GPSBabel Operating System Notes

GPSBabel runs on a wide variety of operating systems. Here is a list of wisdom gathered from users of GPSBabel on each OS. If your OS is not mentioned here, it either means it Just Works without special coddling or that nobody has submitted notes for it. Contributions to this page are welcome and if you've used GPSBabel on an OS that isn't called out here, we'd like to hear about your success and any obstacles you had to overcome.

Quick links on this page:
Windows 7 and newer
OS/X, OS/X on USB Garmin


GPSBabel is distributed for Windows systems via an installer. It will install two executables:

gpsbabel is the standard command line version described in the help text.
gpsbabelfront is a graphical wrapper that allows you to pick single files to read and write from menus.

You may create batch files or desktop icons to make either one more convenient.

You may also find Alex Mottram's tip for Drag and Drop icons to be handy. Here is help for getting a Command prompt on Windows XP handy.


GPSBabel is available precompiled for MacOS (formerly OS/X). GPSBabel+ is a graphical wrapper which has GPSBabel embedded in it.

GPSBabel+ is run by double-clicking on the GPSBabel+ icon. Most, but not all, of the advanced features of GPSBabel are available in the GPSBabel+ 'advanced' window. To access any of the features not available in the GUI you will need to use the terminal (see below).

If you prefer to use the command-line (or you need to access features not available in GPSBabel+), open the terminal app and navigate to the directory containing GPSBabel+. We do have some additional tips on this.

We have a way to access GPSBabel with one click

Note to Garmin USB users of OS/X:

Success with Garmin USB is predicated upon two things: current device firmware and OS/X 10.3.8 or newer. OS X version 10.3.8 and all versions of 10.4 added a workaround to compensate for the Garmins not responding correctly to device enumeration. This allowed the Garmins to work intermittently. In the middle of 2005, Garmin released firmware updates that improved their USB behaviour as seen by OS/X. The required version varies from model to model; just update to the latest. If you have a version older than summer of 2005, you will almost certainly need to update. Until Garmin releases a firmware updater that works on OS/X, you will need to do this update from a Windows system.

Darwin and OS X (command-line)

Use fink to install expat and libusb (if you need it) if they are not already present on your system.

Some serial adapters offer several device files (in the /dev/ directory) for the same adapter. The proper way to use GPSBabel is to use the 'call out' device. For Keyspan adapters, the device name for call out devices is in the form /dev/cu.xxxx. For example, for a Keyspan USB PDA adapter, the name of the device is /dev/cu.USA19QI181P1.1 . If you use the other device file (which is a 'dial in' device), the software will block trying to open the serial port and the only solution will be to unplug the adapter. The file for the dial in device is in the form /dev/tty.xxxx .


  1. Install the expat2 port: cd /usr/ports/textproc/expat2 && make install clean
  2. Follow the instructions in building GPSBabel


GPSBabel has been tested on a variety of Linux distributions including Red Hat, Fedora, SuSE and Debian on architectures including IA64, IA32, Power, and ARM.
USB users may find this tip for configuring hotplug to make devices accessible when you aren't root helpful on the Garmin USB units.


OpenBSD (post-4.0) has a port of GPSBabel. While it is recommended that you use pre-built packages, if no package is available for your hardware platform or OS version, it can be built using the ports tree: cd /usr/ports/geo/gpsbabel && make SUDO=sudo install. GPSBabel also has a Tk front end which is in the gpsbabel-gui subpackage.

GPS receivers connected via "real" serial ports will be accessible via cuaXX devices (ie. /dev/cua00); USB receivers which emulate serial ports will be accessible as cuaUX devices (ie. /dev/cuaU0).


GPSBabel has been tested on SCO OpenServer, SCO UnixWare, and Solaris.

Building from Source: All

GPSBabel is written in ISO C and accordingly requires standard tools to build C programs. In most
cases, simply typing ./configure ; make will give you a gpsbabel binary that can then be copied to a location of your choosing. Additional instructions are available in our instructions for building GPSBabel".