ESRI Shape (*.shp)

The ESRI Shapefile is the non-topological based file format for the ESRI AcrView/ArcGIS suite of products. It is an openly specified file format and is regularly used as a common data transfer format as many systems are capable of reading the format. Each file can only store a single type of geometry e.g. Points, LineString or Polygon items. Most features are stored as simple features, i.e. true curves are not stored.

Cursor Dataset or Memory Dataset

Shapefiles consist of multiple file components, the three core ones being the .shp, .dbf and .shx. Below is a brief description of the most common components.


contains the geometry information.


contains attribute information dbf column names are limited in length to 10 characters and each table can only contain 255 columns.


geometry index information.


coordinate reference system (CRS) information. Note this is stored in ESRI WKT not standard WKT. However, when a recognised .prj is present SIS will attempt to read the file as cursor not memory based.

Note: In some cases the CRS defined in the .prj file may conflict with the CRS specified in SIS. In this case download the Shapefiles without the .prj file and set the CRS in SIS.

  .sbn .sbx

these are spatial Index files.

.shp .xml

these contain metadata information.


  • Cadcorp SIS Desktop
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  • Cadcorp SIS ActiveX Modeller
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  • Cadcorp GeognoSIS