system of ground control. These points must be positively photoidentified; that is, the points must be positively correlated with their images on the photographs.
control station
Point on the ground whose position (horizontal or vertical) is known and can be used as a base for additional survey work.
Linear and (or) angular quantities that designate the position of a point in relation to a given reference frame.
coordinates, origin of
Points in a system of coordinates which serves as a zero point in computing th
e system’s elements or in prescribing its use.
Features constructed by man that are under, on, or above the ground which are delineated on a map. These include roads, trails, buildings, canals, sewer systems, and boundary lines. In a broad sense, the term also applies to all names, other identification, and legends on a map.
datum (pl. datums)
In surveying, a reference system for computing or correlating the results of surveys. There are tow principal types of datums: vertical and horizontal. A vertical datum is a level surface to which heights are referred. In the United States, the generally adopted vertical datum for leveling operations is the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929. The horizontal datum is used as a reference for position. The North American Datum of 1927 is defined by the latitude and longitude of an initial point (Meade’s Ranch in Kansas), the direction of a line between this point and a specified second point, and two dimensions that define the spheroid. The new North American Datum of 1983 is based on a newly defined spheroid (GRS80); it is an Earth-centered datum having no initial point or initial direction.
datum, national geodetic vertical See: national geodetic vertical datum of 1929
In astronomy, the angular distance of a celestial body above (north, plus) or below (south, minus) the celestial Equator. Magnetic declination is the angular difference between magnetic north and true (geographic) north at the point of observation; it is not constant but varies with time because of the “wandering” of the magnetic north pole.
depth curve
Line on a map or chart connecting points of equal depth below the datum.
diazo process
Rapid method for copying documents in which the image is developed by exposure to ammonia.
Bank of earth or stone used to form a barrier, frequently and confusingly interchanged with levee. A dike restrains water within an area that normally is flooded. See levee.
electronic distance measuring (EDM) device:
Instruments that measure the phase difference between transmitted and reflected or retransmitted electromagnetic waves of known frequency, or that measure the round-trip transit time of a pulsed signal, from which distance is computed.
Vertical distance of a point above or below a reference surface or datum.
See: spheroid
engineering map
See: map, engineering
ER-55 plotter
Double-projection plotting instrument utilizing ellipsoidal reflectors for light projection.
Group of natural processes including weathering, dissolution, abrasion, corrosion, and transportation that remove material from any part of the Earth’s surface.
That portion of a stream influenced by the tide of the body of water into which it flows; an arm of the sea at a river mouth.
feature separation
Process of preparing a separate drawing, engraving, or negative for selected types of data in the preparation of a map or chart.
flood control map
See: map, flood control
flood plain
Belt of low flat ground bordering a stream channel that is flooded when runoff exceeds the capacity of the stream channel.
forestry map
See: map, forestry
Lines, resembling contour lines, drawn to present a conception of the shape of the terrain without regard to a true datum or regular spacing
Science concerned with the measurement and mathematical description of the size and shape of the earth and its gravitational fields. Geodesy also includes the large-scale, extended surveys for determining positions and elevations of points, in which the size and shape of the earth must be taken into account.
Figure of the Earth visualized as a mean sea level surface extended continuously through the continents. It is a theoretically continuous surface that is perpendicular at every point to the direction of gravity (the plumbline).
geologic map
See: map, geologic
Network of parallels and meridians on a map or chart.
graticule, geographic
System of coordinates of latitude and longitude used to define the position of a point on the surface of the Earth with respect to the reference spheroid.
Network of uniformly spaced parallel lines intersecting at right angles. When superimposed on a map, it usually carries the name of the projection used for the map- that is, Lambert grid, transverse Mercator grid, universal transverse Mercator grid.
