Is there an agreed upon name for the rows in an attribute table, perhaps one that would apply across different GIS software platforms?

Esri uses "records" here, for example. They also have the automatically generated field of "OBJECTID", however, that implies the use of "object".

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QGIS uses "features" here and in its attribute table within the software (e.g., the "Show all features" button).

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    I think Esri uses features, rows and records but the first is more likely when geometries are involved.
    – PolyGeo
    May 4, 2018 at 11:31
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    No, "row", "record", and "feature" are all interchangeable, though context is important, since a row is a part of a table, and record is part of a record set, and feature is a part of a feature class or feature stream.
    – Vince
    May 4, 2018 at 11:38
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    @Vince is right, the terms are fairly interchangeable, a feature is a row in a spatial table, a row is also a record. The only caveat is that a row or record is not called a feature if it doesn't have an associated geometry... on the programming level rows are also objects so it's not a surprise the programming term crept in; it's good that geodatabase features have OBJECTID and shapefiles have FID because, despite serving roughly the same purpose, they are not the same. Another annoying interchangeability that crops up is referring to any feature data as a shapefile. May 4, 2018 at 12:10
  • @MichaelStimson and Vince Unsure why you opted to post this as a comment instead of an answer...
    – RJJoling
    May 5, 2018 at 7:23
  • Good point @RJJoling, why don't you compile both comments into an answer. I'm a bit under the pump right now, no time to put together a nicely formatted and linked answer... It's 9pm on a Saturday long weekend and I'm doing work from home to make up for a public holiday on monday. May 5, 2018 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


Row and Record are used interchangeably. Personally I like "Row" better, it's simpler and the meaning is easily understood even by people whose only experience with databases is an Excel table. However, the term "Feature" is not interchangeable with the other two. Calling a Row a Feature implies that it has geometry associated with it. Rows in a GIS layer's attribute table are usually Features, so as long as all your data is spatial, calling a row a feature is pretty safe. But when you start linking your spatial data to non-spatial data, it can be helpful to differentiate between Features (rows with a spatial attribute), and Rows or Records (which may or may not have a spatial attribute).

To put it more simply, all features are rows, but not all rows are necessarily features.


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