Look, Ma! I made a mobile geodatabase!

I did, indeed. Prompted by a tweet from the ever-vigilant Randy Hale, I fired up my just-updated ArcGIS Pro 2.7, created a new mobile geodatabase, and exported a feature class into it.

First impressions: It works. It’s nice. It is new in ArcGIS Pro 2.7, and only works in ArcGIS Pro 2.7. ArcMap 10.8.1 doesn’t see it. It has many advantages (compact, modern, high size and name limits) over other geodata formats such as shapefile and file geodatabase. It is very similar to the geopackage in that it uses the open-source SQLite database. It also looks like it’s Esri’s attempt to push users off ArcMap and onto Pro by recreating the personal geodatabase for the 2020s. 

If you are a member of a GIS team where everybody uses only ArcGIS Pro 2.7 (and whose data partners also only use ArcGIS Pro 2.7), the mobile geodatabase looks like an attractive proposition. In my own work experience however (1, 2), no GIS data-sharing partner has ever requested or delivered anything but the much-maligned shapefile. YMMV, and this will likely change going forward, but as of today this is my reality.

So where does that leave me? What should I do with the mobile geodatabase today? I will dive deeper and try to discover all the advantages (and eventual drawbacks) of the mobile geodatabase. I may eventually move my data out of file geodatabases and into mobile geodatabases (which will require an update to all my maps’ sources). And I will begin to offer mobile geodatabases to data-share partners. I think I know what they’ll say.

Shapefile, the vinyl of geo

Shapefile, the vinyl of geo

So I made this t-shirt to celebrate my love for the shapefile — the vinyl of geo. I was promptly labeled a luddite.

I am not a luddite. Far from it. I store all my data in PostgreSQL, and use PostGIS and QGIS like any self-respecting geohipster. I dabble in Python and JavaScript. I write SQL queries.

But I also live in the real world. I make maps and print them. I export them to PDF. I exchange data with other users and organizations — most of them casual GIS users. And these users (and their applications) only know and understand the shapefile.

Casual GIS users will continue to use the shapefile because it is simple, convenient, and universally supported. It just works. To call for the abolition of the shapefile is akin to calling for the abolition of the .xls(x) format on the grounds that people erroneously use it in lieu of “legitimate” databases. Millions of people.

Let’s be real and call off the shapefile vendetta. There is room (and need) in the geoverse for both PostGIS and shapefile. Why not just buy yourself a “Postgres is my databae” or “I ❤ .SHP” t-shirt to show where you stand? You’ll look hip, whichever you choose.

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