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Basic Spatial Vector Format Conversions

For converting between vector formats (shapefile, Mapinfo etc) you can use the command line tool ogr2ogr as an alternative to Universal Translator in Mapinfo. It’s really easy to use. Here’s how to convert from shapefile to Mapinfo tab file:

ogr2ogr -f "MapInfo File" data.shp

Make a KML for use in Google Earth:

ogr2ogr -f KML data.kml data.shp

Back to shapefile from the KML:

ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" data.shp data.kml

You get the hang of it. There’s a lot of formats, you can see the whole list by typing ogr2ogr --formats. ogr2ogr can also do other things like reprojecting and clipping vector data. As an example, for using Google Earth you probably want to use WGS84 instead of the usual MGA56. From doing way too much converting between projections I know that the EPSG numbers for these are 4326 and 28356. So:

ogr2ogr -f KML -a_srs EPSG:28356 -t_srs EPSG:4326 data.kml data.shp

Note that converting from Mapinfo to shapefile can cause some grief since Mapinfo files can have points/lines/polygons in the same file whereas shapefiles can only have a single type of geometry. You’re probably better off sticking with Universal Translator for this use case.

There’s also a tool for converting between raster formats (gdal_translate) but it’s slightly harder to use (tends to mess up nodata values if you don’t specify correctly).