I am wondering what some file formats are that are out of the scope of "normal" file formats you typically find on the web. The "normal" file formats I'm not considering in this post are:

  • Image formats like png
  • Video formats like mp4
  • Compression formats like zip
  • Audio formats like flac
  • Document formats like pdf
  • Source code formats like xml, js, rb, java, etc.
  • Plain text formats like txt
  • Data formats like csv

Some "out of the mainstream" file formats that I am looking for in this post are things like these (the few ones I know about):

Basically I just know a few file formats in the fields of Biology and GIS/mapping. A few others that might fit this "out of the ordinary" concept are SQL dumps or database dumps, or logfile formats like syslog.

I am just wondering if one could list any major common yet out of the ordinary ones (out of the ordinary mainly because they are in specialized fields), such as those from these fields, or other fields not mentioned.

  • Physics
  • Other Chemical/Biological/Genetic ones (for example, I will have to see if there are MicroArray formats, or Gel Electrophoresis)
  • Medicine/Hospital tools for their visualizations or records.
  • Point clouds
  • Earth science / Geology / GIS that I have missed
  • Astronomy data formats.
  • Major video/audio ones that may be easily missed (like maybe closed captioning is a format, I don't know).
  • Standard metadata formats (not sure about these if they are file formats yet).
  • Sports records.
  • Financial stuff formats.

Again, I'm only wondering for the major ones that are out of the ordinary that you would encounter as common in these (or other major) industries. I know there are thousands of file formats haha, so not looking for a comprehensive list or anything, just mainly want to get introduced to the major ones that are out of the ordinary but common. Instead of specific formats it could just be classes of formats too, that works as well. Thank you.

2 Answers 2


Other common GIS formats

Along with the GIS file types listed in the original question, these are (in my experience) the most common formats in which GIS data is distributed. There are many other GIS file formats, but data is usually shared in the ones listed here.

Vector Data:

  • MDB - ESRI personal geodatabase build on Microsoft Access Database format
  • GDB - ESRI geodatabase
  • KMZ - compressed version of KML
  • GPX - combination of points, tracklogs and routes created by a GPS unit
  • TIN - triangulated irregular network, common format for elevation data

Raster Data:

  • GeoTIFF - georeferenced TIFF image file - georeferencing info can be imbedded in TIFF file, or attached as a sidecar file in TFW format
  • ASCII Grid

Style/Formatting files (sometimes provided alongside a set of vector and raster layers):

  • LYR - ESRI layer file
  • MXD - ESRI map document

As mentioned in the comments, some of these are proprietary formats. I'm not recommending the proprietary formats, but they are the formats in which data is frequently provided. The fact that this is an open data forum doesn't change that. Fortunately many sources provide GIS data in multiple formats.

MDB and GDB can usually (but not always) be opened in an open-source program (such as QGIS or GDAL), and the data extracted and exported in a more usable format.

LYR and MXD files are often provided alongside the actual data, and it's useful to know that you can just ignore them, as they only contain style, not actual data.

  • 1
    very important to note that the overwhelming majority of these are proprietary formats; you did by noting ESRI, just wanted to make it crystal clear.
    – albert
    Nov 27, 2018 at 23:12
  • 2
    4 out of 9 isn't an overwhelming majority. Also, open-source programs such as QGIS can open MDB and GDB files.
    – csk
    Nov 29, 2018 at 17:27
  • not in every instance. i've run into issues numerous times trying to convert esri data to open formats in qgis, gdal, ogr2ogr, just to name a few. four out of nine proprietary data formats, in an open data forum, is four too many.
    – albert
    Nov 29, 2018 at 18:38

A lot of formats are actually containers for a specific folder structure. There are some self-contained formats like hdf5, and a lot of zip files around, including different "zip in disguise"(files that use zipping as a container for a specifically organized data structure, often with xml formatted files inside): on top of my head:

.dar files for jatsxml formatted manuscript/figures .h5p files for the h5p format .mbz for moodle backup files

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