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View GeoPDF Files in ArcMap

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  • GeoPDF formatted data represents a large and growing source of information. The US Geological Survey is creating all new US Topo products in GeoPDF format and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is releasing scanned map products in GeoPDF format.

    It would be a great help if ArcMap would be able to display these GeoPDF products ... at least as a background map ... if not exploit their content further. 
    Tags :
    Posted by   dcaldwell  to ArcGIS DesktopDefense and Intelligence Jul 28, 2010
Merged Ideas (2)
Georeference PDF's in ArcMAP
Posted by  channyd  to ArcGIS DesktopLocal GovernmentImagery Apr 20, 2010
Import PDF Files
Posted by  DHYCHA  to ArcGIS DesktopImagery Sep 3, 2010

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Comments (93)

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May 14, 2015
When this idea is implimented, please retain the layers scheme in the GeoPDF and the ability to trun the GeoPDF layers on and off.

May 6, 2015
ESRI should look into supporting GeoPDF's as rasters for background mapping.

Having said that...... have any of you converted vector data from pdf? There are no attributes aside from those relating to drawing styles.

The script in this thread uses gdal_translate, but you can now also use OGR2OGR to extract the vector data. Either way... this is functionality I created for myself, but it is difficult to distribute as it needs other users to have GDAL installed and associated with the same version of Python as ArcGIS. Everytime I update... it all falls apart again. This doesn't create support for the format really, just the ability to convert into something that Arc does support from within ArcGIS.

Mar 16, 2015
Ask and you shall receive!! Not from ESRI

Dec 29, 2014
With the investment I made recently to purchase ArcMap 10.3, it appears it was silly of me to assume that GeoPDF would be an import option, I am very curious to know when this function will be initiated in ArMap, and if not, then what is a valid reason why?

Dec 12, 2014
Add me to the long list of folks wondering why this has not been resolved.  What is the hold-up?  GeoPDF should at least be an option for basemap display.

Nov 12, 2014
Rather embarrassing ESRI. Australia's topographic map series has also been in GeoPDF format for years. TerraGo and Global Mapper are the only solutions

Oct 9, 2014
With such a huge USGS dataset out there now, it is ridiculous that it has taken ESRI so long to get with the program and provide an easy way to add these datasets to a map project in such a way that they come in with georeferencing.  Please get on with it!

Sep 10, 2014
We should do this. It would save me about a week of work on my current project.

Jul 29, 2014
Four years ago this topic was brought up and we still don't have this functionality?  I don't get it.

Jul 8, 2014
Viewing geopdf's in ArcMap would be great especially when you don't have Global mapper.  Does anyone know if and when it will happen.

Jun 17, 2014
You can export as GeoPDF but not display it... Shocking. 

Jun 5, 2014
Yes, that would be awsome and a no brainer.  If USGS is putting data as a geopdf that ArcMap should support it.

Apr 10, 2014
With the demise of the USGS Seamless site and the increasing amount of data ported to The National Map, including all topogrpahic quads now being in GeoPDF format, not just the historic ones, the lack of support for GeoPDFs in ArcGIS is becoming a real issue. The National Atlas data is also being ported to The National Map in September 2014 so potentially quite a bit more data may be available only in GeoPDF format as well.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, it sure would be nice to access this data directly in ArcGIS rather than having to jump through conversion hoops to get it into a format that Arc will recognize.

Current work flow is opening GeoPDFs in Global Mapper and then exporting them as GeoTIFFs with a World file so the data can be used in Arc.

One more voice in the wilderness trying to get this serious issue recognized.

Mar 10, 2014
FYI:  TerraGo's Publisher for ArcGIS (v6.0.4) no longer seems to work for viewing the USGS USTOPO product (GeoPDF) in ArcGIS 10.1 running windows 7.  However Global Mapper (Blue Marble) can ingest the GeoPDF as a native format.

Feb 14, 2014
I'm surprised this wasn't done a few years ago. ESRI spends so much time on advanced features for niche audiences that it misses obvious opportunities that would be used and appreciated by a larger base of its users. Just look how long it took them to realize that .GPX was here to stay and perhaps they should make it easier to use. 

Jan 21, 2014
Come on ESRI go for it! This would be such an enrichment in performance!

Dec 19, 2013
Good old Global Mapper comes through again. Kind of embarassing that there's a program that costs $400 and, in many relevant ways, outperforms ArcGIS!

Sep 23, 2013
Seriously ESRI...  A user has just given you the python script, why don't you incorporate it, or something like it, in a tool???  This is a no-brainer.

Sep 18, 2013

 went step by step through your instructions and they quickly went over my head... 

