How to convert polylines to single lines (explode polylines)

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If you have a polyline layer but you want a layer with only straight lines. After this operation each feature will only have a begin node and an end node. They wont have any other nodes. In CAD software this is usually called Exploding Polylines. The term To Explode is sometimes also used in GIS.

In QGIS

QGIS has a built in function to do this kind of conversion.

In version 2.10 & 2.12

  • Open the polyline layer you want to convert.
  • If it is not already open, open the "Processing Toolbox". This can be done from "Processing" in the main menu and then you select "Toolbox".
  • If you use the "Processing Toolbox" with the Simplified interface go to: Geoalgorithms-Vector-Lines-Explode lines. If you use the "Processing Toolbox" with the Advanced interface go to: QGIS geoalgorithms-Vector geometry tools-Explode lines.
  • For "Input layer" select the layer you want to convert.
  • Click Run.
  • QGIS made a temporary layer with all polylines converted to single lines.

In ArcGIS

In ArcGIS for Desktop Basic version 10.3.x

By default this type of conversion is not licensed in the Basic version of ArcGIS for Desktop, but you can use the ETGeoWizards plugin to do the job. Warning: The free version of this plugin can only convert 100 polygons at a time.

  • Open the polyline layer you want to convert.
  • Click on the ETGW button.
  • Go to Polyline - Split Polyline.
  • Click on the "Go" button.
  • Select the layer you want to convert.
  • Select a location where you want to save the result.
  • Click the Next button.
  • Select "In all vertices".
  • Click the Next button.
  • Click the Finish button.
  • Close the "ETGeowizards" window.