Any series of lines used on a map to indicate the general direction and steepness of slopes. The lines are short, heavy, and close together for steep slopes; longer, lighter, and more widely spaced for gentle slopes.
A picture in which the gradations of light are obtained by the relative darkness and density of tiny dots produced by photographing the subject through a fine screen.
high water
Maximum height reached by a rising tide. The height may be due solely to the periodic tidal forces or it may have superimposed upon it the effects of prevailing meteorological conditions. Use of the “high tide” is discouraged.
high water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at an elevation of high water.
high water mark
Line or mark left upon tidal flats, beach, or along shore objects indicating the elevation or the intrusion of high water.
hydrographic survey
Survey of water area, with particular reference to submarine relief, and any adjacent land. See: oceanographic survey
Science that deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and their adjoining coastal areas, with particular reference to their use for navigation.
Scientific study of the waters of the Earth, especially with relation to the effects of precipitation and evaporation upon the occurrence and character of ground water.
hypsographic map
See: map, hypsographic
Topography referred to the national geodetic vertical datum of 1929. The science or art of describing heights of land surfaces with reference to this datum.
hypsometric map
See: map, hypsometric
Science or art of determining terrain relief, by any method.
Visible representation of objects and (or) phenomena as sensed or detected by cameras, infrared and multispectral scanners, radar, and photometers. Recording may be on photographic emulsion (directly as in a camera or indirectly after being first recorded on magnetic tape as an electrical signal) or on magnetic tape for subsequent conversion and display on a cathode ray tube.
infrared scanner (thermal mapper)
Instrument that detects infrared radiation and converts the detected energy to an electrical signal for recording on photographic film or magnetic tape.
isogonic chart
Chart showing isogonic lines properly labeled with their magnetic declination.
isogonic line
Line joining points on the Earth’s surface having equal magnetic declination as of a given date.
isopleth map
See: map, isopleth
Kelsh plotter
Double-projection plotting instrument utilizing swinging lamps to transmit light through contact- size diapositives (positive transparencies).
land use classification system
Coding system of categories and subcategories designed for use
on a map to designate land or water use.
land use map
See: map, land use
Monument of material mark or fixed object used to designate a land boundary on the ground: any prominent object on land that may be used to determine a location or a direction in navigation or surveying.
Angular distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds of a point north or south of the Equator.
lead line
Line weighted with lead for making depth soundings in water.
Artificial bank confining a stream channel or limiting adjacent areas subject to flooding; an embankment bordering a submarine canyon or channel, usually occurring along the outer edge of a curve.
level surface
Surface which at every point is perpendicular to the plumbline or the direction in which gravity acts.
Surveying operation in which heights of objects and points are determined relative to a specified datum.
line copy (line drawing) Map copy suitable for reproduction without the use of a screen; a drawing composed of lines as distinguished from continuous- tone copy.
line map
See: map, line
Angular distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds, of a point east or west of the Greenwich meridian.
low water:
Minimum height reached by a falling tide. The height may be due solely to the periodic tidal forces or it may have superimposed upon it the effects of meteorological conditions.
low water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at an elevation of low water. Not to be confused with mean low water line.
magnetic declination
See: declination
Graphic representation of the physical features (natural, artificial, or both) of a part or the whole of the Earth’s surface, by means of signs and symbols or photographic imagery, at an established scale, on a specified projection, and with the means of orientation indicated.
map, base
Map on which information may be placed for purposes of comparison or geographical correlation. The term “base map” was at one time applied to a class of maps now known as outline maps. It may be applied to topographic maps, also termed “mother maps” that are used in the construction of other types of maps by the addition of particular data.
