Introduction to GDAL

This tutorial will introduce you to the GDAL command line tools.

1. Introduction

What is GDAL

GDAL is a translator library for raster geospatial data formats that is released under an X/MIT style Open Source license by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. As a library, it presents a single abstract data model to the calling application for all supported formats. It also comes with a variety of useful commandline utilities for data translation and processing. See for more info:

Learning objectives

After this course you will be able to:

  • Retrieve information from GIS data
  • Reproject GIS data
  • Change raster properties
  • Convert raster formats
  • Convert vector formats
  • Apply spatial queries on vectors
  • Convert comma separated values files
  • Perform batch conversion


For these exercises GDAL needs to be installed, preferably using the OSGEO4W distribution package. If you have installed QGIS, the OSGEO4W distribution is already there.

Otherwise check:

The GDAL website:

The OSGEO4W website:

Exercise data

The exercise data can be downloaded from the main page. It contains:

roads.shp: road map from OpenStreetMap (

srtm_37_02.tif: tile of a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) (

gem_2011_gn1.shp:  borders of Dutch communities, freely available from CBS (Statistics Netherlands) and Kadaster (

Locations.csv: table with object locations. contains land-use time series in IDRISI format.