Esri Shapefile .SHP File Description


The Esri Shapefile filter imports .SHP files. Voxler can import shapefiles in compressed (.TAR, .TAR.GZ, .ZIP, .TGZ) folders. However if the folder contains multiple shapefiles, only the first shapefile will be imported. The shapefiles must be extracted if you wish to import the subsequent shapefiles in the compressed folder.


File Description

The Esri Shapefile or simply a shapefile is a popular geospatial vector data format for geographic information systems software. It is developed and regulated by Esri as a (mostly) open specification for data interoperability among Esri and other software products. A shapefile commonly refers to a collection of files with .SHP, .SHX, .DBF, and other extensions on a common prefix name (e.g., "state"). The actual shapefile relates specifically to files with the .SHP extension, however this file alone is incomplete for distribution, as the other supporting files are required.


Shapefiles spatially describe geometries: points, polylines, and polygons. These, for example, could represent water wells, rivers, and lakes, respectively. Each item may also have attributes that describe the items, such as the name or temperature.


File Format

Esri Shapefiles are in a binary file format (i.e., they can't be created or modified with a text editor or word processor) that is compatible with Arc/Info, Arc/View, and other Esri application programs. This format is used to store spatial information including boundary objects such as areas, curves, and points. Spatial information is only concerned with the location of objects in space (i.e., their coordinates) and not with their attributes (such as line or fill style, marker symbol used, text labels, etc.).


Three types of files are produced with each export:


Filename Extension

Extension Format



Shape format

Contains the coordinates of each object in the drawing.


Shape index format

Contains the file offset of each object in the .SHP file.


Attribute format

Contains the attribute text associated with each object in the .SHP file.


In each of the .SHP, .SHX, and .DBF files, the shapes in each file correspond to each other in sequence. That is, the first record in the .SHP file corresponds to the first record in the .SHX and .DBF files, and so on. The .SHP and .SHX files have various fields with different endianness, so as an implementor of the file formats you must be very careful to respect the endianness of each field and treat it properly.

Mandatory files

Optional files

Shapefile shape format .SHP

Shapefile shape index format .SHX

Shapefile attribute format .DBF

Shapefile projection format .PRJ

Shapefile spatial index format .SBN



Import Method

Choose the File | Import command.



See Also

File Format Chart

File | Import