map, bathymetric
Maps delineating the form of the bottom of a body of water, or a portion thereof, by the use of depth contours (isobaths).
map, cadastral
Map showing the boundaries of subdivisions of land, often with the bearings and lengths thereof and the areas of individual tracts, for purposes of describing and recording ownership. It may also show culture, drainage, and other features relating to land use and value. See:plat
map, choropleth
Thematic map in which areas are colored, shaded, dotted, or hatched to create darker or lighter areas in proportion to the density of distribution of the theme subject.
map digitization
Conversion of map data from graphic to digital form.
map, engineering
Map showing information that is essential for planning an engineering project or development and for estimating its cost. It usually is a large-scale map of a small area or of a route. It may be entirely the product of an engineering survey, or reliable information may be collected from various sources for the purpose, and assembled on a base map.
map, flood control
Map designed for studying and planning control projects in areas subject to flooding.
map, forestry
Map prepared principally to show the size, density, kind, and value of trees in a designated area.
map, geologic
Map showing the structure and composition of geologic features.
map hypsographic
Map showing relief with elevations referred to the national geodetic vertical datum of 1929.
map, hypsometric
Map showing relief by any convention, such as contours, hachures, shading, or tinting.
map, isopleth
Map consisting of lines connecting places of equal value of distribution for a given theme such as rainfall or temperature.
map, land use
Map showing by means of a coding system the various purposes for which parcels of land are being used by man.
map, line
Map composed of lines as distinguished from photographic imagery.
map, orthophotographic
See: orthophotographic map
map, photographic
See: photomap
map, planimetric
Map that presents only the horizontal positions for features represented. distinguished from a topographic map by the omission of relief in measurable form. The features usually shown on a planimetric map include rivers, lakes, and seas; mountains, valleys, and plains; forests, and prairies; cities, farms transportation routes, and public utility facilities; and political and private boundary lines. A planimetric map intended for special use may present only those features essential to the purpose to be served.
map projection
Orderly system of lines on a plane representing a corresponding system of imaginary lines on an adopted terrestrial or celestial datum surface. Also, the mathematical concept for such a system. For maps of the Earth, a projection consists of 1) a graticule of lines representing parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude or 2) a grid.
map series
Family of maps conforming generally to the same specifications and designed to cover an area or a country in systematic pattern.
map, slope (clinometric map)
Map showing the degree of steepness of the Earth’s surface by the use of various colors or shading for critical ranges of slope.
map, soil
Map that shows the constitution, structure, and texture of the soil and identifies ongoing erosion.
map, storm evacuation
Map designed to identify coastal areas subject to flooding, to indicate recommended areas of refuge, and to emphasize available evacuation routes.
map, thematic
Map designed to provide information on a single topic, such as geology, rainfall, population.
map, topographic
Map that present the horizontal and vertical positions of the features represented; distinguished from a planimetric map by the addition of relief in measurable form.
marsh, coastal
Area of salt-tolerant vegetation in brackish and (or) saline-water habitants subject to tidal inundation.
marsh, freshwater
Tract of low wet ground, usually miry and covered with rank vegetation.
mean high water
Tidal datum that is the arithmetic mean of the high water heights observed over a specific 19-year Metonic cycle (National Tidal Datum Epoch). For stations with shorter series, simultaneous observations are made with a primary control tide station to derive the equivalent of a 19-year value. Use of “mean high tide” is discouraged.
mean high water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at the elevation of high water. See: shoreline
mean low water
Tidal datum that is the arithmetic mean of the low water heights observed over a specific 19-year Metonic cycle (National Tidal Datum Epoch). For stations with shorter series, simultaneous observations are made with a primary control tide sta
tion to derive the equivalent of a 19-year value. Use of “mean low tide” is discouraged.
