GIS Data types

Open data portals may contain a mix of GIS data and other tabular data (spreadsheets or reports), but most provide various ways to search the data by topic and filter your search results specifically for GIS data. There are several common file types that you may encounter when making geospatial maps.


A shapefile is the most common geospatial vector data file format for GIS. It could be used in both ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online maps. Note that a shapefile actually consists of a shapefile AND several files which must remain with the shapefile – these are all often packaged up together and provided as a single zip file.


KML is another common geospatial file format. A KMZ file is a combination of multiple KML files zipped together. While these file formats were originally developed for use with Google Earth, they may also be used in GIS or other geospatial software. For ArcGIS Online, you may add a link to a KML or KMZ file to your map just as you can any other web service.

Tabular Data

If you find a dataset that’s only available in a spreadsheet or CSV (Comma Separated Values) format, it can be mapped if each row in the table has a set of geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) or a street address, or even just a place name like a town, city, or village.