I have not come across *.ssf files before but I believe they are a Trimble GPS binary format. Someone has asked me if these files which he thinks have line/poly features can be imported for display in ArcMap 10.0.

I am keen to know whether this is possible because my research so far seems to indicate that they are for correcting feature accuracy rather than containing features.

Can *.ssf files be converted for display in ArcMap?

  • @simplexio, Yes I am agreed that during conversion some information not properly converted as you write about the scandinavian characters etc, I also face problem while exporting the Arabic charachters as well.
    – shahid
    Dec 1, 2012 at 5:57

4 Answers 4


You can also write your ssf file to a shapefile directly in TerraSync on your mobile device. This shapefile can then be transferred from the device to your PC. The steps for doing this are as follows:

  1. When finished collecting data in TerraSync close out the data file.
  2. Open the file manager in TerraSync. (Data>File Manager)
  3. Select the data file you want to write to a .shp
  4. Tap Options>Write data to Shape
  5. Choose where to write the shapefile to.
  6. Connect the Trimble handheld to a PC.
  7. Open Windows explorer on your PC.
  8. Copy and paste the shapefile from your handheld to your PC.

The ssf format is specific to Trimble, representing data directly off the GPS unit, and it is not a GIS format. The workflow in Pathfinder is to differentially correct this file and then export it into a desired format. From within Pathfinder there is a Menu option to export the corrected data to a shapefile.

As previously pointed out an alternative is the ArcGIS Trimble GPS Analyst Extension. Differential correction is however, still required.

Sorry, there is just not a non-commerical "free" solution for processing ssf files.


You can export *.ssf file from Trimble Pathfinder office to shape files and display in ArcMap. If you have any query or you want to convert your *.ssf file you can contact me.

  • 1
    perhaps you could modify your answer to include more instructions for exporting *.ssf files to shapefiles. That way, the answer can benefit everybody. And if someone reads this post in the future, the answer will be there.
    – Fezter
    Nov 28, 2012 at 5:56
  • @shahid Are you saying that this can ONLY be done from the Trimble Pathfinder end? I don't have that software so was hoping not to have to ask the person with it to re-issue me with data (but I can if I need to).
    – PolyGeo
    Nov 28, 2012 at 6:47

Trimble ssf files and ddf files. You can use "GPS Pathfinder Office" program to convert filetypes and projections. It has it own problems, attleast version that i have dosen't handle scandinavian characters right, and when exporting to shapefile it uses max 10 chars in column name. So you need to rewrite feature names again if those are longer that 10 char.

Other option is to get FME and Trimble ssf extension, costs, but works good. Only problem is that you cant read ddf and use that dictionary file to limit features read from bunch of ssf files.

(I hate proprietary file formats nowdays, but what can you do)

  • 1
    When you are exporting Trimble SSF file to Esri shape file the maximum length of field name (column name) in dbf file is 10 character. its not a conversion problem it's the dbs file field name limitation.
    – user13170
    Nov 28, 2012 at 20:49
  • yes, i know. But it is annoying limitation , which make you do more work and to my knowledge there is not any tools which exports data without losing information in GPS Pathfinder Office Nov 29, 2012 at 7:57

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