Shapefiles in ArcGIS Pro

A shapefile is a vector data storage format that stores the location, shape, and attributes of geographic features with the same geometry type (such as point, line, and polygon) and the same spatial reference. You work with shapefiles in ArcGIS Pro in a similar way to working with feature classes in a geodatabase; you can add shapefiles to the map as a layer, and you can work with their fields and properties in the fields view.


Although a shapefile may appear similar to a feature class stored in a geodatabase, a shapefile does not support the advanced capabilities found in geodatabases (such as topologies, networks, attribute rules, or subtypes), which allow you to model real-world behaviors, apply rules for managing and maintaining data integrity, and use tools for working with spatial relationships of the core features and attributes. For more information about geodatabases, see What is a geodatabase.

The following data types are supported in a shapefile:

  • Short Integer
  • Long Integer
  • Float
  • Double
  • Text
  • Date

    When using the Date field type in a shapefile, only NULL and Date values are supported; Date/Time values are not supported.

Add a shapefile to the map

You can access a shapefile in ArcGIS Pro using a folder connection in the Catalog pane.

  1. Add a connection to a folder.
  2. Browse to the location of the shapefile in the folder connection.
  3. Right-click the shapefile and click Add To Current Map Add To Current Map or point to Add To New and click Map Add Map.

Alternatively, you can click Add Data Add Data on the Map tab on the ribbon and browse to the shapefile location.

Work with shapefiles in the fields view

You can use the fields view to add or delete fields, view field properties, or modify layer properties for shapefiles. See Use the fields view for more information about the fields view.

Below is an example of some standard editing tasks you can do in the fields view. Here, edits are made to a shapefile layer named Building.

  1. Delete unnecessary fields.
  2. Add a new field named BLDGTYPE.
  3. Change the layer properties of a field: visibility, read-only, or field alias.
  4. Some field properties are read-only and are unavailable, such as Field Name.

Example edits done on a shapefile in the fields view.

Limitations of shapefiles

A shapefile has the following limitations:

  • Shapefile size limit: 2 GB.
  • Maximum field name length: 10 characters.
  • Maximum number of fields: 1024.
  • NULL values are only supported on the Date field data type and are not supported for numeric or text field data types in a shapefile. To learn more about null values in shapefiles, see Geoprocessing considerations for shapefile output.
  • A shapefile cannot store topological information or relationships.
  • Shapefiles and dBASE files cannot store non-English characters by default. If you need to store or use these files encoded in different code pages, follow the instructions outlined in How To: Read and write shapefile and dBASE files encoded in various code pages.
  • In the fields view, you can add, delete, or copy fields, but once the field is saved, you cannot alter the field properties.
  • Adding an attribute or spatial index is currently not supported for shapefiles on the layer properties indexes tab. See the Indexes toolset for more information about adding or removing an index in ArcGIS Pro.