Reading .shp, .sxh, etc. files

01-27-2015 02:10 PM
New Contributor


Recently I was asked to look at a map that was created in an ESRI format, but I cannot seem to open it.  The folder that I was given has .shp, .shx, .sbx, .dbf, etc, file formats.  I downloaded the ArcGIS explorer, but all that I seem to be able to do is to open the .shp files ("Add Content"), and then all I see is a bunch of lines on a white background.  I don't want to edit the files, just to view them.  Is there a viewer that will allow me to do this?  What am I doing wrong?



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3 Replies
MVP Frequent Contributor

The files you saw are a shapefile, which is usually just one dataset of many that go into a typical map.

I suspect what you really want to see is the full map layout.  That would be file with the extension .mxd, or if you have older ESRI software, .avl.  Check to see if you have these, and if so, open them.  These Layouts combine the shapefiles (and other data sources) with symbology to produce the final presented map.

Chris Donohue, GISP

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New Contributor

Thanks guys.  I suspected that something like this was going on.  There is a .prj in the folder, but no .mxd or .avi. 
ArcGIS won't let me "open" a .prj, or "add content" that is in that format.  I'll try the ARCreader and see if that is any different.

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MVP Regular Contributor

Hey Jeff,

did you try and open it with ArcGIS Pro? I know ArcGIS Pro works with projects.


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