In the world of cartographic data, a very large number of different file formats are used. These formats can be classified into two fundamental forms of digital representation:

  • bitmappedraster graphics
  • vectorialvector graphics
vecteurs et rasters
vecteurs et rasters

Raster graphics

  • These are images (scanned maps, aerial photographs, satellite images, digital elevation models) that are spatially represented. The data is composed of a set of pixels. 
    The best known and more commonly used formats are:
    • ASC: text file in ascii format
    • ECW: Enhanced Compression Wavelet, digital image compression format owned by ERMapper
    • JP2: image compression format with or without loss
    • TIFF: image in raster format which can include numerous alphanumeric attributes. When these attributes contain georeferencing information, the format is referred to as GeoTIFF
    • XYZ: XYZ files are simple ASCII files which can be opened with any standard text editor. They are composed of a series of X, Y and Z coordinates, separated by a semi-colon, comma or space
    • NETCDF

Vector graphics

Vector graphics are based on geometric objects (points, lines, polygons) to represent geographical entities. 
The best known and more commonly used formats are:

  • KML/KMZ: File extension used by Google, in particular Google Earth in XML format. It became an OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) standard in 2008
  • Shapefile: proprietary format developed by ESRI and which is the reference today in terms of vector data. It is associated with other extensions such as .shx, .dbf, .sbn, .prj
  • GML: Geographic Markup Language, based on XML, is recongised as a standard by OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium)

MAP/TAB: format connected with MapInfo software

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