I am using QGIS 2.16 and keep my GIS data (e.g. shapefiles) and my QGIS project files all on Dropbox because I work in two locations. When I open up a file made in the first location at the second location, new layers I was working on are missing, even though dropbox tells me my .QGS file and the shapefiles of the new layers have been updated.

  • 1
    Are the paths to your Dropbox folders the same on the two computers you use?
    – nmtoken
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 8:46
  • 1
    This should not matter since usually the paths are relative, not absolute.
    – Victor
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 9:56
  • This reminds me Relative path not working in QGIS? posted by oat. (QGIS2.16).
    – Kazuhito
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 11:14

2 Answers 2


I used Dropbox to share shapefile so multiple users could edit them. This was a huge mistake! There was a recurring issue where all of the attributes ended up associated with the wrong features. Eg, feature number 1 had the attributes for feature number 2, and so on. We had to revert to a backup copy and re-do days worth of data entry.

This is because Dropbox uses the date a file was modified to decide how to handle updates. When you edit a shapefile, the different files that make up the entire shapefile end up having different dates, so they are handled differently. The way Dropbox deals with conflicted copies is incompatible with the multi-file format of a shapefile. If you're going to store your layers on Dropbox, use a single file format like geojson or other geodatabase. Otherwise, store and edit your shapefiles locally, and use Dropbox only to transfer them to a different device.

However, this problem only seems to occur when editing a shapefile. If you're just using a shapefile for reference and aren't editing it, keeping it on Dropbox should be fine.

  • but isn't a File Geodatabase also made up of multiple files? I'm having this problem too.
    – Theo F
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 11:58
  • @Theo_F I don't think you can create any of the ESRI geodatabase file types in QGIS. I was thinking of SpatialLite or GeoPackage database formats. I'm not very familiar with these file formats, but I did just create a SpatialLite database on Dropbox, populate it with several layers from shapefiles, and then open it on a different computer without any problems. As far as I can tell, several layers are stored in a single file with the extension SQLITE. Dropbox shouldn't have any problem with that, at least in theory.
    – csk
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 19:23
  • thanks. But I can still see things going wrong whichever way data is stored. Dropbox is great for static, non-editable GIS data but not for anything else GIS related.
    – Theo F
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 10:24

Sounds like an issue with Dropbox, not GIS.

However, to answer your question, shapefiles store data in the dbf file, but all files are necessary as the other store indexes and other information (shx,shp).

Here's a thorough explanation of the shapefile format: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shapefile

And supported data formats in QGIS: https://docs.qgis.org/2.6/en/docs/user_manual/working_with_vector/supported_data.html

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