Esri ArcGIS and Pitney Bowes MapInfo Professional are the main commercial GIS applications. Apart from the commercial packages, the open source software QGIS is used extensively.
GIS software stores map layers separately: ArcGIS and QGIS use Shapefiles; MapInfo saves the map layers as TAB files.
Map layers can be combined in the application and further design can be applied. A composition of layers, with or without design, can be saved as a project or workspace:
-A project in ArcGIS is saved as a .mxd
-A project in MapInfo is saved as a .wor
-A project in QGIS is saved as a .qgs
These files are not isolated. They tell the application which map layers and associated files should be opened and how the whole should be designed.
Project files are so dependent on specific (versions of) software and other (often non-preferred) formats that they cannot be stored for long-term preservation.
Additionally, project files are usually work files that have resulted in an image or map. The work files are not part of the final data set and do not have to be deposited. A designed image or map can be saved as a durable PDF/A.
Please contact DANS if it is desirable to make a project file available.
Workspaces are non-preferred formats related to the GIS file type.