How to Open ESRI Geodatabase in QGIS

For those who are working with ESRI ArcGIS software, storing data in a geodatabase is a common practice. There are some benefits of storing data in a geodatabase such as organizing data in a more structured way, relationship between or among dataset can be defined, it's possible to do SQL operation and many more. But what if your ArcGIS license is expired and you don't have access to it. Is it possible to access the data in a geodatabase with QGIS? This short post will show you how to do it.

Open ESRI Geodatabase with QGIS Browser

There are three ways that can be done to open a geodatabase file in QGIS. We start with the first one using QGIS Browser. Like a browser in Linux, Windows or any operating system, it shows all data in a path, folder or directory. The same with the QGIS browser we use it to look at what's in there in a path, with some additional capabilities to support geospatial data like adding data directly to QGIS map or project, exporting data, checking file properties which include metadata, attributes and data preview.

Let's do it. Open your QGIS, look at the Browser next to the layer panel. If it doesn't appear in your QGIS go to View, Panels and check Browser as shown in figure 1.

Show Browser Panel in QGIS
Figure 1. Show Browser Panel in QGIS

In the browser panel, browse to the ESRI geodatabase file. In this tutorial I use a geodatabase which is called sample_ca.gdb. In the figure 2, all the files in the geodatabase can be seen.

Figure 2. Files in Geodatabase

Next let's check the properties of a file. Right click a file and select Layer Properties... The Layer Properties window will appear as in figure 3. Can be seen at the top of the window, there are three tabs: Metadata, Preview, and Attributes. Switch to the corresponding tab if you want to see metadata of the file, preview the data and take a look at the attributes.

QGIS Geodatabase Layer Properties Window
Figure 3. Layer Properties Window

To add a data in the geodatabase into a QGIS map, right click a file to be added and select Add Layer to Project or simply double click the file. The selected file will be added to the QGIS map canvas as seen in figure 4.

Geodatabase Data in QGIS
Figure 4. Geodatabase Data in QGIS

Open Geodatabase with Data Source Manager

The second way to open an ESRI geodatabase in QGIS is using Data Source Manager. From the Layer menu select Data Source Manager. The data source manager window will appear as in figure 5. On the left panel, select Vector. In the right panel the options for vector data will appear. In the Source Type select Directory. Then select OpenFileGDB and in the Vector Dataset(s) browse to the geodatabase.

QGIS Data Source Manager
Figure 5. QGIS Data Source Manager

After pushing the Add button, the data items to select will appear in a window as in figure 6. In the window we can select all files to be added into QGIS or select some files using the Ctrl keyboard button.

Select Geodatabase Items to QGIS
Figure 6. Select Geodatabase Items to QGIS

Drag and Drop

The last method to open or add ESRI Geodatabase data into QGIS is by drag and drop. Open the browser file window in your machine and select a geodatabase. Drag it into the QGIS layer panel. When the + icon appears over the layer panel, drop it. The select items windows will appear again as in figure 6. Figure 7 shows steps in this method.

Add Geodatabase File with Drag and Drop Method
Figure 7. Add Geodatabase File with Drag and Drop Method

That's all this tutorial on how to open files in ESRI Geodatabase into QGIS. We already discussed three methods on how to perform the tasks, started with using the QGIS browser, add data from the Data Source Manager and the drag and drop method. From now I hope you don't worry anymore if you can't access the file in ESRI geodatabase when the license is expired and you can't afford to purchase a new one. Or maybe you want to switch to QGIS :).

Anyway in another tutorial I wrote on how to access data from ArcGIS REST API in QGIS. Check it out if you're interested. Thanks!

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