RFC 78: gdal-utils package


Idan Miara





Last updated:



Adopted, implemented in GDAL 3.3


This RFC suggests to put all the GDAL python modules (formly scripts), except from the GDAL core SWIG bindings, into their own distribution on pypi. The GDAL python sub-package osgeo.utils (introduced in GDAL 3.2) would be renamed into a package named osgeo_utils.

The standalone python scripts from GDAL <= 3.1 were transformed to osgeo.utils in GDAL 3.2. For backwards compatibility these scripts still exist and function as tiny wrappers around the python modules. Users of these scripts would not be effected from this RFC as the scripts would continue to function in GDAL 3.3 in the same way as in GDAL <= 3.2.

To allow maximum backwards compatibility, The osgeo package (which includes the GDAL core SWIG bindings) and the osgeo_utils package will continue to be distributed in a single sdist named gdal in pypi.

In addition, a new pure python wheel distribution named gdal-utils will be available in pypi under the name gdal-utils.

This will allow users who wish to upgrade the utils without upgrading the bindings to do so with pip install --upgrade gdal-utils (see more details in the following sections).


Making gdal Python developers life easier on Windows (and maybe other platforms):

The straightforward way of cloning gdal and adding gdal/swig/python to Python path (In PyCharm: marking the it as a Source Root) won't work because the pyc files are missing from gdal/swig/python/osgeo, thus by adding osgeo to Python path we would be masking a binary installation of gdal that might be already installed (i.e. osgeo4w or Christoph Gohlke's binary Windows wheels). Workarounds, like copying the pyc files to the osgeo dir, cause their own problems, like: * Switching interpreters that have different versions of gdal causes more problems. * Non clean git working tree so committing the changes to git is harder. By moving the gdal-utils into another root this problem is completely avoid.

Allow mixing gdal and gdal-utils versions

As the Python code evolves semi-independently of the GDAL core and is not directly dependent on a specific GDAL version, one might want use the latest gdal-utils package with an older version of gdal core bindings, or vice versa. Currently, One would need to mix the contents different gdal packages to do so.

As the gdal package is platform specific, and requires compilation, In some distributions upgrading to a new GDAL version might take more time, so one could upgrade the gdal-utils package easily and independently of upgrading the gdal package, using pip install --upgrade gdal-utils.

On the other hand, if we drop another Python version, like we just did with Python 2.7, One might be still be able to use newer gdal core bindings (which might still support an older version of Python) with an older gdal-utils, Which might drop Python versions sooner.

Reasons why users wouldn't be able to upgrade to recent GDAL:

  • They use some LTS distribution (like Debian), or application (like QGIS LTS).

  • Recent GDAL is not available for their platform or distribution (even if not LTS).

  • Their code dependents on some binary gdal-plugin which is available for a specific GDAL version.

A concrete example would be someone who uses QGIS (or QGIS LTS) that currently comes with GDAL 3.1, and wants to use the neat stuff added to gdal_calc, With this RFC he could just pip install --upgrade gdal-utils. Because this package package is Pure Python, upgrades should be easy.

Although each version of gdal-utils would only be tested against the equivalent version of gdal, In most cases different versions would still be compatible, but without guarantee.

This RFC would make further testing the compatibility between different versions of these packages easier and could be considered the first step into making the gdal-utils package completely independent of the gdal package. It would also potentially allow forward compatibility in case we ever decide to remove the utils from the gdal wheel and keep them only in the gdal-utils wheel.

Package Names and PyPi release:

This RFC suggests to keep the all-in-one package and in addition to distribute a utils only package, In order to keep the required changes from users to a minimum and at the same time allow mixing versions:

Distribution of a single pypi.org wheel named gdal will be retained and will includes both packages. This will insure smooth transition and maximum backwards compatibility.

A new pypi.org package is introduced to include with just the osgeo_utils package, which will allow upgrading the utils without upgrading the bindings.

To be consistent with the gdal pypi package name, the utils pypi package is named gdal-utils.

the name osgeo_utils is consistent with the osgeo namespace and module names.

pip install gdal
pip install gdal-utils
from osgeo import gdal
from osgeo_utils import gdal_calc, ogr_foo, osr_bar

How to upgrade the utils without upgrading the bindings:

> If someone installs the "gdal" all-in-one package and the "gdal-utils" one. Wouldn't that conflict ?

pip install a wheel overwrites whichever files already exist (even if installed by a different package) If you pip install gdal then pip install gdal-utils you'd get the utils from gdal-utils. If later you do again pip install gdal with a different version then you'd get the utils from gdal again, and so on. (it doesn't seem that it matters which version is a bigger number, just which one you installed later)

If you pip install gdal then pip install gdal-utils and then pip uninstall gdal-utils then the utils would be uninstalled and you'd be left with gdal without utils. Then you could pip install gdal-utils or pip install gdal --ignore-installed to get them back again (--ignore-installed is not required if you install a different version)

Limitations and scope

The scope of this RFC is the GDAL Python code, except for the SWIG bindings. There is no effect on any other language supported by GDAL. Because gdal core is tested using the Python SWIG bindings - this RFC does not suggest changing them in any way. Binary wheel distribution - discussed in the past and related to ideas in this RFC.

gdal and gdal-utils Compatibility

This RFC suggests that gdal-utils would continue to be only tested against the same version of gdal. In most cases different versions would still be compatible, but without guarantee.

A minimum energy approach might keep gdal-utils compatible with some gdal versions != x.y. gdal-utils might officially drop support of some too old version of GDAL by specifying a newer minimum version of GDAL in the setup.py of gdal-utils.

For maximum backwards compatibility and because we would only test gdal against the same version of gdal-utils - osgeo and osgeo_utils will continue to be distributed inside a single wheel in addition to the new separate wheel for the utils only.

In cases were an gdal-utils module or function actually does need a minimum specific version of gdal (i.e. dependence on a new GDAL C API) Compatibility could be checked at runtime by comparing to osgeo.__version__.


As development of gdal-utils will be still tied with the development of GDAL and will be released together with the same x.y.z version number. In case a hotfix to gdal-utils is required for some reason, a x.y.z.p version might be used, Which will not effect the distribution of version z+1, i.e. 3.3.0 < < 3.3.1.

Backward compatibility issues:

  • osgeo.utils will need be replaced with osgeo_utils

    This is the only breaking change, only for GDAL=3.2, and only a single character.

  • swig/python/scripts - users of the gdal scripts (which are thin wrappers around the utils) wouldn't be effected.

Folder structure change

  • gdal/swig/python/osgeo/utils -> gdal/swig/python/gdal-utils/osgeo_utils

  • gdal/swig/python/osgeo/setup.py - was updated to include the utils from the new location under the gdal-utils folder.

  • gdal/swig/python/gdal-utils/setup.py - additional setup was added for gdal-utils.

CI Impacts:

gdal-utils wheel building could be added to the CI, i.e. like in https://github.com/OSGeo/gdal/pull/3579 No other CI Impacts.

Impacts on GDAL core


SWIG binding changes


Security implications


Performance impact



Implications of this change shell documented in the README.


Minor changes were made to pytest.

Previous discussions

This topic has been discussed in the past in :

Voting history

  • +1 from EvenR, HowardB

  • +0 from KurtS, JukkaR

  • -0 from SeanG


  • Implemented by the author of this RFC, Idan Miara.