Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Converting from CGM to Postscript

24th November 2009

On thing that I recently had to investigate was the possibility of converting CGM vector graphics files into Postscript and from there into PDF. Having used ImageMagick for converting images before, that was an obvious option. However, that cannot process CGM files on its own and needs a delegate or helper application as well. This is the case with raw digital camera files too with UFRaw being the program chosen. For CGM images, the more obscure RALCGM is what’s needed and tracking it down is a bit of an art. The history is that it was developed at the U.K.’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory but it seems that it was left go off into the wilderness rather than someone keeping an eye on things. With that in mind, here are the installation packages for Windows and Linux (RPM):

Windows Installer

Linux RPM

RALCGM is a handy command line tool that can covert from CGM to Postscript on its own without any need for ImageMagick at all. From what I have seen, fonts on graphical output may look greyer than black but it otherwise does its job well. However, considering that it is a freely available tool, one cannot complain too much. There are other packages for doing vector to raster conversion and the ones that I have seen do have GUI‘s but the freedom to look at for cost software wasn’t mine to have. The required command looks something like the following:

ralcgm -d PS -oL test.cgm

The switch -d PS uses the software’s Postscript driver and -oL specifies landscape orientation. If you want to find out more, here’s a PDF rendition of the help file that comes with the thing:

RALCGM Documentation


  • Dennis Hatler says:

    Thank you very much for maintaining this page. I have desperately sought a copy of RALCGM, but it appears the original maintainers have abandoned it. It was not so long ago this was considered worthy software, but things come and go quickly in the open-source software world. Thank you again.

  • John says:

    Glad to have been of service but sorry to learn that this is the last outpost where this useful software is available. So long as I can, I’ll keep this page on here for whoever needs it.

  • All the views that you find expressed on here in postings and articles are mine alone and not those of any organisation with which I have any association, through work or otherwise. As regards editorial policy, whatever appears here is entirely of my own choice and not that of any other person or organisation.

  • Please note that everything you find here is copyrighted material. The content may be available to read without charge and without advertising but it is not to be reproduced without attribution. As it happens, a number of the images are sourced from stock libraries like iStockPhoto so they certainly are not for abstraction.

  • With regards to any comments left on the site, I expect them to be civil in tone of voice and reserve the right to reject any that are either inappropriate or irrelevant. Comment review is subject to automated processing as well as manual inspection but whatever is said is the sole responsibility of the individual contributor.