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I have a shapefile that contains neighborhood boundaries that I want to simplify. Right now I am thinking of converting the shapefile to Google maps KML so I can insert the boundaries into the map as an overlay but do not need the precision provided by the shapefile. How can I do this simplification?

I may have access to arcgis, although a method that does not require it is better.

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For a non-ArcGIS method, you could try QGIS - the "Simplify Geometries" tool under the Vector menu should do what you want!

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    The Generalizer plugin is also good as you can use different algorithms, if needed of course. – Nathan W Dec 21 '11 at 3:27
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The Simplify Polygon geoprocessing tool in ArcGIS can do this. Things can get complicated with imperfect topology though. So if your boundaries don't match up perfectly, you will want to use the FLAG_ERRORS or RESOLVE_ERRORS keywords in the error_option parameter.

Afterwards, you should have no trouble converting this to a KML for overlay purposes in Google Earth.

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Or you can use this online service that does exactly that: http://mapshaper.org/ I have use it several times and works like a charm. I usually go for 0.09% when it comes about simple color graduated maps.

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