I have thousands of shapefiles in .zip archives to work with. How can I use and other GDAL/OGR tools to work with these data without having to extract the archives first?

From gdal cheatsheet and Reading a GDAL dataset in a .gz file or a .zip archive I know that I can use the visizip driver, but for formats that consist of multiple files per data layer like shapefile you need to explicitly name the file inside the archive:

ogrinfo /vsizip/archive.zip/105A_wetland_a.shp

How might I efficiently work with archives, that could contain multiple shapefiles per zip, without having to know the and pass the name of each layer ahead of time? e.g.

ogrinfo /vsizip/archive.zip

Example archive file: bndt_105a_shp_en.zip from Geogratis.

  • That should be correct assuming archive.zip is in your current directory, and you have gdal version 1.6.0+ for zip or 1.8.0+ for gzip.
    – Andy C
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 19:37
  • @AndyC ogrinfo /vsizip/archive.zip enumerates the names of the .shp inside the archive but follows with series of ERROR 4: Unable to open file /vsizip/archive.zip/shapefilename.shp or .... See pastebin.com/AJtgdths. OGR version "GDAL 2.1.3, released 2017/20/01" Commented May 15, 2017 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


Your command is basically OK but the error message looks worse than it actually is. The important message is

It may be corrupt or read-only file accessed in update mode.

You can open files from zip but you can't update them. If you read the zip as read-only you can get rid of the error messages.

ogrinfo /vsizip/bndt_105a_shp_en.zip -ro
INFO: Open of `/vsizip/bndt_105a_shp_en.zip'
      using driver `ESRI Shapefile' successful.
1: 105A_buildin_p (Point)
2: 105A_builtup_a (Polygon)
3: 105A_builtup_p (Point)
4: 105A_campgro_p (Point)
5: 105A_contour_l (Line String)
6: 105A_dis_str_p (Point)
7: 105A_elev_pt_p (Point)
8: 105A_esker_l (Line String)
9: 105A_haz_air_p (Point)
10: 105A_haz_nav_p (Point)
11: 105A_li_road_l (Line String)
12: 105A_mininga_a (Polygon)
13: 105A_nav_aid_p (Point)
14: 105A_nts_lim_l (Line String)
15: 105A_picnic_p (Point)
16: 105A_road_l (Line String)
17: 105A_runway_p (Point)
18: 105A_sand_a (Polygon)
19: 105A_seapl_b_p (Point)
20: 105A_ski_cen_p (Point)
21: 105A_toponym_p (Point)
22: 105A_tower_p (Point)
23: 105A_trail_l (Line String)
24: 105A_vegetat_a (Polygon)
25: 105A_wat_dis_a (Polygon)
26: 105A_wat_dis_l (Line String)
27: 105A_wat_dis_p (Point)
28: 105A_water_b_a (Polygon)
29: 105A_water_c_l (Line String)
30: 105A_wetland_a (Polygon)

It is possible to convert all the layers into any format that supports multiple layers with a one-line command. As an example a conversion into GeoPackage:

ogr2ogr -f gpkg test.gpkg /vsizip/bndt_105a_shp_en.zip

Adding more data to existing layers and adding new layers into existing GeoPackage should go this way:

ogr2ogr -f gpkg -update -append test.gpkg /vsizip/another.zip
  • Oh! Thank you. I didn't investigate the read-only part of the message much because to my mind an info command would already be read-only. Do you have any suggestions for the other part of the question, using ogr2ogr on zips without having to name the layers? Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:25
  • What is your aim with ogr2ogr? Probably not just to write everything out to shapefiles because then you could simply unzip.
    – user30184
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 6:05
  • ultimately the aim is to merge thousands of shapefiles into a few in some other format (file-gdb, postgres, ...) without having to unzip first Commented May 17, 2017 at 19:50
  • I edited the answer and added two ogr2ogr commands which should work but I did not test them.
    – user30184
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 20:21

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