What on earth does this mean??

"for /R C:\USGS_Topos1 %%f IN (*.pdf) do gdal_translate.exe  -of GTiff %%f C:\Gtiff\%%~nf.tif"  

I'm desperatly what to make this work!

Sep 18, 2013
What's is taking yopu so long ESRI?

Aug 12, 2013
I have posted a Python script that will convert the historic USGS GeoPDF maps to GeoTiffs in UTM, NAD83 coordinates. It supercedes the multi-step process I posted here on June 27, 2013.  The script can be found at::

Jul 7, 2013
Jsschmidt, I just succesfully used your instructions for GDAL in MS4W to convert GeoPDF to GeoTIF.  It worked great!  Thanks a lot for posting those steps!

Jun 29, 2013
Re: Python script correction: replace x = line[15:25] with x = line[14:25] ; otherwise coordinates for 1:250000 scale maps will be read incorrectly.

Jun 27, 2013
Python Script continued:

Part IV:

 elif line.startswith("Lo"):
    x = line[15:25]
    y = line[26:38]
    lond = line[41:44]
    lonm = line[45:47]
    lons = line[48:53]
    latd = line[57:59]
    latm = line[60:62]
    lats = line[63:68]
    londd = Decimal(lond.strip(' "'))
    lonmd = Decimal(lonm.strip(' "'))
    lonsd = Decimal(lons.strip(' "'))
    londecdeg = (londd + lonmd/60 + lonsd/3600)* -1
    londdstr = "%11.6f" % londecdeg
    latdd = Decimal(latd.strip(' "'))
    latmd = Decimal(latm.strip(' "'))
    latsd = Decimal(lats.strip(' "'))
    latdecdeg = (latdd + latmd/60 + latsd/3600)* 1
    latddstr = "%9.6f" % latdecdeg
#now reset our state
    buffer = []

Typical output control point file  for one Historic Geotiff file looks like this:

-25894.864  4211779.501 -120.044975 38.040058
-25894.864  4144998.667 -120.042597 37.438378
 26704.302  4211779.501 -119.445806 38.040033
 26704.302  4144998.667 -119.448256 37.438356

Jun 27, 2013
Converting Historic GeoPDFs in polyconic projections to GeoTiffs geo-referenced to lat-longs in ArcMap using GDAL:

Part III

Appendix - Sample python script for creating ArcGIS compatible Control Point tables:
import glob
from decimal import Decimal
list_of_files = glob.glob('C:\Gtiffinfo1\*.txt')# create the list of file
for file_name in list_of_files:
  FI = open(file_name, 'r')
  print FI
  FO = open(file_name.replace('CA_', 'CP_'), 'w')
  buffer = []
  blnk = ' '
  newline = '\n'
  for line in FI:
    if line.startswith("Up"): #Read Control Point info
    x = line[15:25]
    y = line[26:38]
    lond = line[41:44]
    lonm = line[45:47]
    lons = line[48:53]
    latd = line[57:59]
    latm = line[60:62]
    lats = line[63:68]
    londd = Decimal(lond.strip(' "')) # Convert to decimal
    lonmd = Decimal(lonm.strip(' "'))
    lonsd = Decimal(lons.strip(' "'))
    londecdeg = (londd + lonmd/60 + lonsd/3600)* -1 #Convert to decimal degrees
    londdstr = "%11.6f" % londecdeg
    latdd = Decimal(latd.strip(' "'))
    latmd = Decimal(latm.strip(' "'))
    latsd = Decimal(lats.strip(' "'))
    latdecdeg = latdd + latmd/60 + latsd/3600
    latddstr = "%9.6f" % latdecdeg
  #now reset our state
    buffer = []

Jun 27, 2013
Converting Historic GeoPDF's in polyconic projections to GeoTiffs geo-referenced to lat-longs in ArcMap using GDAL:

Part II -

  1. Create a batch file to use gdalinfo to read the header information for each GeoTiff and write it out to a text file. Run  the batch file from the MS4W shell prompt.
Example ginfoBatch.bat contents:
for /R C:\Gtiff %%f IN (*.tif) do gdalinfo.exe %%f >> C:\Gtiff\%%~nf.txt
where C:\Gtiff is the directory where the GeoTiff files are located and also where the text files will be written.

  1. Run a python script to extract the control point information from the files created in step 7, convert lat-longs coordinates to decimal degrees, and output the data to text files that can be loaded as Control Point tables with the Georeferencing toolbar in ArcGIS.

