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I was wondering if there was anyway to georeference a pdf directly without first converting it to an image. I have access to ArcGIS 10.1 but haven't been able to find any information that would indicate it is possible. I am willing to try other open source software if they have a solution.

I receive site plans in PDF form, often generated from AutoCAD. Currently I save the pdf as a jpg to import into ArcMap, geo-reference it, and then digitize things like building footprints. I'm just wondering if there is a way to skip the conversion to jpg step.

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You might these interesting: and… – John Jan 31 '13 at 16:38
Not quite your question, but if the original source is AutoCAD, ogr2ogr will convert dxf files to shape files. See this post for an example. Unfortunately the example does not cover the flags for geo-referencing, but the gdal-dev mailing list is very active and someone will quickly answer if you have a question about how to set up the geo-referencing flags. – Llaves Feb 4 '13 at 4:58

At cost yes,

TerraGo's ArcMap extension lets you both write and read GeoPDF files

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Does this work if I want to import a normal PDF, not a GeoPDF? – Sarah Jan 31 '13 at 20:12
It will import normal pdf, there just will not be any spatial reference. – Mapperz Jan 31 '13 at 20:42
Does the extension allow you to geo-reference the PDF? – Sarah Feb 1 '13 at 12:34

One important thing to note: GeoPDF is not the same as Geospatial PDF.

Geospatial PDF is just an "ordinary" PDF equipped with some geospatial tags that are used to georeference the PDF (those tags are defined as Adobe's proposed geospatial extensions to ISO 32000).

I'm not sure if there's an open source solution for applying these tags to PDF. One open-source way would be to use a PDF library (I used iText for this purpose) and write the code yourself, but this is difficult, since there aren't many free Geospatial PDF viewers/readers that you could use to test the results and make sure the georeference is valid.

In my case I worked on a solution for preparing maps for Avenza's PDF maps store. I used GDAL for testing the resulting PDFs, but when I then submitted these maps (validated by GDAL) to Avenza, there were still some issues to be solved before their Geospatial PDF parser was able to swallow those maps.

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Thanks but this seems a little more complicated than I am looking for. I was just wondering if there was a way to geo-reference a pdf to digitize features in arcmap. – Sarah Feb 1 '13 at 20:05

You can use gdal_translate to convert the GeoPDF to a geo referenced tif file. The main difference between your method and this one is that the geo reference is maintained.

My command was:

gdal_translate --config GDAL_PDF_DPI 300 -co "TFW=YES" pdf_name.pdf tif_name.tif

Note that it hadn't work for me in Windows, so used the OSGeo-Live virtual machine.

I haven't tested this with many pdf type, but it worked great with the USGS one's.

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