How to Convert a .Lyr to a Shapefile

by Kirk Bennet

A LYR, or layer, file contains specifications for the presentation of data, such as symbols and other graphic elements. LYR files are directly readable only by ArcGIS geographic information software and does not contain the geographic data. A shapefile, or SHP, file contains data in the geospatial vector format. These files are also commonly used by ArcGIS software, so converting a LYR file to a shapefile is relatively easy.


Turn on your computer, go to the "Start" menu and select the "ArcGIS" program group. Click the "ArcCatalog" icon to start ArcCatalog. Start ArcMap by clicking the "Launch ArcMap" button in ArcCatalog. The ArcMap application will start. You will use it to open the .lyr file and export it as a shapefile.


Go to the "File" menu and select "Open." Select "Layer file" as the type of file you want to open. Use the resulting file browser to locate and highlight the LYR file and click the "Open" button. The program will warn you that it could not find a valid data file. Ignore the warning.


Find the Table of Contents (TOC) toolbox. You will see it next to the layer's name. A LYR file is basically a layer, so its contents will be present in the TOC toolbox. Right-click on the TOC toolbox, go to "DATA" and select "Export To."


Select "Shapefile" in the "Save as type" drop-down menu, use the integrated file browser to select a location where to save the shapefile and click "Export" to convert the LYR file to a shapefile.

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About the Author

Kirk Bennet started writing for websites and online publications in 2005. He covers topics in nutrition, health, gardening, home improvement and information technology.