mean low water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at the elevation of low water.
mean sea level
Tidal datum that is the arithmetic mean of the hourly water elevations observed over a specific 19-yearMetonic cycle (National Tidal Datum Epoch). Shorter series are specified in the name; that is, monthly mean sea level and yearly mean sea level. See: datum
meander line
Metes-and-bounds traverse approximately along the mean high water line of a permanent body of water. By following the sinuosities of the bank or shoreline, the meander line provides data for computing the area of land remaining after the water area has been segregated. A meander line differs from other metes and bounds surveys in that it does not ordinarily determine or fix boundaries.
Capable of being depicted by reference to a meander line.
Great circle on the surface of the Earth passing through the geographical poles and any given point on the Earth’s surface. All points on a given meridian have the same longitude.
metes and bounds
Method of describing land by measure of length (metes) of the boundary lines (bounds).
Metonic cycle
Period of 235 lunations or about 19 years. devised by Meton, an Athenian astronomer (5th century B.C.) for the purpose of obtaining a period at the end of which the phases of the moon recur in the same order and on the same days as in the preceding cycle.
metric system
Decimal system of weights and measures based on the meter as a unit length and the kilogram as a unit mass.
Pertaining to the observation of a single photograph or other view.
monument (surveying)
Permanent physical structure marking the location of a survey point. Common types of monuments are inscribed metal tablets set in concrete posts; and metal rods driven in the ground.
mosaic, aerial
Assembly of aerial photographs whose edges usually have been torn or cut selectively and matched to the imagery on adjoining photographs to form a continuous representation of a portion of the Earth’s surface.
Stereoplotter of the double-projection type characterized by its use of reduced- scale diapositives and stationary lamphouses with condensing lenses.
multispectral scanner (MSS)
Device for sensing radian energy in several channels of the electromagnetic spectrum.
national geodetic vertical datum of 1929
Reference surface established by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1929 as the datum to which relief features and elevation data are referenced in the conterminous United States; formerly called “mean sea level 1929.”
National Map Accuracy Standards
Specifications promulgated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to govern accuracy of topographic and other maps produced by Federal Agencies.
navigable waters
Water usable, with or without improvements, as routes for commerce in the customary means of travel on water.
Line separating the body of a map from the map margin. On a standard quadrangle map, the neatlines are the meridians and parallels delimiting the quadrangle.
oceanic survey
Survey or examination of condition in the ocean or any part of it, with reference to animal or plant life, chemical elements present, temperature gradients, etc. See: hydrographic survey
Comparatively flat zone of variable width that extends from the outer margin of the rather steeply sloping shoreface to the edge of the continental shelf.
Establishing correct relationship in direction with reference to points of the compass; the state of being in correct relationship in direction with reference to the points of the compass.
origin of coordinates
Point in a system of coordinates that serves as a zero point in computing the system’s elements or in prescribing its use.
Photograph having the properties of an orthographic projection. It is derived from a conventional perspective photograph by simple or differential rectification so that image displacements caused by camera tilt and terrain relief are removed.
orthophotographic map
Map produced by assembling orthophotographs at a specified uniform scale in a map format.
Orthophotographic map with contours and cartographic treatment, presented in a standard format, and related to standard reference systems.
Monocolor orthophotgraphic map presented in a standard quadrangle format and related to standard reference systems. It has no contours and little or cartographic treatment.
Photomechanical device used in conjunction with a double-projection stereoplotter for producing orthophotograph.
Any portion of a map lying outside the nominal map border (neatline).
Printing or drawing on a transparent or translucent medium intended to be placed in register on a map or other graphic and which shows details not appearing or requiring special emphasis on the base material.
New material printed on a map or chart to show data of importance or special use, in addition to those data originally printed.
