What is a GPX file & how do I open a GPX file (GPS Exchange File)?

.GPX (GPS Exchange File) - File Extension

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File format: XML

What is a GPX File?

A GPX file, short for GPS Exchange Format, is a widely used file format for storing GPS data. It is an open standard format that allows GPS programs and devices to exchange and share location data.

GPX files are saved in XML (eXtensible Markup Language) format, which makes them easily readable and importable by various programs and web services.

These files primarily contain longitude and latitude coordinates, but they can also include additional information such as waypoints, routes, and tracks.

How to Open a GPX File

Opening a GPX file is a straightforward process that requires compatible software capable of interpreting and visualizing the GPS data.

There are several options available for opening GPX files:

  1. GPS Software: Many dedicated GPS devices and navigation software applications have built-in support for opening GPX files. These include popular programs like Garmin BaseCamp, Google Earth, and GPSBabel.
  2. Mapping Websites: Numerous online mapping platforms, such as Google Maps and OpenStreetMap, allow you to upload GPX files and view the data directly on their interfaces. This enables users to visualize their GPS data on interactive maps without the need for specialized software.
  3. Mobile Apps: Various mobile apps for iOS and Android devices support GPX files, making it convenient to view and analyze GPS data on the go. Examples of such apps include Gaia GPS, ViewRanger, and Locus Map.

To open a GPX file, follow these general steps:

  1. Ensure you have a compatible software program or application installed on your device.
  2. Launch the program and navigate to the “Open” or “Import” option.
  3. Browse to the location where the GPX file is saved.
  4. Select the file and click “Open” or “Import” to load the GPS data.
  5. The software will then display the GPX data, typically on a map or in a structured format, depending on the capabilities of the program.

How to Convert a GPX File

Converting GPX files to other formats or vice versa can be useful in scenarios where compatibility or specific file requirements arise.

There are tools and software available that facilitate GPX file conversion. Here are some options:

  1. GPSBabel: This versatile software supports converting GPX files to various formats, including KML (Keyhole Markup Language), CSV (Comma-Separated Values), and more. It also allows conversion from other file formats to GPX.
  2. Online Conversion Tools: Several websites offer online GPX conversion services, where you can upload your GPX file and convert it to different formats. These tools are often simple to use and do not require any software installation.

It’s important to note that during file conversion, there may be slight variations or limitations depending on the specific software or conversion method used. It’s advisable to check the converted file for accuracy and ensure the data integrity remains intact after the conversion process.

Security Considerations: Are GPX Files Safe?

GPX files themselves are not inherently dangerous or susceptible to security risks. As XML-based files, they primarily store location data and related information, which are typically harmless. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution when downloading GPX files from unknown or untrusted sources.

One potential security concern is the possibility of malicious code embedded within the GPX file itself. While rare, it is conceivable that an attacker could attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in the software used to process GPX files. To mitigate this risk, it is essential to keep your software and devices up-to-date with the latest security patches and use reputable sources when obtaining GPX files.

In general, the security of GPX files relies more on the software or applications used to handle them than the file format itself. By adopting standard security practices, such as regular software updates and cautious downloading habits, users can minimize any potential security risks associated with GPX files.

Format Details for GPX Files

GPX files are structured using XML, a widely used markup language for storing and transmitting structured data. XML allows for flexible and extensible data representation, making it suitable for storing GPS-related information in GPX files.

Here are some format details specific to GPX files:

  • Root Element: The root element of a GPX file is typically <gpx>. It serves as the container for all the GPS data contained within the file.
  • Data Elements: GPX files consist of various data elements, such as <wpt> (waypoint), <rte> (route), and <trk> (track). These elements define specific types of GPS data within the file.
  • Attributes: GPX elements may have attributes that provide additional information. For example, a <wpt> element can include attributes such as lat (latitude) and long (longitude) to specify the waypoint’s coordinates.
  • Metadata: GPX files often include metadata, such as the creator of the file, the date and time of creation, and descriptive information about the GPS data.

The specific structure and content of a GPX file can vary depending on the device or software that generated it. However, adherence to the GPX schema ensures compatibility and consistent interpretation across different programs.

