MDB, ESRI Personal Geodatabase

The well-known American GIS company ESRI utilizes several different "geodatabase" formats for data, in three main types:  

 

 

 

 

File geodatabases are recommended by ESRI over personal databases and are becoming one of the most frequent formats used to publish spatial data for use by ESRI applications.  However, personal databases in .mdb format are still encountered.

 

This topic shows how to import data from ESRI's legacy personal geodatabase format.   A related example topic, Example: Convert an ESRI Personal Geodatabase into a .map Project, shows how to convert data in ESRI's legacy personal geodatabase format into a  Manifold .map project in a single step.

Personal Geodatabases

ESRI's personal geodatabase format is the original ArcGIS "geodatabase" format.  Data in a personal geodatabase is stored and managed in Microsoft Access .mdb files, and thus subject to all the limitations and inconveniences of .mdb format in a 64-bit world.  Personal geodatabases are limited to 2 GB,  with performance typically degrading between 250 MB and 500 MB.  

 

In this topic, we illustrate import of a personal geodatabase containing information on New York city in the United States published by Baruch College.   The "geodatabase" consists of a Microsoft Access .mdb file called nyc_gdb_july2017.mdb.   

 

ico_nb_arrow_blue.pngManifold uses Microsoft facilities to work with Microsoft .mdb files, including the .mdb files used within ESRI personal geodatabase format.  If Manifold cannot import from, link to, or export to an ESRI personal geodatabase .mdb file, that means the Windows system we are using is missing the necessary facilities.  Please see the Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends topic for a solution.

Importing a Personal Geodatabase

Important: When importing a personal geodatabase file the drawings and tables that appear in the Manifold project are Manifold components with no further connection to the personal geodatabase file from which they were imported.  

 

dlg_import_pmdb.png

 

To import from personal geodatabase format:

 

  1. Choose File-Import from the main menu.

  2. In the Import dialog browse to the folder containing the .mdb file.

  3. Double-click the .mdb file desired.

  4. Everything found in that .mdb personal geodatabase will be imported into the project.

 

eg_import_pmdb01_01.png

 

This particular .mdb database contains numerous drawings and tables.   We can double-click a drawing or a table to open it.

 

ico_nb_arrow_blue.pngIf tables from the .mdb are not created as shown above, that means the Windows system we are using is missing facilities necessary for a connection to .mdb. Please see the Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends topic for a solution.

 

For a more interesting display, we first create a new data source using a Bing satellite image server as shown in the Example: An Imageserver Tutorial topic.   We then create a map and drag and drop the Bing layer into the map, and then we drag and drop a drawing into the map.

 

eg_import_pmdb01_02.png

 

The drawing we added shows green space areas in the various boroughs of New York.   We have used the Style pane to color green space areas by the borough in which they are located.

Linking a Personal Geodatabase

Important: When linking a personal geodatabase file the drawings and tables that appear in that data source in the Manifold project stay resident in the personal geodatabase .mdb file.   They are .mdb components even though they may appear in many respects, for the convenience of the user, to be Manifold components.   Personal geodatabase files linked into a Manifold project are fully read/write.

 

dlg_link_pmdb.png

 

The Save cache  button allows setting cache options.   Most often when linking to a format like personal geodatabase, we will ensure the Save cached box is not checked.  Working with a linked personal geodatabase will be faster if we check the box, but if we are going to cache data within the project we may as well simply import the personal geodatabase and use full Manifold speed.   We uncheck the box and then we press Link.

 

To link a personal geodatabase file:

 

  1. Choose File-Link from the main menu.

  2. In the Link dialog browse to the folder containing the .mdb file.

  3. Click the .mdb file desired.

  4. Check or uncheck the Save cache box as desired.

  5. Press Link.  A linked data source will appear in the project.

  6. Press the + icon next to the data source to expand the data source to see the tables and queries it contains.

 

eg_link_pmdb01_01.png

 

That creates a data source called nyc_gdb_july2017 that contains all of the drawings and tables in the personal geodatabase.   We can click on the + icon by the data source cylinder to expand the data source hierarchy.  

 

ico_nb_arrow_blue.pngIf a new data source for the .mdb is not created as shown above, that means the Windows system we are using is missing facilities necessary for a connection to .mdb. Please see the Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends topic for a solution.

 

eg_link_pmdb01_02.png

 

We can display a drawing in a map above a Bing satellite image server layer, as we did earlier in this topic.   In the illustration above we show the boroughs of New York, using the Style pane to color them and the Layers pane to add some transparency.

 

We have also created a labels layer that automatically shows the name of each borough.  

 

eg_link_pmdb01_03.png

 

Personal geodatabases are fully read/write, so we can create the labels component from the boroughs drawing within the personal geodatabase data source.   That means we have added a component within the .mdb file that hosts the personal geodatabase.   That's a great convenience when working with Manifold, but if we want to continue working with that same personal geodatabase in an ESRI product, the ESRI product probably will not understand the labels component we have added.

See Also

Example: Convert an ESRI File Geodatabase into a .map Project - How to convert data in ESRI's current file geodatabase format into a  Manifold .map project in a single step.  We convert ESRI's example NapervilleGas GDB geodatabase, all 857 files, into a single, unified Manifold .map project.

 

Example: Convert an ESRI Personal Geodatabase into a .map Project - How to convert data in ESRI's legacy personal geodatabase format into a  Manifold .map project in a single step.

 

Example: Connect to an ESRI GDB File Geodatabase - Connect Manifold to an ESRI GDB file geodatabase, display the contents, make a selection in the GDB and overlay in a map.

 

Example: Connect to an ESRI GDB usng GDAL/OGR  -  Instead of using Manifold's built-in ability to connect to modern ESRI GDB file geodatabases, use the Manifold GDAL/OGR dataport to take advantage of the GDAL library's ability to connect to deprecated GDB formats.

 

Example: Connect LibreOffice Through Manifold to an ESRI GDB - A companion example topic to the Example: Connect Through Manifold ODBC to a Third Party  topic.  Shows how to connect LibreOffice Base, the database part of LIbreOffice, through Manifold to link an ESRI GDB file geodatabase table into LibreOffice.

 

Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends