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Users work with many data types and data formats in ArcGIS

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Last modified October 27, 2007
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Users work with many data types and formats in ArcGIS

ArcGIS supports geographic datasets that are managed in geodatabases as well as in numerous GIS file formats. Geodatabase datasets represent the native data structure for ArcGIS and are the primary data format used for editing and data management. Yet, many additional datasets can be used.

A number of additional file formats are supported. These can be used in ArcGIS much like geodatabase datasets—to create layers in ArcMap and ArcGlobe; as inputs for Geoprocessing operations; to be viewed and queried in charts, maps, globes, and tables; and converted to and from many other GIS formats.

The following table lists some of the dataset file types commonly used in ArcGIS.

Some commonly used external data files in ArcGIS
ESRI Coverage

ArcInfo Workstation coverages

Grid ArcInfo GRID raster format

Tin ArcInfo triangulated irregular network (TIN) format

Shapefile (SHP) ESRI shapefile format

Vector TIGER/Line U.S. Census Bureau's TIGER/Line Files

MIF/MID MapInfo Vector Interchange File
MapInfo Table Interchange for MIF

TAB MapInfo Native Dataset

VPF National Geospatial Intelligence Agency's Vector Product File format

GML Open Geospatial Consortium's GML Interchange Specification

Raster IMG Leica ERDAS Imagine image files

BMP Bitmap raster format

TIF TIFF raster format

JPG JPEG raster compression format

JP2 JPEG 2000 raster format

SID MrSID raster format

CAD DXF CAD transfer file. Uses ASCII or binary drawing file interchange.

DGN MicroStation design file format

DWG AutoCAD drawing file format

Tables XLS Excel spreadsheets

DBF dBase data file format

Info Arc/Info Workstation INFO tables

MDB File format for Microsoft's Access database

TXT Text file often used to hold attribute columns delimited by commas or tabs

In addition to these file and RDBMS data sources, ArcGIS can work with numerous additional formats through data conversion. GIS data can also be accessed through networks using Web services and various XML schemas. XML support includes, among others, ArcXML, SOAP, the Open Geospatial Consortium's WMS and WFS protocols, and Geodatabase XML.

See Data support in ArcGIS for more information.

The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension

The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension provides direct read access to dozens of additional spatial data formats not already supported in ArcGIS. For example, you can use the Data Interoperability extension to add support for various GML profiles as well as advanced data formats in DWG/DXF, MicroStation Design, MapInfo MID/MIF, and TAB file types.

You can convert to and from these data types and geodatabases using this extension. More importantly, you can use Data Interoperability to directly use these formats in ArcGIS. Users can drag and drop these and many other external data sources into ArcGIS for general use in mapping, geoprocessing, metadata management, and 3D globe use. For example, you can make use of all the mapping functions available to native ESRI formats inside ArcMap for these data sources—such as viewing features and attributes, identifying features, and making selections.

The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension is developed and maintained collaboratively by ESRI and Safe Software Inc., the leading GIS interoperability vendor, and is based on Safe Software’s popular Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) product.

The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension also includes FME Workbench, which contains a series of data transformation tools to build converters for many complex vector data formats.

Learn more about Data Interoperability Extension

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