Normally consultants (LiDAR survey) provide me with data to my specifications; already in ESRI GRID or ASCII GRID format. This way LiDAR data can be easily used with ArcGIS. This time I only have xyz files (i.e., with regular spaced xy coordinates).

Previously, I would use a utility by Min-Lang Huang named GridBatch that would convert XYZ to ASCII GRID then to ESRI GRID files. Unfortunately, the utility is crashing since I upgraded my machine to W7 64bit and ArcGIS to version 10.

Is there another way to batch convert LiDAR surface XYZ data to ESRI GRID files?

(Convert to points -> Interpolate is an option I would like to avoid considering there are 300+ tiles to convert).

  • Here is the old ESRI forum thread that has a link to the tool: forums.esri.com/Thread.asp?c=93&f=986&t=268865 Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 19:59
  • Thanks for everybody'e input. The original utility came with source code. I obtained a permission from the creator to update it. I managed to eliminate the errors, simplify for my needs and update it for and it for version 9.3 on Vista. resources.arcgis.com/gallery/file/geoprocessing/… Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 18:33
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    Thanks for the reply, that would be really useful. I did however manage to get around this. For info: Use ASCII 3D to Feature (3D Analyst Tools > Conversion > From File) making sure to output to point, then append height data using Add Z Information tool (3D Analyst > 3D Features). Then I interpolated using Natural Neighbour (3D Analyst > Raster Interpolation).
    – veedub
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 7:54
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    @Jakub Because the link no longer works, this post is no longer a valid answer. I am converting it to a comment so that the information is not entirely lost to everyone (just in case ESRI ever restores the target).
    – whuber
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 16:47
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    @AndreSilva - assuming regularly spaced intervals. This is a 5-year old post. Surveyors now provide LiDAR in a variety of formats so this is no longer much of an issue for me. You are also not seeing a number of posts that were deleted here. I asked the author of the tool for the source code and with his permission created an updated Addin but I have not needed it nor update it since version 10 and took it down. Consequently, since the solution is no longer available, the posts referring to this solution were also removed. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 14:48

9 Answers 9


Sounds like you're wanting to do this in batch (don't blame you)

As STH said, looks like Global Mapper will indeed do batch conversions. Nice price as well.

FME Desktop can do using the RasterDEMGenerator transformer and a bit of linking with reader/writer, but you'll need the Pro version, not available in the ArcGIS Data Interop extension.

If free is more in your budget, gdal_grid should do it. You'll have to spend some time figuring out the extents of all your xyz files, but ogrinfo will make short work of that, and then writing a batch file/script to run it over each file.

Or you can use ArcGIS ASCII 3D to Feature Class (requires 3D Analyst) chained with Point to Raster, as described here and then batchify the process with ArcPy or ModelBuilder. If you don't have 3D Analyst, you can use any number of arcscripts or LASTools txt2Las and las2shp to get it in a format ArcGIS can work with. I know you didn't want to convert the txtfiles to intermediate feature classes but this isn't too labor intensive, and you already have access to the software.

  • Thanks. I tried ASCII 3D to FC then point to raster, also Topo to raster etc. Results are OK but the process takes too long. Original raw XYZ files to ASCII GRID yield the best results without the additional interpolation/conversion. The tool I mentioned comes with VB6 source code so I was able to update it (ArcCatalog VBA procedure) and it seems to work great. I will try Global Mapper though. Like what it can do from what i have read about it. Commented Sep 24, 2010 at 15:38
  • If you are going to try FME then I would suggest using FME2011 (www.safe.com/beta). The Lidar/Point Cloud support is much improved. You could probably read from Lidar XYZ and write to a grid format w/o using any transformers, and it will do batch. Commented Sep 27, 2010 at 16:57

The tool lasgrid.exe (README) from LAStools does a "direct" conversion with gridding (without triangulation) very fast. The tool las2dem.exe (README) from LAStools rasters the points via a temporary TIN.

  • Thanks, Martin. Did you see the answer (from 9/2010) posted by scw or the reference to LAStools by wwnick (also on 9/2010)? They appear to cover exactly the same ground, so I am wondering what distinction or improvement you are trying to make here.
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 15:36
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    I think the comment about the tool can function without triangulation clarifies some of the confusion.
    – mike
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 15:00

You can try using the XYZ GDAL driver to read the raster format and convert it to any number of formats using gdal_translate. You need GDAL 1.8 or newer (e.g., from OSGeo4W).

For example, to translate an XYZ file my_raster.xyz to Esri ASCII Grid format, use the following shell command (e.g., from an OSGeo4W Shell):

gdal_translate -of AAIGrid my_raster.xyz my_raster.asc

I just had this same issue - easiest for me to just concatenate all of the files outside of GIS.
As I am running windows I used DOS command

for %f in (*.xyz) do type “%f” >> aggregate.xyz

then I can run my normal processing tasks (convert from ASCII to grid to DEM or whatever) a single time, not 155 times. Of course my resulting text file was large (>1GB) but ESRI could handle it.


Have a look at the XYZ2DTM tool from Fusion. According to its manual:

XYZ2DTM converts surface models stored as ACSII XYZ point files into the PLANS DTM format. Input point files include one record for each grid point with the X, Y, and elevation values separated by commas, spaces, or tabs. In general, this utility is only used when surface models are delivered in this format.


I would suggest using the LAS to Multipoint tool (need 3D Analayst extension) http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//00q90000009m000000.htm

then you can use use the Topo to Raster, or generate a Terrain and export that. I would suggest the Terrain option as should be quicker


wwnick mentioned LASTools, which also contains a very fast point cloud to DEM conversion routine with LAS2DEM. If performance matters, I'd give it a try as I'm guessing it'll be many-fold faster than some of the other packages.

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    Thanks. las2dem.exe triangulates points to TIN first then produces DEM. I am looking for a direct conversion. Commented Sep 26, 2010 at 13:50

I would suggest to try GlobalMapper for this (www.globalmapper.com) . The demo-version can be downloaded from their webpage. You can get a demo-license so you can try the complete functionality for a limited time if you e-mail the support.

If you want a free tool to manipulate LIDAR-files then you can have a look at the commandlinetool (LasTOOLS) http://www.cs.unc.edu/~isenburg/lastools/

  • Thanks. I will try Global Mapper. As for the LasTools i've looked at it a while back and the only one I could have used was the las2dem.exe However, this tool triangulates first then converts to dem: "This tool reads LIDAR points from the LAS format, triangulates them temporarily into a TIN, and then rasters the TIN onto a DEM." Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 20:28
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    I think your answer could be improved by editing it to include a link or other reference that indicates that GlobalMapper cannot just use LiDAR data but can actually export to Esri ASCII Raster format. Otherwise it sounds like may only be speculating.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 23:38

SAGA GIS is free and portable and can handle the LIDAR data. I do not work with this kind of data, but SAGA supports multiple formats to export (including Esri ASCII grid format), so you should try. And it has relatively user-friendly GUI.

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    I think your answer could be improved by editing it to include a link or other reference that indicates that SAGA cannot just use LiDAR data but can actually export to Esri ASCII Raster format. Otherwise it sounds like may only be speculating.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 23:28

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