Sharing a Shapefile

People often become confused about what constitutes a shapefile, which is particularly problematic when attempting to share one. When trying to send a study area boundary across the internet for our recipient to examine or use, we can get caught in thinking that sending the *.shp file on its way will be sufficient. The other person will surely be able to see our boundary, won’t they? We did, after all, send the file that looked like it was logically named as the shapefile.  Unfortunately, this is not the case! A shapefile is made up of a number of related files that work together to draw your vector data (points, lines or polygons). Without each of these files, your data is useless and simply cannot be viewed. At the very least, a shapefile will need the .shp, .shx, .dbf, and .prj files in order to open and be correctly drawn in space. When we are trying to send a shapefile, then, it is essential that we make sure that all these files are included in a neat package. If you are wondering how to do this, follow the few simple steps below.

For computers on which 7-Zip is installed:

  1. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to where you saved your shapefile(s)
  2. Select ALL files that contain the same name as the shapefile(s) you wish to sendshapefileelements01
    (If you have your shapefile open in ArcMap or ArcCatalog there will be a LOCK file. This file does not need to be included in your .zip file and may be excluded at your own discretion.)
  3. Right click on the selected files
  4. Choose: 7-Zip ‘Add to <Your folder name will be here>.zip’. If you do not appreciate the default name your .zip file has been assigned, you can rename it once the file has been created.shapefileelements02
  5. Attach the zip file to the email you are sending.

The 7-zip software is installed on the TOL computers. However, if you do not have access to the software, any other method of zipping the files will work perfectly well. Step four in the process above will need to change to suit your particular software needs.  It is simply important that all the files with the same name are sent together. Once you succeed in this, your intended email recipients will be able to open your shapefile(s) in any spatial software (ArcGIS, QGIS, ENVI etc.).

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