Shapefile vs. File Geodatabase: Which Is Right For You?

February 2, 2021

pic1 (1)Shapefile (.shp) and File Geodatabase (.gdb). Both are storage formats for spatial data originally developed by Esri and can be used in Esri software. On the surface, it appears as though there are no compelling reasons to choose one format over the other to accomplish your spatial data storage goals.

However, when compared side by side, certain advantages and drawbacks emerge in the shapefile vs. geodatabase debate. This brief comparison may be helpful in making your decision to use .shp or .gdb:


Want to keep this comparison chart for future reference? Download a PDF here.


Key Considerations

Likely the most significant difference between the two storage choices is that the .shp file format is not proprietary to Esri. It can be used in software from other providers, which makes it more readily available to a wider number of people.

On the other hand, a file geodatabase in GIS is an alternate way to store information in one large file. This all-encompassing file may contain multiple point, polygon, and/or polyline layers. Any of the three types of geodatabases -- file, personal, or enterprise -- use this structure to accomplish the main purpose of a geodatabase: storing, querying, and manipulating geographic datasets.

In some instances, shapefiles and geodatabases are not mutually exclusive. Converting your existing shapefile data to a geodatabase can be done easily with the Feature Class to Feature Class tool within ArcCatalog.

Choosing Wisely

At the end of the day, user preference has little to do with determining which spatial data storage format is used. Figuring out which file type is the right choice depends on three things:

  • How you want to use the data
  • Your own GIS experience
  • Your project requirements

Aligning your needs with the appropriate format based on these fundamentals may require a discussion with experts who have experience with both. ADCi supplies TomTom data in .shp and .gdb, and we’re happy to help you find the map data that fits your needs.

To discover more about the map data available from TomTom download your copy of TomTom MultiNet: A Handbook for GIS Professionals today.

TomTom MultiNet Handbook for GIS Professionals

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