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For any ArcGIS users, how large of a dataset (in terms of number of records) can ArcGIS comfortably render on the screen at once? For example, if I have an excel spreadsheet with 15k records, will ArcGIS Desktop be able to easily render 15k items with maps underneath (I don't have Arc, which is why I'm asking) without freezing up or getting too choppy? If yes, has anyone really hit a capacity where they've had problems with the data rendering?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

15k points? I do that on a regular basis and wouldn't say I have any issues. If you're dealing with lots of layers (30+) or layers with very complex geometries (features with tens of thousands of vertices) then you might notice some lag. Why not try it out for yourself? You can request a trial here:

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Thanks, I'll do that. – Jeff Storey Nov 13 '10 at 0:59

number of rows is not very relevant. it does not say anything about the job the software have to do. if you get your data from excel I guess that you are generating points from coordinates. it will be much more costly to create points from a text representation and render them than getting the points from some binary stored representation like a shape file for instance.

if it is not just simple points that you are rendering the amount of vertexes in the geometry will be an important factor. one single row with a polygon describing a whole country or a continent in a detailed way may include millions of vertex points (a very bad way of doing it but anyway) and will be very tough to render.

a third general aspect is if you have a spatial index on the data. that will help so not the geomtrys outside your view have to be read into memory.

a fourth aspect is how complex symbology you are using. something fancy will be much slower than a simple one colored dot.

In your situation I would first focus in moviong to a decent formt. the king of maprendering from my experience is the old Arcview 3.x, but modern arc products is of course competent too in showing data. But if you want to save some money and go the free and open way you should take a look at QGIS and uDig.


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The key point underlying Nicklas's answer is that it's not the number of records (features) which is the major factor at play, rather it's the number of decisions the software needs to make along the chain from tabular data to pixels on screen. Whatever you can do to save state along the way will speed things up. For example saving x,y data as binary geometry file (shape, feature class), collapsing transparent overlays into a single saved image, and so on. 15K XY point records should be no problem at all if it's saved as a feature class and not participating in joins etc. – matt wilkie Nov 13 '10 at 22:52

I was doing 70K+ of SQL Server points earlier today in ArcMap 10 with decent results (X,Y event points from an arcgis 10 query layer). 15K doesn't sound like a lot to me. Even a workstation with the min. system requirements and a spreadsheet on a network file share should render pretty well.

Maybe someone else can comment on how a spreadsheet performs if you join it to other layers? Does ArcMap do some on-the-fly indexing? I wouldn't be surprised to see some performance degradation in those cases, but I think ArcMap would still be usable.

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