Setting Up PyQGis Development Environment with PyDev on Windows

My latest work project has taken me down the path of custom GIS desktop application development using the PyQGis API. I’ve been very impressed with both the range of functionality provided by the PyQGis API as well as the efficiency and ease in becoming productive in this environment relatively quickly. I come from a more traditional ArcObjects background so maybe that’s why I’ve come to this conclusion — anybody who’s worked in ArcObjects can probably appreciate the fact that it’s very powerful but a total bear to really wrap your head around.

I found one of the biggest challenges in getting going with the QGis API was simply setting up a development environment (since it was all new to me). A huge plus with the QGis framework is that it can be deployed on a variety of platforms — you’re not limited to Windows. However, in my case, I was developing a custom GIS application with an explicit requirement to integrate with an old Win32 COM dll so I knew from the beginning that I was limited to this platform. Since I was targeting the application for a Windows environment, it naturally made the most sense to do my development work in Windows as well.

So this post is a basic tutorial on (at least one way) of setting up a PyQGis development environment on Windows. It’s primarily intended for developers that have an interest in, but limited exposure to Python and QGis. A true pythonista could get started with PyQGis in a matter of minutes, but that was not my position when I got started and I’m sure there are others out there who don’t fall into this category. Plus, I’ll be migrating from Windows to a Mac in the next couple of weeks and this tutorial will provide me with the necessary documentation should I ever find myself developing PyQGis on Windows again in the future (I tend to forget things relatively quickly if they’re not right in front of my face or if I don’t repeat them over and over).

So with that being said, let’s get started.

From the PyQGis documentation, you’ll find that there are three main ways to utilize the PyQGis API:

  1. via commands in python console window in QGis (via plugins menu)
  2. via development of custom plugins to the QGis application
  3. via creation of custom desktop applications

The first two methods above are more or less tightly integrated into the QGis application. I’ll be focusing on the third category in which you develop custom applications using the PyQGis API more or less independent of the QGis application itself.

Lately, I’ve been doing most of my development using Aptana Studio b/c it’s a very powerful IDE for developing in a variety of languages and has great web development support via tight integration with most of the prominent JavaScript frameworks out there. Aptana is built upon Eclipse so another great advantage of the IDE is that you can leverage the seemingly limitless supply of Eclipse plugins to extend the IDE and ultimately increase your overall productivity. PyDev is an Eclipse plugin that provides a very robust environment for Python development — so I chose to take advantage of it.


From the My Aptana view in Aptana Studio, you can install the PyDev plugin by clicking on the Plugins icon

and activating the Platform tab. You’ll see PyDev in the list of plugins — simply click the Get it link:

Select PyDev in the following screen and click Next


Click Next on the following screen and accept the license terms.


Once PyDev is installed and you’ve restarted Aptana, the next step is to actually get the PyQGis python bindings themselves. Even though we’ll be building standalone custom GIS applications outside of QGis, the easiest way to get the PyQGis bindings and their dependencies is to install the QGis application itself. There are two easy ways to achieve this in a Windows environment: 1) install the QGis application via the standalone installer OR 2) install the PyQGis python bindings via the OSGeo4W installer. Going this approach also allows us to later explore the other two ways of leveraging the QGis API  — via the python command line within QGis and via developing custom QGis plugins. The other advantage to this approach is that the PyQGis API dependencies are also installed with the QGis application (Python, PyQt4 and SIP).

QGis Standalone Installer:

Very straightforward, just follow the prompts.

OSGeo4W Installer:

Can be a little more involved because there are a lot more options. The easiest method is to select the Express Desktop Install option and make sure that "Quantum GIS" is selected in the second screen: 

Once QGis is installed, the last step is to configure your PyDev environment to define the environment variables necessary to run the python interpreter and point to the PyQGis python bindings. The configuration paths are different depending upon the type of QGis installation above but the process is the same.


