CartoDB – Learn How to Import ESRI Shapefiles

by | Mar 11, 2013

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A wide variety of data sources can be imported to CartoDB including those you see listed on this slide.  It is recommended that you compress files before you begin processing the data.  Data types include comma delimited text files, ESRI shapefiles, Google Earth format, Excel or OpenDocument spreadsheets, GPS files in GPX format, Open Street Map, and GeoTiff.

In this exercise you will learn how to import ESRI shapefiles into CartoDB.  You will need to download the data for the exercise and create a folder to hold the exercise data.

  • Create the following folder structure on your computer: C:\GeospatialTrainingCartoDBExercisesData

Step 1:  Login to CartoDB

  • Go to and login using the account information you created in our first exercise.
  • You should see the Dashboard for your account as seen in the screenshot below.  Your interface will vary somewhat.

CartoDB interface

Step 2:  Import a Shapefile

  • In the C:GeospatialTrainingCartoDBExercisesData (this will differ if you’re working on a Mac platform) folder you’ll find a file called which contains an ESRI shapefile.
  • Drag this file into the CartoDB dashboard.  You should see the dialog below as the data is imported.
    CartoDB process import file

Step 3:  Examine the Data

Since we imported an existing GIS dataset in shapefile format the table and map views will both be populated.

  • Give your table a new name by clicking schools and renaming it City of Austin Schools as seen below.
    CartoDB table name
  • Click Save to change the title of the table.
    CartoDB table name
  • Notice that CartoDB has automatically added underscores where there were spaces between each word.  It has also been converted to lowercase.  This is done to accommodate the usage of SQL statements against tables.
    CartoDB rename table
  • Add a description for your table by clicking ‘add a description for this table’.

In future exercises you will learn much more about working with the table and map views of your data.


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Eric Pimpler
Eric is the founder and owner of GeoSpatial Training Services ( and has over 25 years of experience implementing and teaching GIS solutions using ESRI, Google Earth/Maps, Open Source technology. Currently Eric focuses on ArcGIS scripting with Python, and the development of custom ArcGIS Server web and mobile applications using JavaScript. Eric is the author of Programming ArcGIS with Python Cookbook - 1st and 2nd Edition, Building Web and Mobile ArcGIS Server Applications with JavaScript, Spatial Analytics with ArcGIS, and ArcGIS Blueprints. Eric has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Texas A&M University and a Master's of Applied Geography degree with a concentration in GIS from Texas State University.

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