Tom Patterson’s raster Natural Earth data has been available for a while, and it’s now been joined by the Natural Earth vector datasets, a joint project with Nathaniel Kelso and others; there’s now also a new home for both datasets at the Natural Earth website. Vector data is available at 1:10 million, 1:50 million and 1:110 million scales. Vector data features include:
- Country boundaries
- Administrative boundaries
- Populated places
- Lakes and rivers
- Glaciated areas
- Latitude/longitude graticules
… and much more; see the full feature set description for details. Vector data is in standard shapefile format, geographic/WGS84 projection. The authors solicit both additions and corrections to the dataset. It’s good to have a high-quality free dataset of this type available in one place; while you can find comparable or even higher-quality data on the Web, it usually involves quite a bit of searching.