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Note: A new GRASS GIS stable version has been released: GRASS GIS 7.4, available here.
Updated manual page: here


v.external - Creates a new pseudo-vector map as a link to an OGR-supported layer or a PostGIS feature table.


vector, import, external, OGR, PostGIS


v.external --help
v.external [-fltb] input=string layer=name [output=name] [--overwrite] [--help] [--verbose] [--quiet] [--ui]


List supported formats and exit
List available layers in data source and exit
List available layers including feature type in data source and exit
Format: layer name,type,projection check,geometry
Do not build topology
Allow output files to overwrite existing files
Print usage summary
Verbose module output
Quiet module output
Force launching GUI dialog


input=string [required]
Name of input OGR or PostGIS data source
        ESRI Shapefile: directory containing a shapefile
        MapInfo File: directory containing a mapinfo file
        PostGIS database: connection string, eg. 'PG:dbname=db user=grass'
layer=name [required]
Name of OGR layer or PostGIS feature table to be linked
        ESRI Shapefile: shapefile name
        MapInfo File: mapinfo file name
        PostGIS database: table name
Name for output GRASS vector map (default: input layer)

Table of contents


v.external creates new vector map as a link to external OGR layer or PostGIS feature table. OGR (Simple Features Library) is part of the GDAL library, so you need to install GDAL to use v.external for external OGR layers. Note that a PostGIS feature table can be linked also using built-in GRASS-PostGIS data driver (requires GRASS to be built with PostgreSQL support).

Supported OGR vector formats

To list supported OGR formats, type
v.external -f
For details see OGR web site.


ESRI Shapefile

Assuming that 'test_shape.shp' is located in directory '/home/user/shape_data'.
v.external input=/home/user/shape_data layer=test_shape output=grass_map 

MapInfo files

v.external input=./ layer=mapinfo_test output=grass_map

SDTS files

Note: you have to select the CATD file
v.external input=CITXCATD.DDF output=cities

TIGER files

v.external input=input/2000/56015/ layer=CompleteChain,PIP output=t56015_all

PostGIS layers

PostGIS links are by default created by built-in PostGIS support, ie. using GRASS-PostGIS data driver. If the environment variable GRASS_VECTOR_OGR exists, or GRASS is compiled without PostgreSQL support then GRASS will use OGR-PostgreSQL driver for creating a link.
v.external input="PG:host=localhost user=postgres dbname=postgis" layer=polymap


The simple feature data model used by OGR (or PostGIS) is very different from the topological format used by GRASS. Instead of true topology, so called 'pseudo topology' is created for data linked by v.external. User should learn the difference between those two formats, because some modules working correctly with GRASS native data, can produce wrong results with input vector maps created by v.external.

See v.db.connect for an example of maintaining attributes in external DBMS in also writable mode.


OGR vector library C API documentation


v.external.out, v.clean, v.db.connect, v.import,,, v.out.ogr

OGR Library

See also GRASS user wiki page for more examples.


Radim Blazek, ITC-Irst, Trento, Italy
PostGIS support by Martin Landa, Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic

Last changed: $Date: 2016-01-13 01:20:46 -0800 (Wed, 13 Jan 2016) $


Available at: v.external source code (history)

Note: A new GRASS GIS stable version has been released: GRASS GIS 7.4, available here.
Updated manual page: here

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