A GeoPDF is a georeferenced PDF file, meaning that it is a Portable Document Format (PDF) file with added information that relates the image to coordinates on a map. GeoPDF files can be used as plain PDF files but have the added capability of some limited mapping functions (turn any map layers on and off, obtain XY coordinates for a location, measure length, and more).

The USGS currently produces topographic maps using an Open Source GeoPDF format. However, most digital USGS topographic maps published before June 2017 are GeoPDF® files that were produced using software from Terrago Technologies. Those products are GeoMark enabled, so users can use the Terrago toolbar plugin to perform added functions.

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What does "georeferenced" mean?

Georeferencing means that the internal coordinate system of a digital map or aerial photo can be related to a ground system of geographic coordinates. A georeferenced digital map or image has been tied to a known Earth coordinate system, so users can determine where every point on the map or aerial photo is located on the Earth's surface. The...

What is GeoMark and do USGS topographic maps have it?

Almost all historical topographic maps and all US Topo maps produced before June of 2017 were georeferenced using software from the company TerraGo. Those maps are all GeoMark enabled. GeoMark is TerraGo's geospatial data extension to PDF markup. GeoMark allows notes and geometric objects (lines, polygons, etc.) to be added to a GeoPDF and allows...

Can I import a US Topo map into my Geographic Information System (GIS)?

Most GIS vendors do not yet provide geospatial PDF import capabilities. US Topo maps are derived from GIS data sets and are formatted as PDF for the benefit of non-specialist users. We consider the product to be primarily an output of—rather than an input to—GIS. However, we recognize the demand for symbolized maps in GIS, and we are working on a...

Why was the PDF file format selected for US Topo maps?

US Topo maps are intended to serve map users who are not GIS specialists. The priority design objectives were to create a traditional topographic map as a digital document that could be displayed on a typical computer without specialized software and printed at map scale without specialized software or expertise. We believe PDF is the only format...

Can I get a bulk order of USGS topographic maps in PDF format for a state or the entire country?

Yes. Bulk delivery is available for maps from the US Topo collection (produced 2009-present) and the Historical Topographic Map Collection (produced 1884-2006). In bulk delivery requests, please specify which of these two product series you want. Bulk delivery options are currently only available for maps in GeoPDF file format. Options for bulk...
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December 18, 2017

Lesson 8a: US Topos Created after June 2017

In this lesson we will demonstrate how to open and manipulate data layers using Adobe Reader DC and Adobe Acrobat Pro. We will also learn how to use basic tools like panning, zooming and making measurements.