NOAA makes its marine charts available for free to the public, but those charts come in a BSB format. If you want to manipulate the marine charts on your computer, unless you hack the file, you have to use a computer program designed to read the BSB format. To make the charts usable in any graphics program or to print your own NOAA charts, you need to convert them from the native BSB format to a graphics format like PNG, JPEG or TIFF.
In the past, you had to use NOAA’s somewhat confusing tool or a command-line hack. Bob Webster, feeling our pain, programed an open-source BSB converter. It converts NOAA’s native BSB format to PNG, JPEG or TIFF. Download the BSB converter for free.
- Start the program.
- Click the “Browse” button next to the “Source (BSB) Folder” dialog box.
- Find the folder that contains your BSB download from NOAA and click on it to highlight it. Click “OK.”
- Click the “Browse” button next to the “Destination Folder” dialog box.
- Find the folder where you want to place the converted files and click on it to highlight it. Click “OK” after you find the folder.
- Open the “Output File Format” menu by clicking on the down-arrow next to the box.
- Select PNG, JPEG or TIFF by clicking on it. All three formats are readable by modern graphic programs.
- Click “GO” and wait for it to process the files. In the big right-hand box, the program will tell you when it’s done.
NOAA BSB charts separate the insert maps from the main chart. If you want everything on one sheet, you’ll need to use a graphic program to paste the insert maps into the main chart.