Batch Importing Shapefiles (The Adventure)

If you’ve ever needed to import multiple shapefiles into GeoServer, you know that currently there aren’t any built-in tools to let you to do this.  I had to import about a hundred of them for some work I was doing, and it simply wasn’t feasible to do them one at a time.  (Recall that shapefiles are their own DataStores, so one needs to set up DataStores and FeatureTypes for each shapefile, in effect double the work compared to a database.)  I polled the users mailing list but didn’t get much of a response, aside from others looking for the same.

Impetuously, I decided to set out to solve this problem myself. I am by no means a programmer (at least not yet), but I have some shell/batch scripting history, and was, as Hunter Thompson once said, “just sick enough to be totally confident.”  I decided to write a batch import program in Python, if for no other reason than we have some sophisticated Python developers in the office, so I figured I was in good hands.  Yes, I didn’t actually have any Python experience per se, which sort of likened the experience to someone who has never held a soldering iron building a personal computer.

So, I tweaked, tinkered, read Learning Python, asked a ton of questions to my tireless office mates, and in a short eternity had a script that did the following:

  1. Copied a shapefile (and associated files) to the data directory
  2. Appended info block to catalog.xml
  3. Created named FeatureType directory and associated info.xml

Some parts of the process were made easy in my particular case.  All my SLDs were already loaded into the data directory, with the same name as the shapefile.  Every shapefile had the same bounding box, projection, and namespace, so I could hard code those into the script without having to figure out how to get at them another way.  The script wasn’t pretty, but it worked, and to me, that was the most important part.

The punchline to this story is that the very next day after I got all my shapefiles loaded, there appeared a response to my initial query, wherein a kind soul had posted a python script that did (approximately) the exact same thing.

Stoyan Shopov from LISAsoft, a geospatial software and consulting company, was in the same situation as I was.  He created the script, as he says, “by my own initiative and out of frustration,” which pretty much sums it up.  His script was, of course, miles ahead of mine in compactness and sheer elegance.  That said, in the spirit of open-source and sharing that is our solemn creed, I offer both mine and Stoyan’s scripts (with his permission, of course).

Download Stoyan’s script
Download my script (Warning: If you are a Python programmer, you may be horrified.)

Now, eventually a lot of this work will be obsolete, as the GeoServer developers are working on a RESTful interface that will allow for easy configuration changes from a command line.  I have seen a demo of this functionality, and it is impressive in its simplicity and its why-didn’t-they-do-this-sooner-ness.

Are there any interesting scripts or external programs you have employed when working with GeoServer?  If so, then speak up, as there’s a good chance that someone is encountering that very problem you’ve already solved.

Note: Comments have been restored to this blog after a long absence, so your comments will no longer be lost in the void.  Thanks for your patience on this one.


  1. GeorGes AOUN
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    hey,i need help in a case i don’t know how close it is to this article,i downloaded the geoserver to server my ‘.shp’ maps, i integrated it with the apache tomcat,now i need to show this map not using the geoserver demo but in another open source project (opengts) which has it’s own webpage for tracking,”http://localhost:8080/track/Track”.this webpage is modifyable by and xml file which contain several map providers,ex:googlemap,openlayers,mapstraction,virtualearth….
    it seems that i need to add my own provider “geoserver” and to make it show my “.shp” map.
    i can’t figure out wat i should do.
    every help is appreciated, thanks

  2. Mike Pumphrey
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Hey GeorGes. I recommend posting this question to the geoserver-users mailing list. There are a host of very smart and experienced users on there, some of whom I’m sure have experience with OpenGTS.

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