I'm working on an situation where a client wants, in addition to the .shp & .prj files that I can produce with e.g. rgdal::writeOGR, the .sbn & .sbx files as well.

My understanding is this is an ARCGIS proprietary file type (?), as explicated here, which is designed to facilitate lookups/queries on larger shapefiles (which indeed I am dealing with).

Is this truly a proprietary file type, or is there some way to produce these indices using R tools?

  • 1
    If your client opens the shapefiles you provide in Arc and then saves a copy, those extra files are created automatically. If there are many files to handle, they can use arcpy with 'Feature Class to Feature Class' to automate the process.
    – obrl_soil
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


From the GDAL docs, which is what R uses:

Starting with OGR 1.10, it can also use the ESRI spatial index files (.sbn / .sbx), but writing them is not supported currently.

So not possible. Someone has reverse-engineered the formats for reading them, but not implemented writing them yet.

GDAL uses a .qix file for spatial indexing, but I don't know if that's supported by ESRI.

  • .qix is not supported by ArcGIS.
    – Vince
    Mar 1, 2017 at 0:43

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