Fork me on GitHub

Switch from Shapefile

ESRI Shapefile is a file format for storing geospatial vector data. It has been around since the early 1990s. It is still used as the most common vector data exchange format.

The geospatial IT industry made huge advances since then, yet the Shapefile is still most common file format for sharing vector data.

Shapefile was a great format in it's time, and the fact that it's still used today, is proof that its design was forward thinking.

Yet we believe, that the time of the Shapefile has passed and we, the Geospatial IT Industry, should replace it with more modern concepts. Shapefile is now an outdated format and should be abandoned in the future for sharing of geospatial vector data.

Read more:

The good side

Not all Shapefile features do make it a bad (or unmodern) format. There are a couple of reasons why Shapefile still beats most other formats:


What are the alternatives to the Shapefile format? To be honest, no alternative format has overthrown Shapefiles hegemony yet. Some formats nearly took over (KML, GML, GeoJSON), but their usage was limited to relatively narrow use cases only.

Although there are more then 80 vector data formats in use out there, only a few can be considered as candidates for Shapefile replacement.

List of some Shapefile alternatives featuring two formats as @shapefile replacement. Which do you prefer? #switchfromshapefile #geojson vs. #geopackage

— Jachym Cepicky (@jachymc) October 5, 2017


Another OGC Standard.



GML was picked as the main distribution vector data format the European INSPIRE initiative. It's a very complex format, and its direct usage in GIS software is limited. Its main use is as a data exchange format that needs to be ingested into the user's system (e.g. into a database) to be fully useable.

GML is currently often used for open data datasets, since it's technology neutral and a supported OGC Standard.

A major downside to GML is that it is an insanely complex standard, few pieces of software support all parts of the standard, and different pieces of software sometimes support different parts of the standard.

We believe that GML is a candidate for Shapefile replacement for data interchange in situations where data is too complex to be represented by GeoJSON.

Last modification: 2017-10-08
Initially created by: Jachym Cepicky, OpenGeoLabs s.r.o.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
Contribute: On GitHub