What is Shapefile? How to view a shapefile in Windows 11/10

In this guide we will discuss what is a shapefile and how you can see it on your Windows 11/10 PC. A Shapefile is basically a file used to store geospatial vector data. This is a fairly common GIS format developed by Esri. Let’s discuss this file format in detail.

What is a shapefile?

A shapefile is a GIS file in which vectors such as points, lines, and polygons are used to represent geographic locations such as rivers, lakes, country borders, etc. Each of its elements or elements contains attributes that provide details like name, temperature, coordinates, etc. Shapefiles have various component files that store different types of spatial data. Here are the main component files associated with shapefiles:

  • The main and mandatory shapefile is stored in the SHP file extension.
  • An index file is saved in SHX format.
  • A dBASE table file (DBF) is used to store entity attributes.
  • The coordinate system information is stored in a PRJ file (projection definition file).

There are other component files for shapefiles including ixs (geocoding index), XML (metadata), ain (attribute index), cpg (code page file), etc.

Now, how to display a shapefile in Windows 11/10? Well, this guide will help you find a solution for that. In this article, we are going to discuss the methods to open and view shapefiles on your Windows 11/10 PC. Let’s discuss the methods!

How to view a shapefile in Windows 11/10

Here are the methods to view a Shapefile (SHP) on your Windows 11/10 PC:

  1. Open and view a Shapefile using a free website.
  2. Use free software to import and view a shape file.

Let’s break down the methods listed above in detail!

1]Open and display a Shapefile using a free website

You can use a free online service to open and view a Shape file in Windows 11/10. Just open a web browser, navigate to the online service’s web address, then import and view a shapefile. It is very easy and convenient. Now what service can you use to view shapefiles? Well, there are different shapefile viewers that you can use, but not all of them are free. Most are paid or only provide a free trial. If you want to view SHP files for free, you can use this free web service called Mapshaper.

Mapshaper is a dedicated online tool for viewing shapefiles in a browser. It allows you to download SHP files individually or even from a zipped folder. To properly display the entire contents of a shapefile, you must also download the PRJ, DBF, and other files. Just drag and drop the shapefiles onto its interface or click the select button to browse and import a shapefile. While importing, you can enable or disable detect line intersections and hanging tops option. It will then display the geometric spatial data from the imported SHP file.

Here are some main features of this online shapefile viewer:

To view a shapefile, you can use the Simplify tool that allows you to simplify the view of the shapefile. It allows you to customize options such as simplification menu and method of applying shapefile simplification.

You can mouse over a boundary and view the respective details.

Basic zoom in / out functions are available to closely analyze your shapefiles.

You can click the arrow button to view the shapefile in the desired mode. You can choose the inspect features (to inspect the shapefile), select features (make selections), or slide vertices option according to your needs. The drag box tool The option allows you to press the Shift button and drag a box over the shapefiles to select multiple boundaries. Then you can delete, divide, keep, Where clear the selection.

If you select the modify attributes option, you will be able to modify the attributes of a boundary in the shapefile.

A Console feature is available to run commands such as I / O commands, edit commands, experimental commands, and Information commands. Type help in the console to learn more about its commands.

You can export the edited version of your shapefile to a variety of file formats, including native shapefile format, GeoJSON, TopoJSON, CSV, SVG, and JSON records.

Want to use this handy online shapefile viewer? Navigate to his Mapshaper website.

Read: How to Edit PSD Files Without Using Photoshop Using Free Online Tools.

2]Use free software to import and view a Shapefile

Another method to view a shapefile in Windows 11/10 is to use third-party free software. There are only a few shapefile viewers that you can use for free on Windows 11/10. Here we are going to mention three good free software to open and view SHP files on your PC. These free software are:

  1. Shape viewer
  2. Avangardo ShapeView
  3. TNTatlas

Now let’s find out the details of these shapefile viewer software for Windows 11/10.

1]Shape viewer

As its name suggests, Shape Viewer is a free software dedicated to viewing SHP files on Windows 11/10. the good thing is that it is portable. Therefore, you download its installation zip file, extract the folder, and just run the ShapeViewer.exe file to start viewing the shapefiles it contains.

It comes with its own file explorer; then browse to the directory where the source SHP files are stored. It will display all the shapefiles in the selected folder. You can double-click the shapefile you want to view. To analyze the shapefile, you can use the zoom in and zoom out functions. Select the zoom option, and then select the area you want to magnify in the shapefile.

Besides the basic zoom features, it allows you to view file information by going to File> File Info option. It shows you information like shapefile type, number of records, bounding box coordinates, etc.

It also provides options to create a SHX file and create an empty DBF file. To directly open your shapefiles in this free software, you can use the File> Associate shp files with Shape Viewer option. All the coordinates of a shapefile can be exported to an Excel file. To do this, use the File> Export option.

Overall, this is a simple shapefile viewer that provides standard and essential tools for viewing and analyzing shapefiles in Windows 11/10. You can download it from here.

Read: Best online SVG file editor to edit and create SVG files.

2]Avangardo ShapeView

Another free software to use to view shapefile on Windows 11/10 is Avangardo ShapeView. This is a free portable shapefile viewer that you can run and use without installation. In addition to SHP files, you can view MapInfo (MIF) and AutoCAD DXF files in them. You can use the File> Open File option to import and display a shapefile in it. It provides some standard file viewing features including zoom in, zoom out, mirror, anti-alias, etc.

Using it, you can also convert and save the coordinates of the map to a CSV file. To do this, you can make a selection in the shapefile and then click on the Utilities> Save Selection to File option.

Additionally, you can save the shapefile view to an image by using the File> Save Image option. It exports the image in Bitmap (BMP) format.

You can download this free software from avangardo.com.

Read: Best free DBF file viewer software for Windows PC.


You can also try TNTatlas to view shapefiles and other GIS and image files. It allows you to open and view SHP as well as files such as GeoTIFF, MrSID, JP2, PNG, DXF and DWG. To import a shapefile, click the File> Open object option. It will then display the map on its interface. You can now use various display options to view the shapefile like zoom, layer transparency, localization window, legend view, and magnifying glass.

It also provides a Annotate function accessible from its Tools menu. This feature allows you to add / draw annotations on the map using a pen. Apart from that, it offers Geo Toolkit, View-in-view, HyperIndex Navigator and more features. You can also take a snapshot of the annotated map.

To use this software, you can download it from its official website.

See: How to convert DXF to GCode on Windows.

How do I view Shapefile online?

You can view a shapefile online using a dedicated web service. We discussed a free online shapefile viewer called Mapshaper. It allows you to open, view, inspect and edit shapefiles online. To learn more, you can check out the detail we mentioned earlier in this article.

How to convert a CSV file to DBF?

A DBF file is an important component file for shapefiles because it stores feature attribute information. So if you have data stored in CSV file format and want to convert it to DBF then you can use this free service called AnyConv. Using it, you can import CSV file and then click Convert button to quickly convert CSV to DBF.

That’s it! Hope this article has helped you learn more about Shapefiles, also known as SHP files, and how you can view them in Windows 11/10.

Now read: What is an IGS / IGES file? How to view and convert IGS files on Windows?

What is Shapefile?  How to view a shapefile in Windows 11/10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.