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Vector Geodata

Vector data (in the computer graphics sense rather than the physics sense) can represent a map. Such vectors take the form of sequences of latitude-longitude or projected coordinate pairs representing a point set, a linear map feature, or an areal map feature. For example, points delineating the boundary of the United States, the interstate highway system, the centers of major U.S. cities, or even all three sets taken together, can be used to make a map. In such representations, the geographic data is in vector format and displays of it are referred to as vector maps. Such data consists of lists of specific coordinate locations (which, if describing linear or areal features, are normally points of inflection where line direction changes), along with some indication of whether each is connected to the points adjacent to it in the list.

In the Mapping Toolbox™ environment, vector data consists of sequentially ordered pairs of geographic (latitude, longitude) or projected (x,y) coordinate pairs (also called tuples). Successive pairs are assumed to be connected in sequence; breaks in connectivity must be delineated by the creation of separate vector variables or by inserting separators (usually NaNs) into the sets at each breakpoint. For vector map data, the connectivity (topological structure) of the data is often only a concern during display, but it also affects the computation of statistics such as length and area.

For an example of vector data, see Inspect an Example of Vector Map Data. For further information on how Mapping Toolbox software manages map projections, see the Getting Started topic. For details on data structures that the toolbox uses to represent vector geodata, see Mapping Toolbox Geographic Data Structures.

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