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What is a shapefile?

A shapefile is a geospatial vector data format developed by the ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) for geographic information system (GIS) software. Shapefiles are the ideal format for the exchange of geographical data because they contain both geometric data (for mapping points, lines, and polygons) as well as the data attributes. This format is frequently used in GIS software such as Mapinfo, Arcgis, QGIS, Tableau Software, Excel (3D) Maps, and our own Spotzi Geomarketing Platform.


Shapefiles (.shp) are a prized format when it comes to geographic data, but they're not a solo file type. These files are a mandatory part of file collections — often compressed into ZIP file formats (.zip) — and these collections require a minimum of the following 3 file types before being used within a GIS software:

Shapefiles exported from Spotzi's platform also contain the following (noncompulsory) files:

Here are some other optional files that can be included within a zipped shapefile:

Which software can you use to open your shapefile?

Associated filename extensions

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