The first step is to define the location of the python interpreter (python.exe) that PyDev will use to execute python code. In PyDev, click on Window –> Preferences. Once the preferences window is open, click onPyDev –> Interpreter – Python in the left hand tree view and you should see the following screen:

In the Python Interpreters section at the top, click on New and provide a name and path to the python interpreter (python.exe). For example, for the standalone QGis installation the interpreter should be defined as follows:

 For the OSGeo4W QGis installation, the interpreter should be defined as follows:


After clicking OK, deselect all options in the next screen (we will add these manually). Next, we need to define all folders to be included in the PYTHONPATH environment variable. Click on New Folder and add the following folders to the PYTHONPATH:


C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\apps\Python25
C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\apps\Python25\Lib
C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\apps\Python25\sip
C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\apps\qgis\python




Once the PYTHONPATH environment variable is configured, the last step is to configure the PYTHONHOME and PATH environment variables. Click on the Environment tab in the middle of the screen and then click the New button. Define the PATH environment variable as follows:


C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\bin;C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\apps\qgis\bin;%PATH%




The last configuration to define is the PYTHONHOME environment variable. Click the New button and define this as follows:


C:\Program Files\Quantum GIS Tethys\apps\Python25




Open up a python console window or create a new Python file and type the following commands:

import PyQt4.QtGui
import PyQt4.QtCore
from qgis.gui import *
from qgis.core import *

PyQt4 is a Python module that is a dependency of the PyQGis python bindings. It is a set of python bindings for the Qt application framework — a very robust cross-platform application and GUI framework. QGis.gui and qgis.core are the main modules of the PyQGis python bindings. If everything is configured correctly, these commands should execute without error. If there is a problem in the configuration, you may see an error such as the following:

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 1, in
ImportError: No module named qgis.core

This simply means that a necessary Python module could not be found — check each step and try again until these commands execute without error.


15 responses to “Setting Up PyQGis Development Environment with PyDev on Windows

  1. Hi, that’s great post. But I have a problem in setting the OSGeo4W python interpreter in Aptana, in which I pointed to python.exe in OSGeo4W bin folder, but Apatana throws an error.

    Have you seen that before?

    • I have not seen that. Could you post more details about the error thrown by Aptana and the Aptana version that you are using?

  2. It says following:

    See error log for details.
    No output was in the standard output when trying to create the interpreter info.
    The error output contains:>>’import site’ failed; use -v for traceback
    Traceback (most recent call last):
    File “E:\programs\pydev\eclipse\plugins\org.python.pydev_1.6.4.2011010200\PySrc\”, line 15, in
    import os
    ImportError: No module named os

    I actually tried both Aptana and PyDev on Eclipse Java IDE, and both gave the same error.

  3. I actually tried both standalone QGIS 1.6 and OSGeo4W on two different machines and they all have the same problem, so I wonder if it is some change in QGIS and OSGeo4W themselves.

  4. That’s quite possible. I believe these instructions were originally developed using QGis 1.4 or 1.5. The only thing that I can think of that may affect that is the path to the python executable. I know this seems obvious but can you verify that the python.exe exists in the path you defined?

  5. Yes, the python.exe is there in the OSGeo4W bin folder.

  6. Well I uninstalled all instances of Aptana and standalone QGis and OSGeo4W. I then followed these instructions again with Aptana 2.0 and OSGeo4W (with QGis 1.6) and everything worked.

    Yingqi — the error you are receiving doesn’t even get to the QGis modules and really points to your Aptana and PyDev setup. The only thing I can suggest at this point is making sure that you define the PATH and PYTHONHOME environment variables as these are key in getting access to the python.exe file. However, based on your description it sounds like you’re getting an error after setting the path to the python.exe — is this true?

    Also, the other thing I noticed is that the pydev plugin is pointing to a location on the E drive. This shouldn’t make a difference but it does deviate from my setup and could potentially be an issue.

  7. Note that this error is common. The way around it is to install python25 as a standalone. It will install in the c:\python25 directory. You can then select the python.exe from the osgeo4w\bin without the error.

  8. David Greenberg

    I noticed that you will be doing this on a Mac. Any clues on how to set up AptanaStudio 2.0.5 to use the qGIS Python libraries? Thanks.


  9. Mian Kashif Ali

    Thanx you so much, You are ma teacher! 🙂

  10. Pingback: qgis.core import error fix (PyQGIS) | scribbles

  11. I used your instruction, great job! I still have problem with processing module throwing ImportError: No module named processing.

  12. Old Post but it is very well explained. I solved my issue with an external application of QGIS Pisa. Great Job and thanks a lot!

  13. Pingback: Visor de Capas (Shapefiles y Ráster) con QGIS, Python y Qt en Windows 7 | El Blog de José Guerrero

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