Uses and Applications of GPX Files

GPX files find applications in various contexts, ranging from outdoor activities and navigation to data analysis and visualization. Here are some common use cases:

  1. Outdoor Recreation: GPX files are extensively used by hikers, bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. They can create and share GPX files containing their planned routes, waypoints of interest, and tracks from previous journeys. These files enable others to follow the same routes or explore new areas using compatible GPS devices or navigation apps.
  2. Fitness Tracking: Many fitness-oriented devices and applications, such as smartwatches and fitness apps, support GPX file export. Users can record their workouts, runs, or cycling sessions and export the data as a GPX file. This allows for detailed analysis, comparison, and sharing of performance data with others.
  3. Geocaching: Geocaching is a popular outdoor treasure-hunting activity that involves finding hidden containers, or geocaches, using GPS coordinates. GPX files are used to store and share geocache locations, making it easier for geocachers to navigate and discover hidden treasures.
  4. Data Analysis: GPX files can be imported into specialized software or geographic information systems (GIS) for in-depth analysis. Researchers, urban planners, and environmentalists utilize GPX files to study movement patterns, analyze transportation networks, and monitor wildlife habitats.

Associated Software Programs

Several software programs support the creation, editing, and viewing of GPX files. Here are some commonly used options:

  • Garmin BaseCamp: A comprehensive GPS mapping software developed by Garmin that enables users to view and manipulate GPX files along with various other map-related functions.
  • Google Earth: A popular virtual globe and mapping software that allows users to import and view GPX files, overlay them on the 3D Earth model, and explore GPS data within a geospatial context.
  • GPSBabel: A versatile cross-platform tool designed to handle various GPS file formats, including GPX. GPSBabel enables users to convert GPX files to and from different formats and perform data filtering and manipulation tasks.
  • QGIS: An open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) software that supports GPX files. QGIS provides advanced geospatial analysis capabilities and is widely used for mapping and data visualization.
  • Strava: A popular fitness app focused on tracking and analyzing athletic activities. Strava allows users to import GPX files from their GPS devices or other sources to track workouts, share routes, and compete with others.

The above-mentioned programs represent a mix of paid and free options, catering to different user preferences and requirements.

Advantages and Disadvantages of GPX Files

Like any file format, GPX files have advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview:


  • Interoperability: GPX files adhere to an open standard, making them compatible with various GPS devices, applications, and web services. This interoperability allows for easy sharing and exchange of GPS data across different platforms.
  • Human-Readable Format: GPX files are stored in XML, which is a human-readable format. This makes it relatively easy for users to understand and manually edit the data if needed.
  • Flexibility: GPX files can store a wide range of GPS-related information, including waypoints, routes, and tracks. This flexibility enables users to capture and convey detailed location data for various purposes.


  • Limited Features: While GPX files are effective for storing GPS data, they may lack some advanced features found in proprietary file formats specific to certain GPS devices. Advanced functionalities and features supported by particular manufacturers’ file formats may not be fully compatible with GPX files.
  • File Size: Depending on the complexity and density of the GPS data stored, GPX files can become relatively large in size. This may pose challenges when sharing or storing large collections of GPX files, especially in situations with limited bandwidth or storage capacity.
  • Lack of Standardization: Although GPX is an open standard, there may be variations in how different devices or software interpret and handle certain elements or attributes within the GPX files. This lack of strict standardization can sometimes lead to compatibility issues.

Comparison to Similar File Extensions

GPX files are primarily used for storing GPS data, but there are other file extensions used in related contexts. Here’s a brief comparison with some similar file extensions:

  1. KML (Keyhole Markup Language): KML files, developed by Keyhole Inc. (acquired by Google), are also used for storing geographic data, including GPS coordinates, placemarks, and overlays. While GPX files focus on GPS data exchange, KML files provide more extensive support for 3D models, annotations, and rich visualization options.
  2. NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association): NMEA is a standardized protocol for marine electronics, including GPS receivers. NMEA files contain ASCII-based messages that represent various navigational and sensor data. Unlike GPX files, NMEA files are not as versatile for storing multiple types of GPS-related information.
  3. TCX (Training Center XML): TCX files are specifically designed for fitness and athletic activities. They store GPS and performance data from workouts and are commonly used by fitness devices and apps. While GPX files can also store fitness-related data, TCX files provide additional features like heart rate, cadence, and power information.
  4. CSV (Comma-Separated Values): CSV files are plain text files that store tabular data in a structured manner. While GPX files can be converted to CSV for specific purposes, CSV files lack the explicit support for GPS-related information and the standardized structure found in GPX files.

