Shapefile vs. File Geodatabase: Which Is Right For You?

February 19, 2019

Map FileShapefile (.shp) and File Geodatabase (.gdb) are two different storage formats for spatial data. Both were originally developed by Esri and can be used in Esri software, so why would a user choose one file format over the other? This brief comparison may be helpful in making your decision to use .shp or .gdb:


  Shapefile (.shp)

  File Geodatabase (.gdb)

 File Size

  Greater than .gdb

  Less than .shp

 Field Name Length Limit

  10 characters

  64 characters

 File Size Limit

  2 GB

  Limited by computer hard drive storage      space

 Table or Feature Class     Name Length

  Limited only by OS

  160 characters

 Type of data supported


   Vector, Raster and more complex data       like topology

 NULL Values

  Can’t be used in a field; 0 will be          used instead


 Ability to Compress Files



 Proprietary Esri Format




A Key Consideration

While there are advantages and disadvantages to either file type, the most significant difference between the two is that the .shp file format is not proprietary to Esri. It can be used in software from other providers.

Choosing Wisely

Figuring out which file type is right for you depends on three things:

  • How you want to use the data
  • Your own GIS experience
  • Your project requirements

Aligning your needs with the appropriate format based on these fundamentals may require a discussion with experts who have experience with both. ADCi supplies TomTom data in .shp and .gdb, and we’re happy to help you find the map data that fits your needs. To discover more about the map data available from TomTom download your copy of TomTom MultiNet: A Handbook for GIS Professionals today.

TomTom MultiNet Handbook for GIS Professionals

Share This Article