Is there any tool or software except ArcGIS which I can use for converting coverage (.adf) files to shapefiles?

3 Answers 3


OGR can read ArcInfo binary coverages. If it is a vector coverage, and you have both the coverage directory AND the info directory (see coverage format) then you can use ogr2ogr to convert to a shapefile.

Edit: This assumes you are actually trying to convert a vector coverage, not a grid coverage. To check, look in the coverage directory, if you have files like hdr.adf and w001001.adf then it is a grid. If it has files like pat.adf or arc.adf then it is a vector coverage. You can also use ogrinfo or gdalinfo, ogrinfo will return information if it is a vector coverage and fail if it is a grid and vice versa for gdalinfo. If you really want to convert a grid coverage to a shapefile, then you could use gdal_polygonize.

  • The OGR format site indicates .adf files are usually a Grid or Raster layer, so use GDAL to convert it to another raster format. If you have Vector (polygon,line,point) data use ogr2ogr to convert to .shp. TatukGIS Viewer (free)will open both Coverage types to help you view your data.
    – klewis
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 3:02
  • Thank you, I was mistaken about the adf files, but the rest of my comment is correct. Instead of guessing the data type, view it in TatukGIS. Convert vector data using ogr2ogr, convert raster data (typo corrected) using gdal.
    – klewis
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 3:55
  • Luke, you are mistaken about recommending gdal_rasterize. gdal_rasterize does not create a vector shapefile, it updates an image by intersecting a vector file. Please see gdal_polygonize.py instead. Also, take a chill pill.
    – klewis
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 4:17
  • You are correct, my mistake, I meant gdal_polygonize, which does exactly the opposite, oops. Huh?
    – user2856
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 4:21
  • Thanks for your input too. We are all volunteering our time to help each other.
    – klewis
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 4:32

An .adf file in a coverage is a raster file, not a vector, so you can't go directly to a shapefile without coverting to a vector. You could use GDAL_Polygonize (available in QGIS) to do the conversion. This will take the raster and covert it to a vector.

Having said that it's possible, it's often not really a good idea unless the data really wasn't fit to be a raster in the first place. What are you hoping to do?

  • 2
    The files in vector coverage directories are mostly *.adf
    – user2856
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 1:19

A coverage is a set of files. You can't just pick a .adf file out of a coverage. A coverage consists of all the files in that folder plus files in the info directory. I believe only ESRI software reads coverages.

I assume this is related to your other question about climate data, which is stored in raster format. Shapefiles are a vector format. Please research the difference between raster and vector data.

  • 1
    OGR reads ArcInfo binary coverages
    – user2856
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 3:23
  • Thanks for that. Based on this submitter's other questions, he is trying to download grid-based climate data from worldclim.org. So he should use GDAL over OGR, and I see now that GDAL supports grid coverages. gdal.org/frmt_various.html#AIG
    – KiloGeo
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 14:32

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