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I have a shapefile and I want to share it via email. I noticed that ArcMap saves this file as a bunch of little files with various types (.cpg, .dbf, .prj, .shp, etc.).

Is the best way to share a shapefile to zip a folder containing all these little files and send it that way?

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Zipping all the parts is the usual way of transferring shapefiles, yes, and its the best we've come up with.

This is one problem with the shapefile format which is overcome by the GeoPackage format - if your software can save or export your data to a "GeoPackage", and the person you are sending it to has software that can read GeoPackages, then you could use that instead.

A GeoPackage contains all the same data that a shapefile stores in all the components in a single file - and goes beyond that in that you can store the equivalent of several shapefiles - eg some lines, some points, some polygons, some more lines, some other points - in the same single file.

  • @EmmaPascoe, currently in an ESRI environment geopackages are read only, great for transporting data as indicated in this answer not much use if you want to do analysis with them, for example it's a network you want to share, well that's my experience. If you stick with shapefiles, consider creating an empty folder then use ArcCatalog to copy the data into it, that way you know you are supplying all the required files and of cause add metadata. – Hornbydd Jul 9 at 16:19
  • ESRI was planning to add support for editing 5 years ago community.esri.com/thread/91911. – user30184 Jul 9 at 20:09

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