Intraoperative image-guided surgical navigation for craniospinal procedures has significantly improved accuracy by providing an avenue for the surgeon to visualize underlying internal structures corresponding to the exposed surface anatomy. Despite the obvious benefits of surgical navigation, surgeon adoption remains relatively low due to long setup and registration times, steep learning curves, and workflow disruptions. We introduce an experimental navigation system utilizing optical topographical imaging (OTI) to acquire the 3D surface anatomy of the surgical cavity, enabling visualization of internal structures relative to exposed surface anatomy from registered preoperative images. Our OTI approach includes near instantaneous and accurate optical measurement of >250,000 surface points, computed at >52,000 points-per-second for considerably faster patient registration than commercially available benchmark systems without compromising spatial accuracy. Our experience of 171 human craniospinal surgical procedures, demonstrated significant workflow improvement (41 s vs. 258 s and 794 s, p < 0.05) relative to benchmark navigation systems without compromising surgical accuracy. Our advancements provide the cornerstone for widespread adoption of image guidance technologies for faster and safer surgeries without intraoperative CT or MRI scans. This work represents a major workflow improvement for navigated craniospinal procedures with possible extension to other image-guided applications.