Standard file formats for GPlates

Based on work by Christian Heine, John Cannon and Michael Chin, a set of rotation file (*.grot files) and Shapefile standards to improve the GPlates interoperability has been developed. These documents are included as Supplementary Information to a paper entitled “The GPlates Geological Information Model and Markup Language” by Xiaodong Qin (Micheal Chin), et al. has been submitted to Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and data Systems – GI. The paper describes the GPML and the two standards for rotation files and shapefile attributes. Here are the links to the documentation:

GROT Rotation file format standard

The document describes the GROT rotation file format (for GPlates Rotation file, pronounced g-rot) and allows for a much richer set of metadata attributes to be incorporated in the file standard. The proposed standard is based on ideas sourced from the OGR GMT format, Python, MultiMarkdown and is self-consistent, plain text based and human-readable. Further, it will allow GPlates to source advanced information such as DOI’s, individual bibliographic information and Dublin Core Document Metadata from the files. The *.grot file format uses a specific @Attribute"Value" and comment syntax which allows for:

  • Simple commenting/uncommenting of rotation poles using # (previously: 999)
  • the inclusion of Hellinger/Chang rotation statistics
  • the inclusion of bibliographic and reference data for the whole rotation file and individual rotations
  • information on Geological Time Scales and converting between them
  • Self-consistent tagging of rotation data
  • New “Moving plate rotation sequences” and associated metadata

File format description
This PDF document describes the rotation file format.
Example files

TextMate syntax highlighting bundle

 Shapefile attribute format for plate tectonic applications

This document proposes the use of a common set of attributes to be included with shapefiles for plate tectonic applications. The agreement on a community standard of attributes attached to shapefiles containing plate tectonic data should facilitate the exchange of files and allow for a basic tracking of modifications without the need of a complex centralised versioning system.

Proposal document
A PDF of the format description document is available here

Shapefiles and Geodatabases for download

The downloads below are empty shapefiles containing standardised attribute columns as outlined in the document. Both, the geodatabase and the shapefiles can be either used as a) template if the user would like to digitise new features or b) through a merge between an existing shapefile containing feature data and the template in order to add the standardised attributes to the existing attribute columns. Please refer to the format description on how this is done in ArcGIS and QGIS.

The data for download is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license.


Dataset Description Zip archive of ArcGIS 9.3 Geodatabase containing empty feature classes with standard attributes and two tables with FeatureTypes (GPGIM) as well as the simple core attributes. Zipped, empty Shapefile (incl. prj, shx, dbf) for LINE geometries with standard attributes. Zipped, empty Shapefile (incl. prj, shx, dbf) for POLYGON geometries with standard attributes. Zipped, empty Shapefile (incl. prj, shx, dbf) for POINT geometries with standard attributes. Zipped, empty Shapefile (incl. prj, shx, dbf) for MPOINT geometries with standard attributes.

Version history of the documents

  • 2012-05-14: Update to release documents, grot v1.0 and shp std 1.0. Changes to website.