ESRI grid

Jump to: navigation, search

An ESRI grid is a raster GIS file format developed by ESRI, which has two formats:

  1. A proprietary binary format, also known as an ARC/INFO GRID, ARC GRID and many other variations
  2. A non-proprietary ASCII format, also known as an ARC/INFO ASCII GRID

The formats were introduced for ARC/INFO. The binary format is widely used within ESRI programs, such as ArcGIS, while the ASCII format is used as an exchange, or export format, due to the simple and portable ASCII file structure.

The grid defines geographic space as an array of equally sized square grid points arranged in rows and columns. Each grid point stores a numeric value that represents a geographic attribute (such as elevation or surface slope) for that unit of space. Each grid cell is referenced by its x,y coordinate location.

File formats


The format is relatively straight-forward: the first six lines indicate the reference of the grid, followed by the values listed in the order they would naturally appear (left-right, top-down). For example, consider a grid, shown to the right. This could be encoded into an ASCII grid file, that would look like:

Grid image Values ASCII grid format
ASCII grid example.svg
  25 75 125 175
275 NA NA 5 2
225 NA 20 100 36
175 3 8 35 10
125 32 42 50 6
75 88 75 27 9
25 13 5 1 NA
ncols         4
nrows         6
xllcorner     0.0
yllcorner     0.0
cellsize      50.0
NODATA_value  -9999
-9999 -9999 5 2
-9999 20 100 36
3 8 35 10
32 42 50 6
88 75 27 9
13 5 1 -9999


  • ncols and nrows are the numbers of rows and columns, respectively (represented as integers);
  • xllcorner and yllcorner are the western (left) x-coordinate and southern (bottom) y-coordinates, such as easting and northing (represented as real numbers with an optional decimal point)
  • cellsize is the length of one side of a square cell (a real number); and,
  • nodata_value is the value that is regarded as "missing" or "not applicable"; this line is optional, but highly recommended as some programs expect this line to be declared (a real number).

The remainder of the file lists the raster values for each cell, starting at the upper-left corner. These real numbers (with optional decimal point, if needed) and are delimited using a single space character.

Binary format

A binary ESRI grid is stored in several files contained in at least two directories: the name directory and an info directory, where name has strict naming conventions.


Binary grid
ASCII grid