What is a Shapefile?

A shapefile is a vector data file format commonly used for geospatial analysis. Shapefiles store the location, geometry, and attribution of point, line, and polygon features.

Why a is Shapefile Important?

Shapefiles are one of the most common file formats for geospatial data. They store data as points, lines, or polygons. These three feature types form the basis of geospatial vector data analysis. Points can be used to represent addresses, points of interest, and parcel or ZIP Code centroids. Lines are often used to depict road networks or waterways. Polygonal data can represent anything with a boundary, such as a neighborhood, census block, or geofence.

While originally designed for use in geographic information systems (GIS) software, shapefiles are now increasingly compatible with other business intelligence programs. This enables organizations to combine spatial and business analytic workflows for streamlined processing and more in-depth results. 

Precisely’s portfolio of data products offers shapefile format for easy integration with GIS


How Precisely Can Help

While the geometry stored in shapefiles is essential for mapping and data visualization, the attribution provided is what enables in-depth spatial analytics. Shapefiles associate key information with a particular geographic location. For example, points of interest data can provide not only latitude and longitude coordinates for a particular feature, but also the name of the business, how many employees it has, and its sales volume. Similarly, street data can provide demarcations of road networks as well as the speed limits and traffic counts for that network. Polygon data can include a variety of attributes for a specific area, such as the demographic makeup of a neighborhood or its relative crime risk.

The detail provided by shapefile attributes allows geospatial data scientists and business analysts alike to obtain actionable insights related to a location. While an analyst might have already known the sales volume of a particular store, without the geometry provided by the shapefile, they would be unable to analyze the store’s performance in relation to the surrounding area. With more software programs adding shapefile compatibility, it’s easier than ever to add a geographic component to any analysis.

Learn more about Precisely’s portfolio of data products offered in shapefile format for easy integration with GIS and business intelligence programs.