DBF files with elevation and z coordinates
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Some SHP files are 2D but their associated DBF file has elevation or z coordinates associated with them. The name of the field which holds the elevation value may vary, it could be ELEVATION, elevation, Value, etc.
Since the elevation field does not have a fixed name you may need to experiment to find it. Here's a simple example:
This DBF file only associates a single value to the entity in the shape file, and that value is called elevation.
If you double click on the elevation field name you'll get this dialog which allows you to turn on the 3D of the entities:
In the above example the "This Field Is Elevation" option has been activated. The value in this field is not always to scale with the x and y of the shape file, so there is an optional multiplier, often 1, but sometimes much more or much less. The example above shows the elevational multuiplier set to 10.