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My company just upgraded to Office 2007 and now I am no longer able to easily manipulate and create dbf's. I do not understand MS's decision by removing this capability but alas there is no use crying over spilled milk. I ask everyone here, what do you use (preferably free) to fill all your dbf needs?

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13 Answers 13

up vote 9 down vote accepted

For opening and editing, Open Excel 2007 and simply drag the dbf file to it.

To create a new DBF file (

  • In Excel 2007, Go to "file > Save As.." and choose .csv

  • Now open Access 2007 and Choose import data and select the csv file

  • The data then loads into a table and from there you can export the data from Access into a DBF file! Choosing either DBF3, DBF4, DBF5

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If you are going to import into Access I personally see little reason to export to CSV first. In Access you can directly load\link to an Excel worksheet then do the export to dbf. Just saves you one more step where you can potentially mess up. – Hornbydd Aug 19 '13 at 16:11
For reference, this workaround only works up to Office 2010. Office 2013 removed Access's ability to import dbf (ref), though Excel 2013 can still view a dbf by drag and drop route. Apparently there is a route to re-enable Access dbf import via dll's from the Access 2010 runtime though:… – matt wilkie Nov 10 at 18:28

I've used Open Office for working with dbf files.

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Open Office Calc will work like 'old' versions of Excel and allow you to edit and save the .dbf directly. – Darren Cope Nov 8 '10 at 17:42
@dariapra: your comment applies to editing .dbfs in Excel as well--it's not the program used to edit the .dbf that causes the problem, it's that shapefiles get quite upset if you go and edit the .dbf in an 'outside' program. – Darren Cope Nov 10 '10 at 1:58
I find the only trap is stray commas, OO interprets them a delimiters. Be sure to check to the opened file for chewed data by scrolling down the right most column. ciao – Willy Apr 9 '12 at 6:11
I am no recommending to myself to not open DBFs at all outside of the GIS system. I am tempted to sort the list, this is obviously disasterous. Apparently though you have to do it a few times before you learn..... – Willy Apr 28 '12 at 1:06
Sorry for bringing this thread back up to the frontpage, but: I resort and modify data types within my DBFs all the time during data manipulation, and the trick to avoid corruption is quite simple: Create a "feature id" field in your GIS package (using the field calculator), and resort your DBF using this column before saving and closing OpenOffice or Libre. It seems that *.shp connects features and attributes purely by "row-ID" - feature 1 goes to row 1, no matter if you resorted the DBF file or not. – SAnderka Aug 15 '12 at 21:21

I've used this add in to save to dbf created by the theXLwiz.

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theXLWiz SaveDBF addon works in Office 2013 both 32 and 64bit, but sadly development and support has come to an end as of January 2015. So for a couple more years anyway this can still work. – matt wilkie Nov 10 at 18:45

Google Docs - upload .xls(.xlsx save download dbf.) or Jakub's method

update November 2015: Google Drive now replaces Google Docs, to upload a .dbf go to the drive and folder the right click and an upload option is available to transfer files. If .dbf does not work, rename .txt before upload and rename on google drive to .dbf does work currently

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How secure is this method, I typically use spread sheets that are loaded with proprietary information. I dont want google spitting it out on the web. – Furlong Nov 9 '10 at 17:59
You can make it private - what says google don't know whats on your hard-drive already? CIA & GCHQ do.The only real secure way is OFFLINE. This was an intermediate solution to get a .dbf from excel 2007 (then delete it off google docs). – Mapperz Nov 9 '10 at 20:13
As far as I can tell, this option is no longer available - privacy issues aside, google docs does not show a .dbf download option for me. I see Excel, OpenOffice, PDF, CSV, Text and HTML. So Access or a third-party software are the only options. – Rudi Jun 12 '12 at 10:55
I've confirmed @Rudi's observation that DBF export from Google Docs (Sheets) is no longer available. This answer should probably be removed now. – matt wilkie Nov 10 at 18:38
@mattwilkie & Rudi updated post to reflect changes – Mapperz Nov 10 at 21:02

for editing, either of these two is handy (never tried to create):

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I load my xls, xlsx file into arcmap and open the attribute table, hide any columns that are unwanted, select only rows with data (sometimes it shows extra null rows), and then export data (choose the dbf type).

