GIS For Biologists: Tip #16 – The ‘Shapefile Approach’ Vs The ‘Geodatabase Approach’ To GIS

10 Dec

There are two basic ways to do structure and store your GIS data. These are the ‘Shapefile Approach’ and the Geodatabase Approach’.

The Shapefile Approach uses the almost-universally accessible shapefile format for vector data layers (and similarly widely used formats for raster data layers) to store data layers in a single folder, usually on the C: drive of your computer (if you are running a Windows operating system). This information can then be accessed with almost any GIS software package.

In contrast, the Geodatabase Approach is specific to ESRI’s ArcGIS software package. In it, all the data layers in a GIS project are stored in a single, specially formatted geodatabase file on your computer and can only be accessed with ArcGIS.

This video discusses the advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches for those who want to use GIS in biological research.

If you have any questions or queries about this video, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology



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