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A Comprehensive Guide for Commonly Used GIS Data Types

October 18th, 2023

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have revolutionized the way we analyze, interpret, and visualize spatial data. One of the key components of GIS is the diverse range of data types it can handle. Understanding these commonly used GIS data types is essential for harnessing the full potential of geospatial analysis. In this article, we explore fundamental GIS data types and their significance in various applications.

Data types used in GIS

Vector Data

Vector data includes geographic features as points, lines, and polygons. Points are used to represent individual locations, such as landmarks or GPS coordinates. Lines connect points, representing features like roads, rivers, or boundaries. Polygons enclose areas and can be parcels, administrative boundaries, or specific regions. Vector data enables precise spatial analysis, such as distance measurement, network analysis, and spatial relationships.

Raster Data

Raster data is organized into a grid of cells or pixels, where each cell is a specific value or attribute. Raster datasets, often derived from satellite imagery or aerial photographs, offer a wealth of information about land cover, elevation, temperature, and more. Raster data is widely used for terrain analysis, land use classification, environmental modeling, and natural resource management.

Tabular Data

Tabular data, also known as attribute data, consists of alphanumeric information stored in tables. These tables contain rows representing individual geographic features and columns being attributes such as names, addresses, population, or temperature. Tabular data is often linked to spatial data, allowing for attribute-based queries, statistical analysis, and data visualization.


Geodatabases are comprehensive data storage systems that can accommodate multiple GIS datasets, including vector, raster, and tabular data. Geodatabases provide a structured and efficient way to manage and organize geospatial data, allowing for complex data relationships, data integrity, and efficient data retrieval.

Remote Sensing Data

Remote sensing data refers to imagery and data captured from sensors mounted on satellites, aircraft, or drones. It includes various types of imagery, such as aerial photographs, multispectral, and LiDAR data. Remote sensing data provides valuable insights into land cover, vegetation health, urban growth, and environmental changes. It plays a vital role in applications like agriculture, forestry, disaster management, and climate change studies.

As GIS continues to evolve, the use of various data types becomes increasingly critical for effective spatial analysis and decision-making. Understanding the characteristics, strengths, and applications of commonly used GIS data types empowers professionals across diverse industries to leverage geospatial data to its fullest potential. By harnessing the power of vector, raster, tabular, geodatabase, and remote sensing data, businesses can unlock valuable insights and stay ahead of the competition.

References: Types of GIS Data Explored: Vector and Raster