parallel of latitude
A circle, or approximation of a circle, on the surface of the Earth, parallel tot he Equator, and connecting points of equal latitude; a circle of the celestial sphere parallel to the ecliptic, and connecting points of equal celestial latitude.
Science or art of obtaining reliable measurements or information from photographs or other sensing systems.
photomap (photographic map)
Map made by adding marginal information, descriptive data, and a reference system to a photograph or assembly of photographs.
Region of uniform general slope, comparatively level, of considerable extent, and not broken by marked elevations and depressions (it may be an extensive valley floor or a plateau summit); an extent of level or nearly level land; a flat, gently sloping, or nearly level region of the sea floor.
Instrument consisting essentially of a drawing board on a tripod and some type of sighting device (alidade) with attached straightedge, used for plotting the lines of survey directly from observation in the field.
planimetric map
See: map, planimetric
Plan details of a map – those having no indication of relief or contour.
Diagram drawn to scale showing all essential data pertaining to the boundaries and subdivisions of a tract of land, as determined by survey or protraction. As used by the Bureau of Land Management, the drawing which represents the particular area included in a survey, such as township, private land claim, or mineral claim, and the lines surveyed, established, or retraced, showing the direction and length of each such line; The relation to the adjoining official surveys; the boundaries, descriptions, and area of each parcel of land subdivided; and, as nearly as may be practicable, a representation of the relief and improvements within the limits of the survey.
prime meridian
Meridian of longitude 0 degrees, used as the origin for measurements of longitude. The meridian of Greenwich, England, is the internationally accepted prime meridian on most charts. However, local or nation
al prime meridians are occasionally used.
projection, map
See: map, projection
public land system
Public lands are subdivided by a rectangular system of surveys established and regulated by the Bureau of Land Management. The standard format for subdivision is by townshipsmeasuring 6 miles (480 chains) on a side. Townships are further subdivided into 36 numbered sections of 1 square mile (640 acres) each.
quad-centered photograph
Middle exposure of a phototriplet (three consecutive aerial photographs) take so that the middle photograph is exposed directly above the center of the quadrangle and the preceding and following photographs are exposed directly above the boundaries of the quadrangle. The flying height is set such that the quad-centered photograph covers the entire quadrangle.
Four-sided area, bounded by parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude used as an area unit in mapping (dimensions are not necessarily the same in both directions). Also, a geometric figure of significance in geodetic surveying.
radial-line plotting
Determination of the location of points by the successive intersection and resection of direction lines radiating from the radial centers of overlapping aerial photographs.
rectification, differential
The process of scanning and reprojecting a photograph onto a horizontal plane in differential elements to remove displacements caused by tilt and relief. The process may be accomplished by any one of a number of instruments developed specifically for the purpose.
rectification, simple
Projection of an aerial photograph (mathematically, graphically, or photographically) from its plane onto a horizontal plane by translation, rotation, and (or) scale change to remove displacement due to tilt of the camera.
Elevations and depressions of the land or sea bottom.
relief shading
Technique for making hypsography on a map appear three dimensional by the use of graded shadow effects. Generally, the features are shaded as though illuminated from the northwest.
remote sensing
Process of detecting and (or) monitoring chemical or physical properties of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation.
representational fraction
Scale of a map or chart expressed as a fraction or ratio that relates unit distance on the map to distance measured in the same unit on the ground.
Summation of all processes involved in printing copies from an original drawing. A printed copy of an original drawing made by the processes of reproduction
Relationship existing between a distance on a map, chart, or photograph and the corresponding distance on the Earth.
sea level (water level)
Height of the surface of the sea at any given time.
