GRASS 6 Tutorial/Vector data management

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Vector data management

Importing Vector data

The GRASS modules* and v.out.* handle the importing and exporting of Vector datasets. is widely used and has simplified the import of vector data; OGR itself support a wide range of formats. v.out.ogr always exports the entire vector map

Importing an ESRI Shapefile

The following code snippet is a simple usage of, which imports an ESRI Shapefile into the native vector format: dsn=boundary_county.shp out=boundary_county 

However, has many options to import subsets (defined spatially or by SQL) and vector types

The same can be achieved using the GRASS Graphical Interface. The Vector import interface can be accessed through the vector layer manager:

Vector layer manager.png Vector layer import.png

You can easily import a subset of your data by specifying the spatial extent or an SQL query defined within the where command line argument: --o dsn=./ output=subset layer=boundary_county where="NAME = 'DUPLIN' OR NAME = 'WAKE'"
| Layer:           subset                                                    |
| Mapset:          PERMANENT                                                 |
| Location:        nc_spm_08_geostat                                         |
| Database:        /home/daniel/GRASSWiki/data                               |
| Title:                                                                     |
| Map scale:       1:1                                                       |
| Map format:      native                                                    |
| Name of creator: daniel                                                    |
| Organization:                                                              |
| Source date:     Wed Nov  7 16:10:01 2012                                  |
|   Type of Map:  vector (level: 2)                                          |
|                                                                            |
|   Number of points:       0               Number of areas:      2          |
|   Number of lines:        0               Number of islands:    2          |
|   Number of boundaries:   2               Number of faces:      0          |
|   Number of centroids:    2               Number of kernels:    0          |
|                                                                            |
|   Map is 3D:              No                                               |
|   Number of dblinks:      1                                                |
|                                                                            |
|         Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic                                |
|               N:   258121.97732598    S:   106860.16001618                 |
|               E:   732841.78315847    W:   610047.98051883                 |
|                                                                            |
|   Digitization threshold: 0                                                |
|   Comments:                                                                |
|                                                                            |

Virtual link an ESRI Shapefile

If you prefer not to import your vector datasets into the native GRASS vector format, you can create a virtual link to it using v.external

This can be done as follows:

v.external dsn=./ output=boundary_county layer=boundary_county
Building topology for vector map <boundary_county>...
Number of nodes: 1707
Number of primitives: 1981
Number of points: 0
Number of lines: 0
Number of boundaries: 1055
Number of centroids: 926
Number of areas: 1055 
Number of isles: 1055
Number of areas without centroid: 129

Import an XY/XYZ ASCII file

You can easily generate a GRASS point vector file from a text file containing X,Y coordinates.


Pipe the coordinates to the module

cat coords.txt | out=points

Add the categories to the vector points to facilitate attribute joins:

v.category in=points out=points_final op=add
v.category points_final op=report

You can then add a new attribute table to the vector file using v.db.addtable

v.db.addtable map=points

You can replicate the above procedure for three dimensional data (XYZ), by modifying the argument list

You can easily generate a GRASS point vector file from a text file containing X,Y coordinates.

cat coords.txt | -z out=points

Import an XY table from a DBMS or Spreadsheet

If you have a list of coordinates (x,y) with associated attributes stored in a spreadsheet table (DBF, CSV, Excel, etc). It's fairly easy to generate a map from them using In the following example, we import the table, meteostations that has the columns 'east', 'north', 'quota' (z) and some attribute columns. driver=pg database=",dbname=mydb,user=name" table=meteostations x=east y=north z=quota  key=id output=meteostations

This command creates the new vector map (native format) with attributes table in a DBF file.

We can display these points in a display monitor and query them as follows:

d.mon start=x0
d.vect meteostations

Importing a DXF file

Both 2D and 3D DXF files can be imported into GRASS using the module This can be done very simply from the command-line as follows -1 Masterplanxy.dxf
Following DXF layers found:
Layer 1: line
Building topology for vector map <Masterplanxy>...
Registering primitives...
64302 primitives registered
405521 vertices registered
Building areas...
0 areas built
0 isles built
Attaching islands...
Attaching centroids...
Number of nodes: 71142
Number of primitives: 64302
Number of points: 0
Number of lines: 64302
Number of boundaries: 0
Number of centroids: 0
Number of areas: 0
Number of isles: 0

This can also be done using the GUI interface

Import dxf.png

And then visualised within the map display

Dxf display.png

Exporting Vector data

Using the module v.out.ogr it is possible to export native GRASS Vector data to a range of formats:


Vector out ogr.png Vector layer export.png

Introductory information on vector data processing is available from the help manual.

Grass Six Tutorial Attribute Management

       - General notes on Attribute 
         management; Managing the default settings; Examples;
         Database Schema