I've read a few cautions online and heard a few from colleagues. If you don't purchase a license for lastools, the non-open-source functions will somehow degrade your data or results? Is this true? Degrade what? How much? Is this true of the initial free trial copy?

I had not previously been able to discover any details at http://www.cs.unc.edu/~isenburg/lastools/LICENSE.txt.

2 Answers 2


Many of the LAStool readme files have a paragraph like this:

Please license from [email protected] to use lasclassify
commercially. Please note that the unlicensed version will set
intensity, gps_time, user data, and point source ID to zero,
slightly change the LAS point order, and randomly add a tiny bit of white noise to the points coordinates.

Eg: http://www.cs.unc.edu/~isenburg/lastools/download/lasclassify_README.txt

Other tools add noise in other ways like adding diagonal lines through your output rasters, etc. The free versions are good enough to develop your workflow or verify that the tools are right for you.


Any of the 'open source' tools will work as intended. The closed source tools require a license to work properly.

From the LAStools README.txt file that is included in the download, open source tools (i.e., tools that do not add noise) include the following:

open source tools:

  • laszip.exe compresses the LAS files in a completely lossless manner
  • lasinfo.exe prints out a quick overview of the contents of a LAS file
  • lasindex.exe creates a spatial index LAX file for fast spatial queries
  • las2las.exe extracts last returns, clips, subsamples, translates, etc ...
  • lasmerge.exe merges several LAS or LAZ files into a single LAS or LAZ file
  • txt2las.exe converts LIDAR data from ASCII text to binary LAS format
  • las2txt.exe turns LAS into human-readable and easy-to-parse ASCII
  • lasprecision.exe analyses the actual precision of the LIDAR points

Closed source tools that require a license include:

closed source tools:

  • lastool.exe is an old GUI for multiple LAStools (now each tool has its own GUI)

  • lasground.exe extracts the bare-earth by classifying all ground points

  • lasground_new.exe an improved version of lasground.exe for complex terrains

  • lasoverlap.exe checks overlap & vertical/horizontal alignment of flight lines

  • lascontrol.exe quality checks elevations for a list of control points

  • lasclassify.exe finds buildings and the vegetation above the ground

  • lascolor.exe colors the LAS points based on ortho imagery in TIF format

  • lasgrid.exe grids onto min/max/avg/std elevation, intensity, or counter rasters

  • lascanopy.exe computes many raster and plot metrics for forestry applications

  • lasboundary.exe extracts a boundary polygon that encloses the points

  • lasheight.exe computes for each point its height above the ground

  • lastrack.exe classifies LiDAR point based on distance from a trajectory

  • lasplanes.exe finds planar patches in terrestrial, mobile, (airborne?) scans

  • lasclip.exe clips points against building footprints / swath boundaries

  • lastile.exe tiles huge amounts of LAS points into square tiles

  • lassplit.exe splits points of LAS file(s) into flightlines or other criteria

  • lassort.exe sorts points by gps_time, point_source, or into spatial proximity

  • lasduplicate.exe removes duplicate points (with identical x and y, z optional)

  • lasthin.exe thins lowest / highest / random LAS points via a grid

  • las2tin.exe triangulates the points of a LAS file into a TIN

  • las2dem.exe rasters (via a TIN) into elevation/slope/intensity/rgb DEMs

  • las2iso.exe extracts, optionally simplified, elevation contours

  • lasview.exe visualizes a LAS file with a simple OpenGL viewer

  • las2shp.exe turns binary LAS into ESRI's Shapefile format

  • shp2las.exe turns an ESRI's Shapefile into binary LAS

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