An initial state format during map and shape digitization output, employed as a middle state format by many programs and publishers, and used for data transfer between GIS applications.
Area features are represented as closed loop, double-digitized polygons.
Instances of the Shapefile format have often been used as a data exchange format from ESRI formats to non-ESRI applications.
The format is most useful for writing simple features and attributes quickly as there are limitations inherent in the Shapefile format related to both geometry and attributes.
As outlined elsewhere in this description, these limitations may cause loss of data when using shapefiles to contain or exchange complex geometry or attributes.
The Shapefile format may be used as an intermediary between data creation applications and more functionally capable GIS formats and applications, albeit with the limitations noted in the Dataset/Normal Dataset section.
The cluster of files is typically stored in the same file directory or project workspace, with all component files having the same filename (prefix) and identified by individual file extension (suffixes).Three components are mandatory: a main file that contains the feature geometry (.shp), an index file that stores the index of the feature geometry (.shx), and a d BASE table (.dbf) that stores the attribute information of features.A comprehensive list of component files follows: The Shapefile format is open and popular for data transfer.The ESRI Shapefile (known here as the ESRI Shapefile format), stores nontopological geometry and attribute information for the spatial features in a data set.A shapefile consists minimally of a main file, an index file, and a d BASE table.In the main file, the geometry for a feature is stored as a shape comprising a set of vector coordinates.