Vector Data


Jeff McKenna


jmckenna at


Tyler Mitchell


tmitchell at

Last Updated:


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What is vector data? This quote from is a good description of what vector data is:

Vector: "An abstraction of the real world where positional data is represented in the form of coordinates. In vector data, the basic units of spatial information are points, lines and polygons. Each of these units is composed simply as a series of one or more coordinate points. For example, a line is a collection of related points, and a polygon is a collection of related lines. Vector images are defined mathematically as a series of points joined by lines. Vector-based drawings are resolution independent. This means that they appear at the maximum resolution of the output device, such as a printer or monitor. Each object is self-contained, with properties such as color, shape, outline, size, and position on the screen."


The rest of this document is the data format guide. This guide is structured to show the fundamentals of each MapServer supported data format. Each section discusses one format, ranging from one to several pages in length. The sections typically start with a summary of the most important information about the format, followed by examples of file listings, connection methods, ogrinfo usage and MapServer map file syntax examples.

Each section has been designed to stand alone, so you may notice that certain warnings and comments are repeated or redundant. This is intentional. Each format is presented in rough order of popular use, based on a survey of the MapServer community.

The following formats are included: