The Shapefile File Structure


GIS Enthusiast

Shapefile is an open specification developed by ESRI for storing and exchanging data. A shapefile consists of a collection of files all with the same base name. At a minimum, there are three basic files required for a valid shapefile. They include .shp, .shx and .dbf files. However, they can be as many as 15 different files.

  1. .shp, it contains the geometry information. This is with respect to point, line or polygon.
  2. .shx, this is the shape index file. It references the geometry for faster access.This means that this file is meaningless without .shp file.
  3. .dbf, this is the database file. It contains the geometry attributes. The .dbf files can be opened by most types of spreadsheet software.
  4. .prj, it contains the projection information in Well-Known Text format and is required for on-the-fly projection by most GIS software.
  5. .sbn, it is the spatial bin file, Shapefile spatial…

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