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My users are sending me point data that were digitized using GoogleEarth.

How can I convert their KML to a shapefile?

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20 Answers 20

up vote 82 down vote accepted

Using the open source ogr2ogr from GDAL/OGR:

ogr2ogr -f 'ESRI Shapefile' output.shp input.kml
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...and just to preempt next natural question, it works the other way too: ogr2ogr -f KML output.kml input.shp –  glennon Jul 23 '10 at 5:24
If you prefer to use GUI based tools, QGIS can act as a front end for ogr2ogr. –  underdark Aug 1 '10 at 7:30
Wow, GDAL can do everything when it comes to transformations... –  dkroy Jul 29 '11 at 2:30
wish there was an online GDAL/OGR site hint hint peeps –  Pure.Krome Sep 5 '11 at 1:31
@mattwilkie I think he meant something like Zamzar.com. An online conversion service. –  R.K. Feb 3 '12 at 16:50

ArcGIS 10 has a GP tool which converts KML to a feature class? Search for KML using the new search. I've used this to take the oil spill kml feeds from Google and convert them into SHP.

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The tool mentioned here seems to be KML To Layer but that can only create a geodatabase feature class that needs to be followed by Feature Class To Feature Class step to convert it to a shapefile. –  PolyGeo Apr 30 at 10:21

Use ogr2ogr, but if you're not interested in a command line, try ogr2gui - a really simple front end for ogr2ogr.

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If you are interested in command line tools, you can use GDAL/OGR from OSGEO.


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FME posted a beta for an online tool that handles many different types of conversion, including this. http://fmeserver.com/userweb/sharper/Portal/EasyTranslator/index.html This converter should really help you.

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Couple more options in addition to the other answers...

SL-King's fdo2fdo application, which uses the open source FDO libraries, allows you to perform KML to SHP and visa versa translations. It includes both a GUI (which express format-to-format translations and more customized schema mapping translations) as well as a commandline tool.

For properietary applications, Safe Software's FME gives you amazing control over how you map the source information into destination. If you have ArcGIS, you can access this via the Data Interoperability Extension (list of formats) at additional cost.

If they are just point features with no attributes, I'd consider parsing the XML into something you can easily import like a CSV; you're just looking for the data between the coordinates tags.

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To use spatial data published as a KML or KMZ file in ArcGIS you must first convert the KML to a feature class (shapefile). The University of Connecticut has a published a script for creating shapefiles from KML called KML_to_Shp.tbx. It works quite well and you can use it from ArcToolbox. Because KML will (should) always be in geographic coordinates (WGS84), you will eventually want to transform them to UTM Zone 15N NAD83...

As with all new tools, review the documentation on prior to use. This can be found on the UCONN’s Center for Land Use Education and Research web site. Once you add it to your toolbox and understand its limitations, the tool is very straight forward to use.


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You don't always want UTM Zone 15N NAD83, you want the proper zone for the data. And you can also project using WGS84 (ie, WGS84 doesn't mean latlon) –  Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 23 '10 at 0:20

There are also some other commercial products. Arc2Earth comes to mind. It's got pretty good integration with ArcGIS Desktop. http://www.arc2earth.com

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One more commercial product that bears mentioning is Global Mapper. This falls in the category of view, convert, re-project almost any geographic data you can imagine. I use the free version heavily in a class I teach and almost everyone walks away commenting on how this is the swiss army knife of GIS tools (though the free version doesn't do translations, it exposes all the menu's and options). Well worth the cost in my experience.

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Another option is to use XToolsPro, a third-party extension that works in ArcGIS. Amongst their many handy conversion tools is a "Import Data from KML" function.

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You can also look at FME from Safe Software http://www.safe.com

There is a 14 day trial available. FME lets you even map the attributes from your KML file to ESRI SHP format during the data conversion/migration process besides the ability to filter the KML point files based on certain attributes or spatial extents.

There is also the option to do batch conversion when you have a large set of KML files from your users.


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The Open Source MapWindow GIS has a free extension (KML2Shapefile) for converting KML/KMZ files into shapefiles.

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QGIS has become much more robust for the conversion between kml and shp. Just use the Save As from the right click menu on the layer. Or open up each of those file types from the Add New Layer menu, be sure to change the file type in the dialog box.

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If you have the interop extension just load that KML straight into ArcMap and export to shp.

Although the opposite answer to your Q, in case someone has come here to do the vice versa, I find this script perfect to go from SHP-->KML http://arcscripts.esri.com/details.asp?dbid=14273

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use OGR for command line control, Google Earth Pro will give you a graphical way to convert, as will a variety of other apps

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ET GeoWizards also has an import from Google Earth option, which will convert KML or KMZ files to feature class. > http://www.ian-ko.com/ET_GeoWizards/gw_MainFeatures.htm

If you're looking for an open source option, I see MapWindow was just updated, and there are a couple of plugins for converting to and from KML and shapefile.

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If you would like to convert your files online, try MyGeodata GIS formats and coordinate system converter. It is based on ogr2ogr (gdal/ogr library) - so almost all known GIS formats and coordinate systems are supported...

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Zonum Solutions' Online KML to Shapefile converter also works well:


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Better way is to use "Convert GPSFile to SHP" toolbox for arcgis. It has KML to Shp convertor

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

You can use the online GDAL/OGR site GeoConverter from Geometa Lab at HSR.

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