Point Cloud Support in Global Mapper

Point clouds, such as those created from lidar, have become an integral part of GIS mapping and analysis. Global Mapper is well known for its ability to import, analyze, edit and export 3D point cloud datasets. With Global Mapper Pro, advanced functionality is leveraged through an easy to use Lidar Toolbar. The point cloud display options enables users to view points by height above ground to visualize vegetation and building heights. Access to Global Mapper Pro tools require a separate license1.

Lidar Data

Light detection and ranging (Lidar) mapping, sometimes called 3D laser scanning, is a method for gathering precise geospatial information on the shape and surface characteristics for a specific collection area. The method for collecting Lidar data produces very dense, large files that can be cumbersome to handle. Global Mapper Pro manages these large files with superior speed and efficiency.

Lidar data is commonly delivered in two standard file format types: .LAS and .LAZ. The LAS file format is a public file format for the interchange of 3-dimensional point cloud, it is a binary file that retains the information specific to Lidar data (unlike a generic ASCII). The .LAZ file format is a compressed version of .LAS.

Importing Lidar Data

Importing Lidar data has been made easy in Global Mapper. Global Mapper offers native support for Lidar data. All ASPRS supported file formats (.las, .las, .gz, .laz, .tar, .gz, .tgz, .zip) can be directly imported through the Open Data Files option in the File Menu. There is also support for loading ESRI zLas files. After navigating to the saved file location and clicking open, the user will be presented with the Lidar Load Options dialog box. The Lidar Load Options dialog box enables users to filter and grid a point cloud prior to loading data into Global Mapper.

Format Requires Pro Import Export



ASPRS Lidar LAS Files


BPF (Binary Point File) Lidar Format


Custom XYZ Grid


E57 Lidar Point Cloud Format


ESRI Personal Geodatabase Format (MDB) Files


Esri zLas Lidar




Global Mapper Package


GvLF Lidar database format (.gvl)




Leica PTS Lidar Point Cloud Format

Lidar Las (non asprs)


Lidar LAZ (Compressed LAS) Files


LizardTech MrSID MG4 Lidar


PLY (Stanford Polygon Library)


PTX (Cyclone)


Recap .rcp / .rcs (Autodesk)


TerraScan .bin/.ts Format




ZFS (Z+F) Lidar



Analyzing and Classifying Point Cloud Data

The .LAS file format is a binary file format that maintains information specific to a Lidar dataset, without being very complex.  Files with the extension named as LAS should conform to the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Lidar data exchange format standard.

Global Mapper has numerous tools for displaying and utilizing ASPRS Lidar classifications, which were created for use with LAS formats 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4. Point classification present in a Lidar file can vary by LAS version starting with the Lidar Load Options which allows customized importation of the ASPRS defined point classifications listed below.   

  • 0  Never classified
  • 1  Unassigned
  • 2  Ground
  • 3  Low Vegetation
  • 4  Medium Vegetation
  • 5  High Vegetation
  • 6  Building
  • 7  Low Point (Noise)
  • 8  Model Key-point (mass point)
    9  Water
  • 10 Railroad
  • 11 Road
  • 12 Overlap
  • 13 Wire - Guard (Shield)
  • 14 Wire - Conductor (Phase)
  • 15 Transmission Tower
  • 16 Wire-structure Connector
  • 17 Bridge
  • 18 High Point (Noise)
  • 19 Overhead Structure
  • 20 Ignored Ground (likely breakpoint proximity)
  • 21 Snow
  • 22 - 39 Reserved for ASPRS Definition
  • 40 Bathymetric Point
  • 41 Water Surface
  • 42 Derived Water Surface
  • 43 Submerged Object
  • 44 IHO S-57 Object
  • 45 No-Bottom-Found-At Bathy Point
  • 46 - 255 Reserved for ASPRS Definition

For information about customizing the class designations, see Lidar Class Properties

Changing Existing Classification Codes

With Global Mapper Pro, you can manually classify Lidar points, in addition to using Lidar auto-classification tools on unclassified Lidar data. These classification tools are available in the Lidar Toolbar, and distributed throughout the application in various editing, load, and export menus.

Lidar data processing can also utilize the multiple return signals from each laser pulse. Intensity is a measure, if the number of Lidar returns generated for a single point. Most topographic Lidar systems record the intensity of the return pulse, measuring the strength of the return. The number of returns will be determined by the composition of the surface object reflecting the return.

The Intensity values can be used to create an image, and are commonly used in for identifying and classifying different ground features and can be used as a substitute for aerial imagery.

Applying Classification Codes to Unclassified Point Cloud Data

The Lidar Display tool is found in the Configuration Lidar among other lidar tools for editing, classification, and analysis. Global Mapper Pro offers additional options for advanced classification, feature creation, and analysis based on the attributes and structure of the point cloud.

Feature Extraction from Point Clouds

Global Mapper also allows you to automate the process of locating features on the ground using point cloud data. These automated feature extraction tools are available with Global Mapper Pro activated.

Global Mapper Pro also allows you to do Custom Feature Extraction using perpendicular path profile views.