9 GIS Data Formats
When using digital boundary datasets and other data in GIS you need to be aware that geographical information comes in a variety of different data formats. An analogy can be made to writing a text document. When you write a text document you author that text document in a specific piece of software that results in the data being stored in a particular data format. Some of these text data formats are more open than others.
Here we have a famous quote from George Bernard Shaw.
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
Using different Text Information Systems (!), we can save the text data in different document formats. Here we see 4 different text data formats: that we have created using different text editing applications. Viewing each of the files in specific applications (Microsoft Word; Open Office; Adobe Acrobat Reader and Microsoft Notepad) we can see that we have the same information:
The same applies when it come to geographical information. Here is our geographic data – a digital boundary dataset consisting of 3 polygonal features:
Image 26: The same geographical information can be stored in different geospatial data formats and useable in different GIS software applications. Here we have the same digital boundary dataset stored in 3 different GIS data formats, as an ESRI Shapefile, as a Mapinfo MIF/MID, a DXF file for AutoCAD and as a zipped KML (KMZ) file for use with Google Maps or Google Earth.
Image 27: Here we see the 4 datasets viewed in different geospatial applications, clockwise from top left. The Zipped KML file in Google Earth, the DXF file in a CAD application, the Shapefile in ArcGIS and finally the MIF/MID file in MapInfo Professional.