What Is Data Type in ArcGIS?


Scott Campbell

What Is Data Type in ArcGIS?

ArcGIS is a powerful geographic information system (GIS) software that allows users to analyze, visualize, and manage spatial data. In ArcGIS, data types play a crucial role in organizing and interpreting geographic information. Understanding data types is essential for efficiently working with GIS data.

Data Types in ArcGIS

ArcGIS supports various data types, including:

  • Vector Data: Vector data represents geographic features as points, lines, and polygons. It is commonly used to represent discrete features such as roads, buildings, and rivers. Vector data can be stored in shapefile format (.shp), geodatabase format (.gdb), or other file formats such as GeoJSON or KML.
  • Raster Data: Raster data consists of a grid of cells or pixels that represent continuous surfaces such as elevation models, satellite imagery, or land cover maps. Each cell contains a value representing the attribute of that location.

    Raster datasets can be stored in formats like TIFF (.tif), GRID (.grid), or JPEG (.jpg).

  • Terrain Data: Terrain data represents the shape and elevation of the Earth’s surface. It is often used for creating three-dimensional visualizations or performing terrain analyses. Terrain datasets are typically stored in geodatabases.
  • Tabular Data: Tabular data stores attribute information about spatial features. It can be linked to vector or raster datasets through a common identifier field.

Working with Data Types

To effectively work with different data types in ArcGIS:

1. Importing Data

When importing data into ArcGIS, it is important to select the appropriate data type. This ensures that the software can interpret and handle the data correctly. ArcGIS provides specific tools for importing vector, raster, and terrain data.

2. Data Management

Data management involves organizing, cleaning, and manipulating GIS datasets. Understanding the data type is crucial for performing tasks such as attribute editing, spatial analysis, or joining tables.

3. Symbolization

Symbolization refers to the visual representation of geographic features on a map. Different data types require specific symbols to effectively communicate information. For example, points may be represented as circles or icons, while polygons can be filled with different colors or patterns.


Data types are an essential aspect of working with GIS in ArcGIS. They define how geographic information is structured and represented within the software. By understanding various data types and their properties, users can effectively manage and analyze spatial data in ArcGIS.

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