Sample Script (See Appendix): – Place the script on your desktop. Go to Start—Run—cmd to start the DOS command shell.  Change directories to your desktop (type cd desktop). Execute the python script by typing:
Note: You may need to change the command to reflect your current version of python.
Output files with control point information will be re-named to start with CP instead of CA. If you are working with files from a state other than California, edit the script to rename as desired.
Note also that the script expects the control point information in the Gdalinfo output files to be in a fixed format. If that format varies, the script may not extract the correct control point data.
  1. To change the georeferencing of the geotiff files created in Step 5 from Polyconic to geographic, load each geotiff file into ArcGIS. Set the Data Frame coordinate system to Geographic – NAD27.
  1. Load the Georeferencing Toolbar. Make sure the Layer shown on the toolbar is the layer you want to georeference. Click on the View Link Table button. In the Table window, click on the Load button and select the proper Control Point file (starting with “CP”) for the geotiff file shown on the georeferencing toolbar (The Control Point files were created in Step 8). Ignore any warning messages about collinear points.  Click OK.
  1. On the Georeferencing Toolbar dropdown menu, select Update Georeferencing.
Note: If Update Georeferencing is greyed out, try Update Display first.

Jun 27, 2013
Here's one way to convert Historic GeoPDF's in polyconic projections to GeoTiffs geo-referenced to lat-longs in ArcMap using GDAL.

  1. Download the historic maps desired in geo-pdf format using the National Map Viewer.
  1. Unzip the files.
  1. Remove any spaces in the pdf filenames.
  1. Install a software package that includes GDAL (Geospatial Data Abstraction Library). I installed MapServer for Windows (MS4W) version 3.0.6 (
  1. Create a batch file to use the GDAL translate utility to convert the PDF’s to GeoTiffs.
(Example: gtiffBatch.bat)
for /R C:\USGS_Topos1 %%f IN (*.pdf) do gdal_translate.exe  -of GTiff %%f C:\Gtiff\%%~nf.tif
where C:\USGS_Topos1 is the directory where I have the pdf files and C:\Gtiff is the output directory where the GeoTiff files will be written. %%f is the filename wildcard.
  1. Open the MS4W shell script window (should be an icon on your desktop once installed). Type gtiffBatch.bat  (see above) to execute the batch file.  It will process all the pdf files in the source directory and write out the GeoTiff files to the destination directory. It takes about 10 seconds per file to do the conversion.
Note: If you are not dealing with Historic maps in the polyconic projection, you can stop here. The GeoPdfs should be useable in ArcMap as is. ArcGIS does not recognize the polyconic projection, so you need to do the following steps to convert the GeoTiffs to a lat-long georeferencing scheme.

Jun 25, 2013
TerraGo is a good workable solution but it is SO OVERPRICED!  It would be nice if it were a natively supported format.

Jun 6, 2013
Would like to bring in USGS maps.
Would like to generate maps for generic Adobe Reader users.

Jun 3, 2013
Really ESRI? This was posted three years ago.. Since the USGS made the huge mistake of producing all the topos in GeoPDF format, there has been no effort by anyone to make these products actually usable for the GIS user. It's a matter of being able to open a georeferenced file open in ArcMap - one of the core uses of the program!! That's one of the things it does!! Hell, doesn't ESRI have a contract with the DOI to begin with?? This whole poderous failure is just astounding. 

May 3, 2013
This would be a great addition to ArcMap functionality!

Mar 14, 2013
GeoPDFs are completely useless without the ability to open in ArcMap... get on it already!

Mar 4, 2013
Seriously, what is taking ESRI so long for to accept and make this format usable ...Probably trying to figure out how to charge us another $2500.00 for the extension... Why ESRI??? Haven't we given enough?

Mar 3, 2013

Feb 19, 2013
Any day now...

Feb 11, 2013
Wow, I've never seen so much unanimity from the users!
ESRI, is it a way to stall the competion from TerraGo? GeoPDF is already here, admit it, and ride on it.

Jan 7, 2013
seriously...why doesnt ESRI just license or even outright buy TerraGo and make GeoPDFs native.

Dec 11, 2012
The fault rests on the USGS.  I think it was a horrible decision and I don't know how they created a fee to see something created with public money.  If GeoPDF is such a good thing why doesn't ESRI just buy out the company and make it part of core?  I see this as win win. 

Dec 11, 2012
Please allow for use of GeoPDFs! 

Dec 7, 2012
Hey ESRI what is taking so long get off your duff and get it done

Dec 5, 2012
Please throw us a bone, here.   We should be able to open and view any type of georeferenced data using ArcMap.

Nov 27, 2012
The USGS GeoPDFs of historic topoquads are full of very useful information that would be even more awesome if it was accessible in ArcMap.


geoPDF files?  What gives?  They should be accessable (period), yes?