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I've been using R. In the core packages there is a package called foreign which enables you to read/write dbf files with ease. You can read a dbf file that is associated with a shapefile, and completely overwrite it without problems (assuming that you do not delete a row). You can also just output a dataframe into dbf format, which I sometimes do as it is a compact data format. The code is as follows, where dataframe is your data, and file is the filename:

write.dbf(dataframe, file, factor2char = TRUE, max_nchar = 254)
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I've successfully used the FoxPro ODBC driver to connect to a folder full of DBFs. There are a few caveats if you're going to delete rows (make sure the DBF driver posts the deletes, not just the diffs) but otherwise it's not too bad.

You can connect from other clients beyond Office, too, which is handy for scripting purposes and the like.

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I used to use a program called DBF Viewer plus, it sounds similar to DBF Manager, I haven't used it for a couple of years, so not sure if still available

it's available from here

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Still available in Nov 2015. Although last release is dated 2012 it works painlessly for me on Win7 x64. Free (asks for donation, but no nag), single file portable executable, very nice. – matt wilkie Nov 10 at 18:57

DBF Manager is able to view, edit, create dBase and FoxPro including Visual FoxPro databases.

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I sometimes use Infolib, or more accurately the command line dbf2info utilities created from infolib, by Randy Deardorff of the US Environment Protection Agency, circa 1998. Although ostensibly written only for the 'info' in arcinfo, it works with plain text files too. Unfortunately the windows binaries don't work on 64bit windows.


        AVAILABLE INFOLIB COMMANDS (recall by typing "infolib")

        ascii2info   dbf2info     dbfitems     dbflist
        dbflook      info2ascii   info2dbf     infodel
        infodir      infoitems    infolist     infolook

I couldn't find an existing internet host for these tools, so I put the stuff from my stash on GitHub: (binaries too).

Update: Credits for infolib proper goes to Todd Stellhorn of ESRI, with Randy being responsible for the tool collection. From the readme "These programs make extensive use of a public domain C package for direct INFO access called infolib written by Todd Stellhorn of ESRI."

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  1. Save yourxls as a csv
  2. Open the csv with Notepad and save as yourcsv.txt
  3. From the Command Window in dBase, CREA yourdbf, and define the fields, types and widths matching those in yourxls; Ctrl-W to save
  4. APPE FROM yourcsv DELI
  5. BROW to check the data. Done! Make sure you have the level for native dBase files set to 4 in the BDE Config tab (7 is now the default) for dBase tables or ArcView 3.x will not recognize the dbf. Also comply with field naming rules in dBase (max width 10, no spaces or special chars).
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-1 If the asker wants to use Excel to create/manipulate DBF files, it is probably a safe assumption that dBase isn't installed/available. – user3461 Aug 19 '13 at 15:46
True, but it is available at - they are doing a great job of updating the software. I can't live without it. – Don Pickenpaugh Aug 19 '13 at 16:08
Don this answer could be on topic, as the OP does indicate they're willing to try other things. However it does need to add some text to frame the context. Ex: "I use ___ from It's actively supported and from the original creators of DBF. Here's one way to use it with shapefiles ...." – matt wilkie Nov 10 at 19:05

If it's Excel's usability you're after (extended search and replace, repeat previous values, fill, ...) and you can change the default storage format: use instead of shapefiles. Then you can just open the .mdb in Access and edit there or push/pull from .xls as needed.

Remember it's important to keep the ObjectID or FID intact, so no adding or deleting rows from the Access and Excel side, and be careful to only touch the feature class tables. As long as you keep backups and tread with care and attention you'll be fine.

An added benefit is being able to use Longer_Field_Names and increased row limits.

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