I am looking for a standard format to encode polygons, such as lakes, in one file that is easy to create and common so that others can use it in different GIS systems. Every file will contain data on only one type of polygons such as lakes. One friend suggested GML format but I can't really decide because I have no background in this area. Thanks.

  • 2
    If you want a verbose and non-interoperable format, go for GML :-)
    – julien
    Oct 2, 2013 at 18:24
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    GML is not as user friendly as it was intended. OTOH, the shapefile format may be ancient but it is ubiquitous in the GIS world and so is a good candidate for your use-case. Oct 2, 2013 at 18:42
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    What are you going to use the enodeded data for? What is the purpose of your encoding: Storage, transmission, querying or something else? Oct 3, 2013 at 9:59
  • For transmission and querying.
    – Rami
    Oct 4, 2013 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


If it is for using and editing in a gis system i would stick to shapefiles. This format is well supported by all GIS software.

  • Just a fair warning: While shapefiles are ubiquitous and very well supported, one shapefile is composed of multiple files. (3 at the minimum, and can go upto 8). If one of the 3 required file is not copied, there the data is basically useless. So you need to know that Shapefiles are not 'atomic'. You need to copy all the required files. Oct 3, 2013 at 10:02
  • Best bet would be shapefiles, it can be opened by all GIS, I would suggest spatialite though if your intended audience will most probably use QGIS and I hear ArcGIS 10.2 can query it Oct 14, 2013 at 4:28

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