Geographic Information Systems (GIS) find their applications in countless areas relevant to our daily life. These include application areas such as planning, surveying, agriculture, land usage, community development, and countless others. GIS applications save geospatial data in well-defined formats for understanding and usage by other applications. Such a file format is a standard of encoding geographical information into a computer file.

GIS File Formats

The GIS file format category on includes information about geospatial file formats which are common in use by GIS applications. The information in this section gives brief overview of each file format and its specifications. Let us have a look at some of these file format.


SHP is the file extension for one of the primary file types used for representation of ESRI Shapefile. It represents Geospatial information in the form of vector data to be used by Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications. The format has been developed as open specifications in order to facilitate interoperability between ESRI and other software products.


KML, Keyhole Markup Language) contains geospatial information in XML notation. Files saved as KML can be opened in Geographic Information System (GIS) applications provided they support it. Many applications have started providing support for KML file format after it has been adopted as international standard. KML uses a tag-based structure with nested elements and attributes. All the tags are case-sensitive and the order of these tags, as per KML Reference, is important to follow.


KMZ (KML Zipped) file is a representation of zipped KML file that contains geospatial information viewable in GIS applications like Google Earth. Information about placemarks is represented in the file as latitude and longitude along with a custom name. The single packaged KMZ file can be shared with other users easily. KMZ files can include 3D model data as well for geo-representation of the model. A KMZ file can be opened in Google Maps by saving the file to an online location and then typing the URL in the Google Maps Search box.


Files with GPX extension represent GPS Exchange format for interchange of GPS data between applications and web services on the internet. It is a light-weight XML file format that contains GPS data i.e. waypoints, routes and tracks to be imported and red by multiple programs. GPX file format is open and is supported by variety of applications and GPS devices. GPS data from such files can be loaded for display on mapping applications for geo-spatial purposes.

File Format Resources

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File Format Wiki –Explore file format categories for information about various file formats