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I am trying to get a better general understanding of how ArcGIS works with MS Access when using a personal geodatabase. If I create a new pgdb and then import a very simple shapefile and finally look at the result through Windows explorer (rather than ArcCat), the only visible item from the pgdb creation process is one mdb file. Opening the mdb file in Access shows there are 11 tables (in the case of a shp file that had one point).

Generally, I can find very little documentation aboutlooking at a pgdb through Access, and if there is any sense in doing so (even if it is just for the benefit of trying to find out how it all works). Most resources about pgdb design don't go say too much compared the the other two recommended gdb alternatives. However, Access is still extremely popular, so I think there is some benefit to looking at the topic in more detail.

So is it possible to know how the mdb tables that ArcGIS creates are related, or are the relations defined by files that neither Access nor Windows can see?

Is it possible to know how ArcGIS uses these tables to provide the "spatial" component to Access?

Is it ever beneficial to use MS Access to work with a shp file stored as a pgdb or is this all futile because pgdb technology is proprietary and no detailed publicly available knowledge exists?

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Esri's online help (see two links below as examples) discourages users from opening Personal Geodatabases stored in Microsoft Access using Access so I think your phrase "futile because pgdb technology is proprietary and no detailed publicly available knowledge exists" probably sums it up.

http://support.esri.com/es/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/31599

http://support.esri.com/es/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/30770

Personally, I never use Personal Geodatabases because shapefiles are easier to work with when you are aiming for simplicity, and File Geodatabases provide much more functionality and better performance.

If you are considering migration from Personal to File Geodatabases then this page from the online help may be useful.

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