Types Of Geographic Data

Often times when you start working with GIS and different mapping applications it can be really frustrating because you will start finding all these different types of data and whatever application you are working with may not understand data you have. You want everything to work together. Sometimes you’ll need to move data around throw different programs in order to get it to whatever your ultimate deliverable state is.

You don’t have to be master in GIS to work with different types of geographic data because there are ways of converting them.

Common types

KML and KMZ files, are recognized with a google earth, a KMZ file is essentially zipped up KML file with some other data that can be associated with it. GPX is just a standard GPS exchange format. The raw data type that you literally take from your GPS unit and put it some sort of mapping application or GIS Shapefile, a very common data type in the program called ArcGIS. So is MXD which is essentially a map project that stores all the extra information about your shapefiles or whatever other data layers you might have in it.


The geodatabase is another ArcGIS file and so is the layer. What’s important to know about layers is that all mapping applications and GIS platforms are just collecting layers of data and stacking them on top of each other in different orders and so understanding how these layers work together is really how you do different types of spatial analysis.

Non spatial data types

XLS and CSV and TXT files sometimes. XLS is just a Microsoft excel spread sheet, comma separated values is very similar to XLS except it doesn’t have the pretty table, it’s just data separated by commas. Digital elevation model, this is very common raster data type you can find if you are working different elevation types essentially, especially on the larger scale, regional, state and country scales.

Non spatial data types

DWG and DFX are basically just CAD files or computer drafting files and all you need to know about this is that before GIS was popular as it is now point lines and polygons were made with cad and so there is a lot of data out there in these cad formats often need to be brought into GIS or you have a GIS data you want to put in CAD to manipulate.

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