Article Rich General GeoJSON or Shapefile, which should I use?

GeoJSON or Shapefile, which should I use?

There are benefits and drawbacks to each of the Geospatial data file types, and many people that have been working in the industry are interested in knowing which one is the best for their particular applications. Each file type varies in many ways, including the resolution of the data that it can portray. Geospatial data can be useful in many ways for businesses.

If you have a business and you need to interact with customers data that involves geographical information anyway, then you either need to begin using the software formats or you already have been using them without realizing it.

Let’s go over the three most popular forms of files that you will encounter in the industry today.

How To Decide Between These Two Important Data Formats?

The best method to use when deciding between these two popular file types is to consider what kind of equipment you will be using. Because certain types of equipment commonly integrate more easily with specific types of file formats, then you may want to consider basing your choice around that.

Otherwise, it will depend on the specific characteristics that you need out of the file that you will be using.


Shapefiles are so popular that many people learn how to convert kmz to shp so they can work exclusively with shapefiles. It has been around for 30 years, and ESRI originally developed it.

These files contain several pieces of important data that are necessary when dealing with geospatial data electronically. Shapefiles are actually broken up over multiple different files. This can make it a little bit more difficult to use if you are unfamiliar with the file format.

The internal structure of this file format is based around Well-Known Binary or WKB for encoding the geometries. This compactly formatted file was originally inspired by tabular thinking. The one major limitation is that it is limited in its attribute field names to a maximum of only ten characters.

You can expect most geospatial data to be represented by around five files total, and most data will be compressed by around the factor of five. This means that for every hundred and 40 MB worth of data, you’ll get around 30 MB worth of compressed data when you use this type of file format.


GeoJson file format is related to JavaScript or JavaScript object notation. It is a lot younger than shapefiles and is only ten years old. The original developing team was inspired to create a new way to encourage geospatial data that was able to be decoded with any JSON decoder.

Because this is related to the incredibly widely used JavaScript object notation, this file format is even more widely supported for parsing that shapefile. Almost any GIS software will be compatible with data represented by these files.

One major advantage is that these files are designed as one file instead of broken up into multiple files. This means that there are few removing pieces that you need to keep track of. The one major difference is that this is considered to be a little bit slower than shapefiles.

However, this is typically made up for by the enhanced efficiency of the data compression represented by this file type.


GeoPackage was originally developed by the open geospatial Consortium and is the youngest alternative to the shapefile format. Because the open geospatial Consortium developed, it is considered to be the official successor to shapefile. It is coded using primarily SQL implementation.

This makes it incredibly easy to integrate with most modern computer systems thanks to the wide range of supported non-GIS software. These files can also store raster data, and it is being developed as the new industry standard.