What is the smoothest route, the easiest user experience, to add files to ArcMap?

Ideally, I'd like to interact with .gpx with the same facility as .shp, being able drag'n'drop onto the map canvas and so on. Ultimately the results will be feature classes in a file-gdb but shapefile is an acceptable intermediate.

  • 1
    I've purposely not restricted this to a particular Arcmap version. Nov 1, 2011 at 16:25
  • Does "smoothest route" imply you want to smooth out the spikes in the data and generate measures for routes in a Linear Referencing System? Nov 2, 2011 at 1:53
  • @kirk, "smooth" here refers to the user experience Nov 2, 2011 at 15:46

9 Answers 9


For those with ArcGIS 10.1 and newer, the GPX to Features tool in the Conversion toolset seems to be what you are looking for because it:

Converts the point information inside a GPX file into features.


GPX File Support has 820 points so far on the ArcGIS Ideas page, so I guess there are few people around waiting for this functionality (vote on the Ideas page please! :]).

There are few ways to tackle this problem (in no particular order):

  1. Use GPSBabel to convert your GPX files to CSV and then import them into Arc.
  2. Use GPX to Features Tool from script gallery. (Have a look at the Analyzing your GPS Tracking Data with Python presentation for more info.)
  3. Use An Automatic GPX Ingestion and Cleaning Tool from script gallery.
  4. Use Convert GPS Files (KML, GPX) to Shapefiles script.
  5. Use gpx2shp tool.
  6. Use ogr2ogr tool by calling ogr2ogr -f "GPX" yourGpxFile.gpx yourShpFile.shp. (This tool might be helpful here)
  7. Load your data to PostgreSQL and connect to it from ArcGIS.

I think 'smoothest' approach might depend on several factors, including:

  • Amount of GPX files you want to convert.
  • How often do you plan to do it (and how eager you are to automate it)?
  • Do you want to have one output (shape file? feature class in geoDB?) per GPX or merge them all together.
  • What is the destination of your data (shape file? DB?)
  • Having everything in a list like this makes it hard to vote for the "smoothest", for example I can't vote up #3 and down #1. Nov 1, 2011 at 20:25
  • Number to convert: infinite; How often: perhaps daily, certainly weekly; Num outputs: it depends; Destination: ultimately FCs in a file-gdb but shape is an acceptable intermediate. Basically, ideally, I'd like to interact with .gpx with the same facility as .shp, drag'n'drop etc. Nov 1, 2011 at 20:26
  • 1
    @mattwilkie: Thought it would be impolite to provide seven separate answers. Perhaps you should give more details (as you indicated in your second comment) to the question as it might be helpful for others trying to answer.
    – radek
    Nov 1, 2011 at 20:35
  • 1
    This ArcGIS Idea has now been set to implemented.
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 6, 2018 at 23:07

You can try the AmigoCloud GDAL/OGR plugin for ArcGIS I am writing. It is free, open source and still in beta. It has an installer that works with ArcGIS 10.1.

Here is a screenshot of a GPX file that I opened natively (no conversion necessary).

Opening GPX file natively.

In addition, you get access to 55 other formats.

1) ESRI Shapefile 15) GPX            29) DXF           43) Geomedia
2) MapInfo File   16) KML            30) Geoconcept    44) EDIGEO
3) UK .NTF        17) GeoJSON        31) GeoRSS        45) GFT
4) SDTS           18) GMT            32) GPSTrackMaker 46) SVG
5) TIGER          19) SQLite         33) VFK           47) CouchDB
6) S57            20) ODBC           34) PGDump        48) Idrisi
7) DGN            21) PGeo           35) OSM           49) ARCGEN
8) VRT            22) MSSQLSpatial   36) GPSBabel      50) SEGUKOOA
9) REC            23) PostgreSQL     37) SUA           51) SEGY
10) Memory        24) MySQL          38) OpenAir       52) ODS
11) BNA           25) PCIDSK         39) PDS           53) XLSX
12) CSV           26) XPlane         40) WFS           54) ElasticSearch
13) NAS           27) AVCBin         41) HTF           55) PD
14) GML           28) AVCE00         42) AeronavFAA

Let me know how it works for you and please submit bugs when you find them.