Unit of subdivision of a township; normally a quadrangle 1 mile square with boundaries conforming tomeridians and parallels within established limits, and containing 640 acres as nearly as practicable.
Technical means, usually electronic, to extend man’s natural senses by detecting emitted or reflected energy. The energy may be nuclear, electromagnetic (including the visible and invisible portions of the spectrum), chemical, biological, thermal, or mechanical
Intersection of the land with the water surface.
slope map
See: map, slope
soil map
See: map, soil
Mathematical figure closely approaching the geoid in form and size and used as a surface of reference for geodetic surveys. A reference spheroid or ellipsoid is a spheroid determined by revolving an ellipse about its shorter (polar) axis and used as a base for geodetic surveys of a large section of the Earth (such as the Clarke spheroid of 1866 which is used for geodetic surveys in the United States).
spot elevation
Point on a map or chart whose height above a specified datum is noted, usually by a dot or a small sawbuck and elevation value. Elevations are shown, on a selective basis, for road forks and intersections, grade crossings summit of hills, mountain
Technique of distance measurement wherein the observer reads the intercept subtended on a graduated rod between two marks on the reticle of the telescope.
standard-accuracy adjustment
See: adjustment, standard-accuracy
state plane coordinate system
Coordinate systems established by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (now the National Ocean Survey), usually one for each state, for use in defining positions of points in terms of plane rectangular (x,y) coordinates.
Production of a map or chart manuscript from aerial photographs and geodetic control data by means of photogrammetric instruments.
Instrument for plotting a map by observation of stereomodels formed by pairs of photographs.
Pertaining to the use of binocular vision for observation of a pair of overlapping photographs or other perspective views, giving impression of depth.
storm evacuation map
See: map, storm evacuation
Decrease in the elevation of land surface due to tectonic, seismic, or artificial forces, without removal of surface material.
Orderly process of determining data relating to any physical or chemical characteristics of the Earth. The associated data obtained in a survey. An organization engaged in making a survey.
tacheometer (tachymeter)
Surveying instrument designed for use in the rapid determination of distance, direction, and difference of elevation from a single observation, using a short base which may be an intergraph part of the instrument.
thematic map
See: map, thematic
Precision surveying instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles.
Periodic rise and fall of the water resulting from gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth. The vertical component of the particulate motion of a tidal wave. Although the accompanying horizontal movement of the water is part of the same phenomenon, it is preferable to designate this motion as tidal current.
topographic map
See: map, topographic
Configuration (relief) of the land surface; the graphic delineation or portrayal of that configuration in map form, as by contour lines; in oceanography the term is applied to a surface such as the sea bottom or surface of given characteristics within the water mass.
Unit of survey of the public lands of the United States, normally a quadrangle approximately 6 miles on a side with boundaries conforming to meridians and parallels within established limits, containing 36 sections. Also, in minor governmental subdivision.
Precision surveying instrument; a theodolite in which the telescope can be reversed in direction by rotation about its horizontal axis.
Sequence of lengths and directions of lines connecting a series of stations, obtained from field measurements, and used in determining positions of the stations.
Method of extending horizontal position on the surface of the Earth by measuring the angles of triangles and the included sides of selected triangles.
Method of surveying wherein the lengths of the triangle sides are measured, usually by electronic methods, and the angles are computed from the measured lengths. Compare with triangulation.
Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid
Military grid system based on the transverse Mercator projection, applied to maps of the Earth’s surface extending from the Equator to 84 Degrees north and 80 degrees south latitudes
Highland; ground elevation above the lowlands along rivers or between hills.
zenith telescope
Instrument for observing starts near the zenith (a point on the celestial sphere directly above the observer’s position). ground below the water table where all the pores in rock, sediment, and soil are filled with water

