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The Data Czar: The Shapefile Genre

January 13, 2010
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There is a generation of differences between GIS and CAD users of yesteryear and those of this new decade. One of those differences is the use of shapefiles. Although the modern alternative, a geodatabase, has existed since ArcGIS 8.0, the structure and concept of that contemporary form is still foreign territory to many.



There is a generation of differences between GIS and CAD users of yesteryear and those of this new decade. One of those differences is the use of shapefiles. This nontopological creature, popularized with the inception of ESRI’s ArcView in the 1990s, became embedded in many organizations in one form or another over the ensuing years. Although the modern alternative, a geodatabase, has existed since ArcGIS 8.0, the structure and concept is still foreign territory to many.

For some firms, it’s a matter of convenience-they’re simply more comfortable with shapefiles and have them neatly tucked away on file servers and or folders on client desktops. For the core “CAD shops,” the common shapefiles can be imported into earlier versions of CAD software, which may be why many smaller surveying and mapping firms still have them. Alternatively, features are sometimes exported in the form of a shapefile to be used as “props” for missing vector data in CAD by shops with the same mindset.

We have all been there. Regardless, some “old school” GIS and CAD professionals alike still use the shapefile in one instance or another. Though one to one the benefits of a file geodatabase substantially outweigh its predecessor, the shapefile genre endures!

Does your firm still use shapefiles?

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