Types of GIS Data Formats

There are many types of GIS data formats. Shapefiles are one of the popular ones.

Several format options are described below.


  • Shapefiles (SHP) – This is probably the most common data format,  and  almost  any  GIS-enabled  software  can  read  a shapefile.  A  SHP  typically  consists  of  four  file  types,  and sometimes more. Each file is needed as they all do something different. The file types include:
    • .SHP – Contains the geometry.
    •  .DBF – Contains the attribute data for the features of the shapefile. Can be opened and edited in Excel.
    • .SHX – Spatial Index file for finding features within the SHP.
    • .PRJ – The projection file. Contains the coordinate system and projection for the data.
  • File GeoDatabase – Collection of files in a folder that can store, query, and manage spatial data.
  • KML – You’ve probably been using this for years. KML is the Google  Earth  default  file  format.  Many  software  programs, including Civil 3D, can export to KML.
  • GeoJSON – JavaScript Object Notation, a lightweight data interchange  format.  Can  be  converted  to  GIS/CAD  pretty easily.
  • Tab File – Very similar to SHP, and used by MapInfo.
  • GeoTIFF  –  Most  widely  supported  raster  data  format  and is  typically  georeferenced  (contains  metadata)  so  that  data imports property. 
  • CSV – Yes, CSV is a GIS option and can be used/edited easily across all CAD platform products.
GIS - Geographic Information System

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