Build and deploy c++ QGIS custom application on windows

After a lot of troubles, I managed to compile and deploy a QGIS c++ app on windows. This small guide will describe the steps I followed. This has been tested on win xp and windows 7, both in 32 bits.

Development environment

Your app must be built using MSVC 9.0 (2008) since QGIS in OSGeo’s package was built with it. Hence, MinGW cannot be used.

  1. Install Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2008.
  2. Install QGIS and Qt libs using OSGeo4W installer
  3. Install Qt Creator
  4. If you want a debugger,you should install CDB. This can be achieved by installing Windows SDK environment. In the installation process, only select Debugging toos for windows.

I wasn’t able to use the compiler yet, so I am not 100% sure about 4.

Now, if you want to build using Qt Creator, it must be started in a proper environment. Adapt this batch to launch Qt Creator:



call "%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin\o4w_env.bat"

@set QMAKESPEC=win32-msvc2008
@set PATH=%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis-dev\bin;%PATH%

@set INCLUDE=%INCLUDE%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\include;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis-dev\include
@set LIB=%LIB%;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\lib;%OSGEO4W_ROOT%\apps\qgis-dev\lib

path %OSGEO4W_ROOT%\bin;%SYSTEMROOT%\System32;%SYSTEMROOT%;%SYSTEMROOT%\System32\wbem;C:\Progra~1\Git\bin;C:\Qt\qtcreator-3.0.1\bin;%PATH%

set VS90COMNTOOLS=C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\Tools\
call "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\VC\vcvarsall.bat" x86

start "Qt Creator" /B C:\Qt\qtcreator-3.0.1\bin\qtcreator.exe %*

Then, you need to configure a proper kit in Qt Creator.

  1. Go to Options -> Build & Run -> Compilers and check that Microsoft Visual C++ Compiler 9.0 is correctly detected.
  2. Then in Qt Versions tab, add Qt from the OSGeO installation, normally c:\OSGeo4W\bin\qmake.exe
  3. In Debuggers tab, add cdb.exe found in c:\Debugging tools for windows\ 
  4. Finally, check in Kits that it is properly configured.

Building the application

This is what looks like an application project file.

QT += core gui xml
greaterThan(QT_MAJOR_VERSION, 4): QT += widgets
TARGET = hfp
RESOURCES += images/images.qrc

win32:CONFIG(Release, Debug|Release) {
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtCore4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtGui4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtXml4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_core
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_gui
else:win32:CONFIG(Debug, Debug|Release) {
 PRE_TARGETDEPS += C:/OSGeo4W/lib/QtCored4.lib
 PRE_TARGETDEPS += C:/OSGeo4W/lib/QtGuid4.lib
 PRE_TARGETDEPS += C:/OSGeo4W/lib/QtXmld4.lib
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtCored4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtGuid4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/lib/" -lQtXmld4
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_core
 LIBS += -L"C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/lib/" -lqgis_gui
 INCLUDEPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/include
 DEPENDPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/include
 INCLUDEPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/include
 DEPENDPATH += C:/OSGeo4W/apps/qgis-dev/include
 DEFINES += GUI_EXPORT=__declspec(dllimport) CORE_EXPORT=__declspec(dllimport)
unix {
 LIBS += -L/usr/local/lib/ -lqgis_core -lqgis_gui
 LIBS += -L/usr/local/lib/qgis/plugins/ -lgdalprovider
 INCLUDEPATH += /usr/local/include/qgis


  • GUI_EXPORT and CORE_EXPORT must be set to __declspec(dllimport). I don’t know exactly what it means, but I found out reading this thread, with some hazardous tries. If you don’t set these, you won’t be able to call any variable defined as extern in QGIS (e.g. cursors).
  • Qt release libraries shall not be mixed up with debug config in your project. In other words, use release libs for release mode and debug libs for debug mode.

With this, you should be able to compile your QGIS application in Qt Creator!

You can find some coding examples on github which are a bit old but still useful to start.

