The stages of a PDAL Pipeline are divided into Readers, Filters and Writers. Stages may support streaming mode or not, depending on their functionality or particular implementation. Many stages are built into the base PDAL library (the file on Unix, pdalcpp.dylib on OSX and pdalcpp.dll on Windows). PDAL can also load stages that have been built separately. These stages are called plugins.

Stages are usually created as plugins for one of several reasons. First, a user may wish to create a stage for their own purposes. In this case a user has no need to build their stage into the PDAL library itself. Second, a stage may depend on some third-party library that cannot be distributed with PDAL. Providing the stage as a plugin eliminates the direct dependency on a library and can simplify licensing issues. Third, a stage may be little used and its addition would unnecessarily increase the size of the PDAL library.

PDAL will automatically load plugins when necessary. PDAL plugins have a specific naming pattern:

libpdal_plugin_<plugin type>_<plugin name>.<shared library extension>

Where <plugin type> is “reader”, “writer” or “filter” and <shared library extension> is “.dll” on Windows, “.dylib” on OSX and “.so” on UNIX systems.

The <plugin name> must start with a letter or number, which can be followed by letters, numbers, or an underscore (‘_’).

PDAL looks for plugins in the directory that contains the PDAL library itself, as well as the directories ., ./lib, ../lib, ./bin, ../bin. Those paths are relative to the current working directory. These locations can be overridden by setting the environment variable PDAL_DRIVER_PATH to a list of directories delimited by ; on Windows and : on other platforms.

You can use pdal --drivers to show stages that PDAL is able to load. Verify the above if you are having trouble loading specific plugins.