Data Processing Tour: Types of Shapefiles

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There are three different types of shapefiles:

Each element is an individual space

You can think of a shapefile with suburbs, or a shapefile with all power plants in the city. Every item on the map represents a different reference space. They have a clear and logical individual name and identity. You can imagine writing a description or uploading a photo for these individual spaces.

Elements should be grouped together

These shapefiles contain some sort of a classification of different types of items. For instance, they could contain the land use in the city, or mineral deposits or vegetation types. In all of these cases, we want to group them together by type, so that even if the areas are individual items in the shapefile, they are seen as the same type by the system.

The entire shapefile represents a single entity

This is often the case with networks. For instance, when you have a shapefile with the road network, gas pipe network, or water reticulation system. All of these files will contain many individual segments, but it does not really make sense to see them as individual types. Instead, we want to simply join them all together and see them as a single entity.

Exception: if you have some sort of a network that can be subdivided in different types or groups. If that is the case, use the previous category. Example: the train line network which can be separated by line/route.