Now, to get the whole potential of QGIS libs, you must initialize the QgsApplication in your main window class:

#if defined(Q_WS_WIN)
  QString pluginPath = "c:\\OSGeo4W\\apps\\qgis-dev\\plugins";
  QString prefixPath = "c:\\OSGeo4W\\apps\\qgis-dev\\";
  QString pluginPath = "/usr/local/lib/qgis/plugins/";
  QString prefixPath = "/usr/local";

  QgsApplication::setPluginPath( pluginPath );
  QgsApplication::setPrefixPath( prefixPath, true);

Deploying on windows

Since QGIS is not to be installed on the target computer, the built app will not be able to find the path declared in previous code.
There is probably a better approach, but here is a way to solve this:
Change the path to

  QString pluginPath = "c:\\myapp\\qgis\plugins";
  QString prefixPath = "c:\\myapp\\qgis";

This means you must deploy the app to this exact location: c:\myapp. In this directory, you need to create a qgis folder in which you will copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\resources and c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\plugins.

Besides, this you will need to copy some DLLs to be able to run the applications. You might want to use the dependency walker to find which are needed.

The batch file hereafter creates a folder on the building machine that will contain all the needed files in my case (it might be different in your case).

rmdir c:\myapp /Q /S
mkdir c:\myapp
mkdir c:\myapp\iconengines
mkdir c:\myapp\qgis
mkdir c:\myapp\qgis\resources
mkdir c:\myapp\qgis\plugins

copy PATHTOMYAPP\build-myapp-Desktop-Release\release\myapp.exe c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtCore4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtGui4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtXml4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtNetwork4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtSvg4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\QtWebKit4.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\zlib_osgeo.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\msvcr71.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\phonon4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\proj.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\geos_c.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\gdal110.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\ogdi_32b1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libexpat.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\xerces-c_3_1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\LIBPQ.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\SSLEAY32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\LIBEAY32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\krb5_32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\comerr32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\k5sprt32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\gssapi32.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\hdf_fw.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\mfhdf_fw.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\jpeg_osgeo.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\jpeg12_osgeo.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\netcdf.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\geotiff.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libtiff.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\sqlite3.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\spatialite4.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\freexl.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\iconv.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libxml2.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\LIBMYSQL.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\hdf5.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\szip.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\libcurl.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\zlib1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\openjp2.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\spatialindex1.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\bin\qwt5.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qt4\plugins\iconengines\qsvgicon4.dll c:\myapp\iconengines\

copy C:\Progra~1\Git\bin\libiconv-2.dll c:\myapp\
copy C:\Progra~1\Git\bin\libintl-8.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\bin\qgis_Core.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\bin\qgis_gui.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\bin\msvcp90.dll c:\myapp\

copy c:\windows\system32\msvcp100.dll c:\myapp\
copy c:\windows\system32\msvcr100.dll c:\myapp\

copy C:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\resources\* c:\myapp\qgis\resources
copy C:\OSGeo4W\apps\qgis-dev\plugins\* c:\myapp\qgis\plugins

To be able to run the app, on a fresh windows XP, I had to install:

And copy the whole folder c:\myapp from the building machine to the target machine.

It seems that from Vista, the 2005 redistributable package is included. So, no need to install it.

And voilà!



  1. Hi,
    Thank you very much for the detailed instructions. I was struggling for two weeks to configure QGIS, without any success. Finally with your nice article, I could succeed to some extent. But still I am facing few problems.

    1. I installed at least 5 QGIS versions, but couldn’t succeed because there was no QGIS-Dev folder under app. Hence none of the API include files were available. Finally I installed one of the weekly builds (2.11.0-27) and succeeded to some extent.
    2. Now the problem is about the Qt debug libraries. The Debug libraries like QtCored4.lib, etc are missing in this installation. Also, some of the include files like QgsMarkeSymbolV2.h, QgsLineSybolV2.h are missing in the include folder under QGIS-Dev.
    I tried with few other weekly builds, but all have the same problem: debug libs and few API headers are missing.
    Can you tell me which version of QGIS you installed? If you can provide a download link it will be very helpful. Or at least mention the QGIS version number.

    Thanks & regards

  2. Hi,
    An update on my previous question:
    I could locate the include files. In fact they are part of of QgsSymbolV2.h. But still the Qt debug libraries are missing in my installation.


  3. You should use Osgeo4W installer, there you’ll have everything needed.
    Just use advanced installation, and I think you’ll have the Qt libs.

    Regarding qgis or qgis-dev, you can use one or the other. qgis is the stable version while qgis-dev is the development version. While installing with Osgeo4W you can install both in parallel.

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