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.
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 Mac 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 clickNote 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.
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
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
- Install the expat2 port:
cd /usr/ports/textproc/expat2 && make install clean
- Follow the instructions in building GPSBabel
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.
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
gpsbabel binary that can then be copied to a
location of your choosing. Additional instructions are available in
our instructions for