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I've recently come into ownership of an MS-Access database (2007 accdb), which I want to be able to use in a GIS. I know a little bit about GIS (I've used QGIS and ArcGIS quite a bit) but very little about databases. There is currently no spatial data in it but I do have various shapefiles which I want to link it to and ideally merge all these files/databases into one spatial database.

If I had access to ArcMAP I'd probably just set up an ESRI Geodatabase, but that's not available. From what I've read PostGIS might be something I could use but as I say I know very little about databases beyond MS-Access.

Is there a user friendly system someone could point me in the direction of? It would need to be compatible with MapInfo 7 (don't ask!) or QGIS. Any help/advice would be much appreciated.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Your best bet is to keep your geometry in shapefiles and keep the data in access. Just make sure there is a common ID in both tables. Both QGIS and Mapinfo support joining shapes to database features (eg accessed via odbc). In Mapinfo, check the function "geocode".

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Thanks for your prompt reply. I've done what you've suggested and it works fine. The table is quite large - is there anyway to avoid it impacting on performance in QGIS on what is a fairly elderly laptop? – AWalsh Sep 24 '12 at 22:01

If you're interested in PostGIS, you might want to visit the BostonGIS website. They have great material to get you started. You can also start with OpenGeo's introduction to PostGIS workshop.

PostGIS has a shapefile importer that you can use to load your shape files. As for your accdb files, you might want to convert them to SQL first. Bullzip has this free tool for converting accdb files to SQL and loading them to Postgresql/PostGIS. Once loaded, you can then join them in PostGIS.

QGIS has native PostGIS support. Mapinfo supports PostGIS, too.

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Thanks for your prompt reply - those beginner guides were exactly what I was looking for! – AWalsh Sep 24 '12 at 22:03

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