Saturday, June 28, 2014

GDAL to convert GeoPDF to GeoTIFF - the Windows version

I needed to convert GeoPDF files to GeoTIFF.  I'm not command-line savvy.  So I was hesitant to try this.  When the gdal_translate command failed no matter what I tried, I nearly gave up.  (I can just screen-shot the PDFs.  Right!)  

But I kept digging.  I found that not all GDAL installs support PDF.  I had to get a specific set of GDAL binaries for Windows.  Here's how and why:

I'm doing volunteer/non-profit work to publish map services that show georeferenced map layers for historic maps of  Caroline County, Maryland.  I'm using MapTiler, Tileserver, QGIS, and ArcGIS Online for low-cost production and publishing.  Recent products are:

1875 and 1897 county and towns via AGOL and
- 1897 county in OpenLayers.

Next task is to publish similar services and maps from the USGS Topo GeoPDFs.  I need to convert the GeoPDFs to GeoTIFF in order to publish the tiles as a service.  (Esri has done this already.  But only for paying customers.)

I found a tutorial for using GDAL's gdaltranslate utility.  After installing GDAL and cursing my way through the godawful Windows command line window, I kept getting GDAL errors.  GDAL wasn't recognizing the PDF format.

Why not?  I was following the tutorial steps exactly.  I checked forums and found that GDAL has PDF support in some releases but not in others -- it was working for Ubuntu installs, but not for all Windows installs.   The tutorial used the Ubuntu installer.  I had used the OSGeo4W installer for GDAL.  That one does not include PDF support.  Gotta love opensource.

I found a pointer to GDAL binaries I needed at  I downloaded the zipfile with the files that are right for my Windows system.  Simply unzipped the file in a folder.  Then ran the SDKShell.bat file.  No need to install anything.  That worked for me.  Gotta love opensource.


  1. The NOAA scanned t-sheets are a great resource for historical coastal maps. geotiffs/Google Earth overlays/reports:

  2. G-Raster does this conversion after you pay the $5 registration charge.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Wish I had known. Thanks for the tip.

  3. >> similar services and maps from the USGS Topo GeoPDFs...
    This link is for historical USGS topo maps only. For the current USGS map series, see and For USGS info on GeoPDF to GeoTIFF, see