Please offer your own as well!! Contact me below


Nick D

Coordinate System Definition in GIS

If you work with geographic data then you will have come across all the information that relates to a coordinate system or datum, but what does it mean?

In previous posts I have discussed coordinate transformation & the basics of coordinate systems, following on from this, I thought it would be useful to share some information about coordinate system parameters & the UK standard which I mostly work to.

Coordinate systems 101 – Parameters

If you work with geographic data then you will have come across all the information that relates to a coordinate system or datum, but what does it mean? No doubt, you will have come across something like this?

Coordinate Parameters

First of all note that there are 2 headers here, HORIZONTAL and VERTICAL coordinate reference system. The horizontal relates to your everyday x,y coordinate system whereas the vertical relates to the height [also known at Z or H]. Normally, on most maps or charts, the vertical coordinate system is not required as the end user only wishes to know the conversions and parameters that have been used to translate the real world spherical data into a flat map. This isn’t to say that the vertical reference shouldn’t be used, it is quite important when creating offshore mapping or maps with suggested heights so that objects like MHW [Mean High Water] can be interpreted correctly – MHW is affected by height and therefore will appear greater or larger depending on vertical reference.

Already we have answered part of the question originally asked as stated in the last paragraph – where the paper/printed/web map is a two dimensional representation of what would be curved or have height in the real world, the user needs to understand how this has been done. There are several reasons why, some users are civil engineers and need to ensure accuracy, so users are legal and have to meet standards, others are just really OCD and want to ensure that the latest and most up to date translations are being used. Let’s go through what each of the terms mean:

EPSG coordinate reference system code: Sometimes called the CRS, EPSG or SRS code – Each “approved” coordinate system has a 5 digit code which can be EPSG Registry Database and provides all the necessary information about a coordinate system. The official geomatics codes are held by the International Association of International Oil and Gas Producers.

EPSG dataset version: The version of the reference system which is being used, this is relevant for systems based on dynamic datum & to ensure the latest, most up to date version is being used.

Geographic coordinate reference system name:  This relates to the GEOGRAPHIC [datum] SYSTEM name which is used. Sometimes also called the GRS [Geographic Reference System] or the GCS [Geographic Coordinate System].

Ellipsoid name: Also called spheroid. The ellipsoid/spheroid refers to the reference surface being used to emulate the Earth. This will be specific to this area of the world (sometimes called a local datum or if best fitting the whole earth a global datum). The image below shows how the local datum is quite poorly shaped globally but for the specific area of need it is extremely accurate whereas the global datum is a “best fit” all around, not amazing accurate everywhere but the best compromise.

Local and global

Ellipsoid semi-major axis:  If we take the above image, the semi-major axis is the distance from where the equator touches the surface to the centre of the spheroid, the correct terminology is “The longest radius of an ellipse”, this is described [commonly] as a distance in metres.
Ellipsoid inverse flattening: For some reason, rather than provide the semi-minor axis, we [geographers] prefere to give the inverse flattening, this is simply a measure of how much the symmetry axis is compressed relative to the equatorial radius, commonly provided in metres.
Map Projection name: This is the local coordinate system name, for example “British National Grid” or “Zone 30N”. This should only ever be used with other information as there can be several projections which use the same name but use different GCS or parameters. For example, “UTM Zone 30N” exists with both WGS84 datum and with ED50 datum.
Map Projection method name: This refers to the method by which the “flat” is fitted to the “round”. There are several methods, with each preserving either area, shape, direction or scale. Because the sphere is not a developable surface, it is impossible to construct a map projection that is both equal-area and conformal. Map Projection Methods



latitude of natural origin: Also called the “latitude of projection origin”, it is the latitude chosen as the origin of rectangular coordinates for a map projection.
longitude of natural origin: Also called the “longitude of projection origin”, it is the longitude chosen as the origin of rectangular coordinates for a map projection. The important thing to remember about the latitude and longitude of origin is that they don’t affect the distortion pattern of the map. All they do is define where the map’s x,y units will originate.

False origin
scale factor at natural origin: This is a multiplier for reducing a distance obtained from a map by computation or scaling to the actual distance at the projection origin
false easting: The value added to all “x” values in the rectangular coordinates for a map projection. This value frequently is assigned to eliminate negative numbers.
false northing: The value added to all “y” values in the rectangular coordinates for a map projection. This value frequently is assigned to eliminate negative numbers.
Projected CRS axes units name: This relates to the units to be used for x,y ccordinates (Normally metres but don’t be surprised by feet & inches!)

How much of this should I put on a map?

This seems a little overkill doesn’t it? Well, not really, there have been several occasions where I have had to create my own coordinate system to more accurately map a local area, the only way to relate this is to provide all those parameters so that the GIS can properly relate it to the map.

Although it is commonly used in the offshore industry, there are guidelines for what should be displayed and provided which has been set out by the OGP [the holders of the EPSG registry]. You can read them here: Coordinate reference system definition —recommended practice

Nick D

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