These comparisons highlight the differences in scope, features, and compatibility of various file extensions used in the GPS and geographic data domains.

Troubleshooting GPX Files

Encountering issues with GPX files is relatively rare, given their standardization and widespread support. However, if you encounter problems, here are a few troubleshooting steps:

  1. Check Compatibility: Ensure that you are using a compatible software program capable of opening GPX files. Verify that the software version is up-to-date, as older versions may lack support for the latest GPX features or improvements.
  2. Validate the GPX File: Use a GPX validation tool or online service to check the integrity of the GPX file. This will identify any syntax errors or inconsistencies within the file that may be causing issues.
  3. Try Alternative Software: If you’re unable to open or view a GPX file with one software program, try using a different one. Some programs may have better compatibility with or handling of GPX files.
  4. Check File Associations: Ensure that GPX files are associated with the correct software program on your computer. If necessary, adjust the default file associations in your operating system’s settings.
  5. Convert to Another Format: If all else fails, consider converting the GPX file to another format, such as KML or CSV, using conversion tools or online services. This may help overcome compatibility issues with specific software programs.

By following these troubleshooting steps, you can resolve common issues related to GPX files and ensure smooth access to your GPS data.

History of the GPX File Extension

The GPX file format was created in 2002 by TopoGrafix, a software company specializing in mapping and GPS-related solutions. The primary motivation behind GPX was to establish a common format that could be used across different GPS devices and software applications.

The advent of GPX aimed to address the fragmentation and lack of interoperability among proprietary GPS file formats at the time. By introducing an open standard, TopoGrafix sought to facilitate the exchange and sharing of GPS data between different platforms and services.

Over time, GPX gained widespread acceptance and support from various GPS manufacturers, software developers, and mapping services. This led to its adoption as a de facto standard for GPS data interchange.

GPX has evolved since its inception, with new features and enhancements introduced to accommodate the growing needs of the GPS community. Today, it remains a widely recognized and utilized file format for GPS data storage, exchange, and analysis.

Tips and Tricks for GPX Files

Here are some useful tips and tricks for effectively working with GPX files:

  1. Maintain an Organized File Structure: Keep your GPX files organized in a logical folder structure, especially if you have a large collection of GPS data. Categorize files by activity type, location, or any other relevant criteria to ensure easy retrieval and management.
  2. Backup Your GPX Files: Regularly create backups of your GPX files to prevent data loss in case of accidental deletion, hardware failure, or software issues. Consider storing backups in separate physical or cloud-based locations for added security.
  3. Merge or Split GPX Files: Use specialized software or online tools to merge multiple GPX files into a single file or split a large GPX file into smaller segments. This can be useful for consolidating data or segmenting lengthy tracks for specific analyses or sharing purposes.
  4. Customize GPX Data: Some software programs allow customization of GPX data, such as adding additional attributes or modifying the appearance of waypoints and tracks. Explore these options to enhance the visual representation or add context to your GPS data.
  5. Explore Plugins and Extensions: Certain software programs support plugins or extensions that extend their functionality for working with GPX files. Investigate available plugins or extensions that can enhance your GPS data visualization, analysis, or integration with other tools.

By employing these tips and tricks, you can optimize your GPX file management, analysis, and utilization for various purposes.


The GPX file extension, as an open standard for GPS data exchange, has revolutionized the way GPS data is stored, shared, and analyzed. Its flexibility, compatibility, and wide support make GPX files indispensable in various domains, including outdoor recreation, fitness tracking, and geographic data analysis.

With the ability to open GPX files using dedicated GPS software, online mapping platforms, or mobile apps, users can leverage their GPS data for navigation, exploration, and fitness tracking. The conversion capabilities of GPX files allow for seamless integration with other file formats and tools, expanding the possibilities for data manipulation and analysis.

While GPX files offer numerous advantages, it’s important to be mindful of their potential limitations, such as variations in features and the need for regular software updates. By following best practices, users can harness the power of GPX files while mitigating any challenges or security concerns associated with this file extension.

As the GPS landscape continues to evolve, GPX files remain a reliable and widely adopted standard, ensuring the efficient exchange and utilization of GPS data across diverse applications and platforms.

Software Compatible With The GPX File Type
GPS Exchange File

In this section you will find a list of the best programs compatible with the GPX file type. We've selected the best software for Windows, Mac, Android and Linux to open, edit, convert and view the contents of GPX files.