Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL)

GDAL is part of the FWTools package available at GDAL’s home page ( describes the project as:

...a translator library for raster geospatial data formats... As a library, it presents a single abstract data model to the calling application for all supported formats.

GDAL (often pronounced goodle) has three important features. First, it supports over 40 different raster formats. Second, it is available for other applications to use. Any application using the GDAL libraries can access all its supported formats, making custom programming for every desired format unnecessary. Third, prebuilt utilities help you use the functionality of the GDAL programming libraries without having to write your own program.

These three features offer a powerhouse of capability: imagine not worrying about what format an image is in. With GDAL supporting dozens of formats, the odds are that the formats you use are covered. Whether you need to do data conversion, display images in your custom program, or write a new driver for a custom image format, GDAL has programming interfaces or utilities available to help.

Raster Formats Supported by GDAL

GDAL supports dozens of raster formats. This list is taken from the GDAL web site formats list page found at

Arc/Info Binary Grid (.adf)
Microsoft Windows Device Independent Bitmap (.bmp)
BSB Nautical Chart Format (.kap)
VTP Binary Terrain Format ...

Get Web Mapping Illustrated now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.