Oct 12, 2012
Seems like a no-brainer that the GIS community needs this!

Oct 10, 2012
Would REALLY help to be able to use the historical USGS topo GeoPDFs in ArcMap.  Please make this a priority.

Sep 17, 2012
This would be VERY helpful for USG mission RIGHT now.

Sep 11, 2012
The USGS products are extremely important to our CRM program in a National Park.  Using them directly in Arc10 would greatly simplify our lives!

Sep 7, 2012
It would be nice to use the current map products that the USGS is producing, also please work on your smartphone app to read the geopdfs.

Sep 6, 2012
Long, long overdue.

Aug 20, 2012
Although most GIS users in my firm access USGS quadrangles as a streaming map service thorugh ArcGIS Online, some of our people need file-based sources for USGS quads for mobile uses, or when sharing data with CAD users.  The best solution would be for USGS to continue to provide DRGs in georeferenced JPG 2000, TIFF or SID files.  But we also need the ability to read and translate GeoPDF content and write it back out in those formats from within ArcGIS.

Aug 17, 2012
Yes, please!

Aug 9, 2012
Here's the thing. I don't actually care if I can import the PDF. Let's be honest.

What I want to do is bring the specific data FROM the PDF into my ArcVIEW so that I can georeference it OR if it's already georeferenced, then have it show up correctly georeferenced.

Same thing? Not necessarily. Most PDF's I access are Engineering Plans with tons of measurements and other nonsense that is irrelevant to my needs. I just need to put the pretty picture on the parcels correctly georeferenced.

I love ESRI... Thanks for a GREAT product.

Aug 9, 2012
Yes, we need to be able to access these maps in Arc without buying expensive add-on

Aug 2, 2012
Give us the ability to create GeoPDF similar to what a couple of software companies out there are already doing. Export as PDF should be Export as GeoPDF and a toolbar on the PDF side would also be nice to have so users w/out ArcGIS can interact with their ArcGIS touting buddies!!! Yah I give this one 100 points bonus... Get it done like yesterday PLEASE!

Jul 26, 2012
Layered topographic maps!  We all want them.  This is the best way to get them.

Jul 25, 2012
PLEASE do this right away! Frankly, I do not understand why you would choose NOT to support the latest cool mapping product for the masses from USGS. GeoPDFs are common and widely used in my work. ESRI products ought to support this and other common data formats. You may be sure that your competitors will be doing this.

Jul 21, 2012
Please move this to the front of the line!

Jul 21, 2012
Sooner, is definately better!  ESRI, please add this capability to ArcGIS.

Jul 21, 2012
Please add GeoPDF capabilities to ArcGIS. The USGS provides important geospatial datasets that should be integrated with ArcGIS. Thanks.

Jul 20, 2012
That would be great!

Jul 20, 2012
I cast a strong vote here to get GeoPDFs displayed in ArcGIS. Thank You.

Jul 20, 2012
ESRI product users need to access GeoPDFs through ArcMap without buying an expensive add on.

Jul 20, 2012
Agreed - please implement the ability to utilize Georeferenced PDF's and to Import them with ArcGIS basic or workgroup licenses.

Jul 20, 2012
Yes please.  We need this functionality.  Hate to be behind and not able to use the products.

Jul 20, 2012
Don't be on the wrong side of history on this one ESRI!

Jul 20, 2012
No Brainer...

Jul 19, 2012
Absolutely maddining! GeoPDFs are becoming a bad word in our shop. Please add this to the list of "must do's".

Jul 17, 2012
Should would be great and less time consuming to georeference maps using the standard format of adobe acrobat. We spend a ton of time georeferencing files in several formats. If we can export to pdf from arcmap why not have the file format available for import too? Get with it ESRI!

Jul 12, 2012
I would like to be able to open the free USGS topos (which are GeoPDFs) in ArcMap. There is not a good solution for viewing these files in ArcMap currently- the only available options are additional software that cost an arm and a leg. Please make this capability part of the next service pack! Thank you.

Jul 9, 2012
PDF has become the Esperanto of the digital era.  Why go only "half-way" with just plain PDF?  Come on ESRI, you're geospatial... give us end-users, and the world of map product consumers out there, the full-monte and adopt a GeoPDF format.

Jun 20, 2012
Geopdf is the de facto standard now. We need the capability to use them in ArcMap.

Jun 19, 2012

Jun 19, 2012
In my experience, as a GIS Specialist in County of Santa Barbara Fire Department, the base maps needed for firefighter safety, operations, and for public safety are very specialized. The basemaps that ESRI provides are good, but the specialized maps that are produced with fire department data require a different set of layers that would improve our system greatyly if ycou could add+ GeoPDF's and especially USGS topo. 