  • 2
    +10! Full OGR support in Arcmap (and all arcgis?) would be extremely awesome Ragi. Even more so the advertised "...in the next ArcGIS release, WorkspacePlugin's will have write support". And open source to boot!! Jan 30, 2013 at 21:31
  • @mattwilkie working on it as I type this. I seem to be running into API documentation issues/bugs. At least the read works now :) Jan 30, 2013 at 22:31
  • In theory, this does give support to all of ArcGIS. Nevertheless, currently, I am bundling the ArcMap ICommand and Plugin in the same dll. If I separate them in different dlls, that would make ArcGIS Server be able to access it to. Anyway, this is a start :) Jan 30, 2013 at 22:33

You don't indicate whether it is a direct add to ArcMap or an indirect one. For ArcMap prior to version 10, I recommend DNRGarmin and there are several other options listed in this thread. DNRGarmin will be coming out with a new version early next year which promises direct access. Now, direct access means loading the gpx file into DNRGarmin and accessing the data from there. I also found this thread from the Geoprocessing website

  • This (DNRGarmin) is without a doubt still the best way. Essential if you use a Garmin GPS and ArcGIS. Nov 1, 2011 at 17:49
  • Links are broken
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 6, 2018 at 23:09

Strange as it may sound the Esri recommended way to is to add the gpx files to ArcExplorer (which is free) and save as shapefile, which is then brought in to Arcmap: http://blogs.esri.com/info/blogs/arcgisexplorerblog/archive/2008/08/13/importing-gps-via-gpx.aspx

(Posted for completeness sake, not necessarily because I think it a good method, it's too indirect for that, but if someone already has and uses AE it's good to know.)


I've never used it, but someone has kindly provided a plugin workspace for GPX files on assembla. I wonder if this is the source for the DNRGPS mentioned in the other answers.

Plugin workspace dlls allow normally unsupported file formats to be used like other supported formats. In other words GPX files could be used as if they were shape files.

How to use:

production/testing: copy bin/release/GpxPlugin.dll from bin/release to some stable system folder copy reg.bat and unreg.bat to the same folder run reg.bat as administrator use ArcMap/Catlog as usual
when you want to remove it, run unreg.dll, then delete the three files

development/debugging: copy reg.bat/unreg.bat to bin/debug run reg.bat as administrator VS project file should launch ArcCatalog after building the debug dll you do not need to re-register between builds unless you change the GUID


Here's the wiki.



(works best with usb 2.0 plugged into the same pc as arcmap)

"Convert any GPS, GIS, or CAD data to or from GPX, Google Earth KML or KMZ, Excel CSV or TXT, SHP shapefiles, or AutoCAD DXF drawings in two clicks. You can reproject data in any geographic format (lat-lon, UTM, US State Plane) and change datums instantly. With ExpertGPS, you'll be able to calculate acreage, measure distance, elevation and grade. "

(not an ad but will cost $80 even for non commerical/home use)


Then to File Geodatabase


Use the open source GIS software QGIS for that. Having a nice user interface, you will easily use GDAL\OGR Tools. All you need to do is open you GPX file as vector layer (or simply drag and drop it to QGIS Canvas), then you will be able to add tracks, trackpoints, waypoints and\or routes to your project. From there you can inspect your GPX geometries, check its table attributes, without the need to export it (useful when you don't know what GPX contains yhe data you need).

After that you just need to right-click the desired layer and use "Save As..." to save it as Shapefile (or any other format). During the process you can even reproject your data from WGS84 to your destination Coordinate System.

  • While I agree that Qgis has long had GPX support and using it is smooth, this question is about Arcmap, and so this answer is off-topic ;-) Jan 29, 2013 at 17:56
  • Well, you are the men here... But most of the answers use external software to ArcMap, since ArcMap does not open GPX nativelly. Don't take it as I'm forcing the Open Source path, I use both ArcMap and QGIS to do my GIS tasks, and that's what I use when dealing with GPX files. Jan 29, 2013 at 23:15

How to import GPS tracks from Android into ArcMap

  1. Save KMZ file as KML file in Google Earth
  2. Open KML file in Notepad
  3. Copy and paste all text into Excel
  4. Select rows of GPS coordinates into separate sheet
  5. Parse coordinates into X and Y columns (Useful resource: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/214261)
  6. Insert X and Y header as a new row at the top
  7. Remove first and last columns of text and save sheet
  8. Import GPS sheet into ArcMap
  9. Use Convert Coordinate Notation tool to create GPS shapefile
  10. Use Project to convert shapefile from geographic to projected coordinate system
  11. Use Points to Line tool to convert points into lines.

enter image description here

  • Thanks for sharing, but you're working too hard! KML can be ingested in one or two steps, see Posts containing 'import/export kml to arcgis desktop' Jun 2, 2015 at 22:34
  • Hey Matt, thanks for your feedback ! I have read those posts and the reason why I have to do all these steps is because the KML to Layer tool brought in the Android GPS tracks as 2 start and end points without the line features- which is which I had to do all of the above to be able to display the line tracks in ArcGIS with the right projections. The convert notation tool is used because the GPS tracks was in decimal degrees while I needed UTM coordinates.
    – SMAPS
    Jun 19, 2015 at 2:22

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