Shapefile is ESRI's specification of geospatial data format. Shapefile groups geospatial vector data (shape), index of geometry (shape index), and attributes associated with each shape (metadata).
The US Census Bureau is a good resource for Shapefiles, such as its TIGER/Line Shapefiles.
.shp: shape, the feature geometry;
.shx: shape index, an offset index of the geographic features;
.dbf: dBase file, attribute table for the geographic features; attribute names are limited to 13 characters.
The XBASE family of database languages include: dBase, Clipper, FoxPro, and their Windows equivalents Visual dBase, Visual Objects, and Visual FoxPro, plus some older products.
type "L" (logical), "N" and "F" (numeric and float) and "D" (dates)
.prj, projection format, the coordinate system and projection information, a plain text file describing the projection using the Well-Known Text (WKT) format;
.sbx, a spatial index of the features, used only by ESRI and not documented;
.fbx, a spatial index of the features that are read-only;
.qix, an alternative quadtree spatial index used by MapServer and GDAL/OGR software;
.aih, an attribute index of the active fields in a table;
.atx, an attribute index for the
.dbffile in the form of
shapefile.columnname.atx(ArcGIS 8 and later);
.ixs, a geocoding index for read-write datasets;
.mxs, a geocoding index for read-write datasets (ODB format);
.shp.xml, geospatial metadata in XML format;
.cpg, code page format identifying the character encoding to be used (only for
For more details, refer to ESRI's official documentation, ESRI Shapefile Technical Description - July 1998.