Using the GDAL/OGR API, I need to be able to convert various types of GDAL datasources into GeoJSON. However, I do not want to write the GeoJSON to a file, but rather I need to just return the text string within the application.

For example, if I have a set of shapefiles, I want to be able to extract the data from one of these shapefiles as a GeoJSON text string.

I want to avoid the slow I/O penalty of writing it to a file and then reading the file and then deleting the file. Such I/O would likely slow things down too much, as I would be running such tasks very frequently (if I can ever get it to work).

Is there some way to get GDAL data as GeoJSON text without writing it to a file first?

Note that I'm using the C API for GDAL/OGR within an application. So a C or C++ solution would be preferred. However, I'm also open to other suggestions which may give me other ideas.

PS . This is on iOS.

  • Write to memory perhaps? i.e. output to the virtual memory filesystem /vsimem/blahblah.json, then read with VSIFOpenL VSIFReadL
    – user2856
    Dec 20, 2016 at 5:05
  • OGRGeometry::exportToJson will give you the json for the geometry object.
    – Nathan W
    Dec 20, 2016 at 5:05
  • Virtual memory file system may be a possibility. I'm not familiar with this, so will have to investigate if I can do this on iOS - unlikely, I suspect, due to sandboxing. Dec 20, 2016 at 5:07
  • I think @NathanW may have the best idea. For plain C I would use OGR_G_ExportToJson() . So long as I don't need non-spatial attributes this should work: Determine all features within the required envelope, run OGR_G_ExportToJson() on the geometries for each of the features, adding results to an array, and finally join all array elements into a single GeoJSON string. I will have to experiment with this and see how it goes. Dec 20, 2016 at 22:16

1 Answer 1


Based on the suggestion from @NathanW I'm going to use OGR_G_ExportToJson() for each geometry in the layer (filtered by spatial extent). I don't think I need non-spatial attributes for this, but if I do, I could theoretically build up JSON properties to include alongside the geometry. So my plan is to do it this way:

  1. Set a spatial filter on the layer with OGR_L_SetSpatialFilterRect()
  2. Cycle through the filtered features with OGR_L_GetNextFeature()
  3. Get the geometry of each feature with OGR_F_GetGeometryRef()
  4. Get GeoJSON string of each geometry with OGR_G_ExportToJson()
  5. Construct a GeoJSON feature string for each geometry based on a template string, including the GeoJSON geometry string obtained earlier, and add it to an array of GeoJSON feature strings
  6. Construct a full GeoJSON string for a feature collection, including converting the array to a GeoJSON feature list

I've implemented most of this now, but haven't actually tested it properly yet.

  • 2
    If you could upload what you have in a Gist or post it here, that'd be super helpful!
    – Richard
    Aug 11, 2017 at 5:10

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