Jun 19, 2012
The ability to view GeoPDF in ArcMap would help facilitate several long term monitoring ecological projects in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by allowing project managers to easily interface location data such as monitoring sites with the US Topo product and then print quads for field operations with collars and reference grids already in place. This is a well-established requirement for numerous federal land management agencies.

Jun 19, 2012
Awesome idea!

Jun 19, 2012
This sounds like a great idea.

Jun 14, 2012
This would be very useful!

Jun 11, 2012
This is really important now that USGS has delivered historic quads in geopdf format

May 31, 2012
Please add this functionality to ArcGIS!   Being able to view the new USGS historical topos in GeoPDF format (without having to convert them) would be very useful.

May 7, 2012
Please add this capability to ArcMap.

Apr 24, 2012
This would be very useful! Thanks!  If available, we would start using it right away!

Apr 24, 2012
I understand with these I will be able to change the colors and they are borken down into standard colors.  Currently I have access to JPG files which I can not currently change.  Please add these GeoPDF files.

Mar 21, 2012
Please add the ability to import a pdf and/or geopdf? The USGS has been creating GeoPDF for years and is miagrating toward more geopdfs.  Concerning the comment below, of 7 Sep 2010, I contacted the GeoPDF
Program Lead, Ray Caputo, on 15 Mar 2012.  Mr. Caputo stated yes there is an extension for ArcMap to read GeoPDF, but it is only for US Dept of Def use.  This GeoPDF extension was created by TerraGoTech in 2006.
The same extension "TerraGo-Publisher" can be purchased from,  The cost is $3000 US and offers many other options, including the ability to create GeoPDFs.  ArcMap users just need the ability to import a basic geopdf, the same analogy as when Lizard Tech created MrSid Image files and ESRI users were able to import these .sid files at No Cost.

Mar 1, 2012
At least, add a feature to add a PDF to ArcMap please. I would like to be able to add PDFs to ArcMap just like I can add JPGs or TIFFs.

Dec 15, 2011

GeoPDFs and ArcGIS

USGS has embarked on digitizing historic topographic maps for all US states.( Finished maps are in GeoPDF format, which as far as I can tell is not useable directly in ArcGIS 10. Opening GeoPDF in Acrobat Reader or Professional with TerraGo toolbar works fine but has limitations. I can "save as" out of Acrobat Professional as either a TIFF or JPEG/JPEG2000, but no world file is created and resulting files are not georeferenced. It is possible, of course, to georeference the files in Arc, but I would like to find a way to work with these files directly in Arc without the additional steps of file conversion and georeferencing. Is this possible? and if not please add it to the list of functions that should be addressed. This is a huge and valuable dataset that should be accessible to Arc users.

Nov 22, 2011
I have to agree, this is a much needed tool.  If ArcGIS can generate a GeoPDF and Bentley Microstation can read a GeoPDF, there is no reason ArcGIS Desktop should not be able to read the GeoPDF. 

Nov 8, 2011

I agree that we would like to have the geopdf "content" so that we can pull it into ArcGIS. The tricky part is that geopdf may not carry the entire "meaning" of the GIS content, and so we can't get it all back. I would rather see that we (USGS) provide shapefiles, geodatabases, geotifs, and layer packages (for example) that carry the full meaning of the geopdf. I know that these data exist (since we use ArcGIS to create the content), and so we just need to figure out the best way to deliver it. That's my two cents as a GIS user who just happens to be behind one of the USGS firewalls (behind one firewall, but not the ONLY one!).

Nov 8, 2011
Be great to add geoPDFs directly into Map - major help to us.

Nov 7, 2011
It would sure beat having to georeference the geoPDF, especially if you have a large project

Feb 3, 2011
It would be nice if GeoPDF, KML and KMZ was supported out of the box in all ESRI products (ArcGIS Engine, Desktop etc)

Jan 24, 2011

Digitaly signed georeferenced pdf (could be generated using ArcGIS, etc.) is a legal document. Import to ArcGIS Desktop/ArcGIS Server as a background info would help to use legal info in many situations.

Sep 7, 2010
There are the extensions out there that allow you to bring GeoPDF's in ArcMAP now. Downloadable from Army Geospatial Center's website for those with DoD CAC card.

Full link with directions is available below.

Jul 28, 2010
Don't use Bentley Microstation much these days, but just installed the latest version and it handles GeoPDF's as a reference file. Quite useful! The PDF was generated using ArcMap....



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