I have an IT background but I am new to GIS. I recently recieved training using ARCMAP.

I have about 5000 farmers that I need to put in a database and access the information using GIS. The vision is to have a map and when I click on a particular plot of land I need to see the related farming information (Owner, productivity etc)

My question is - could I create a database using ARCGIS or is there a way to link ARCGIS to MSAccess and use that DB. I need someone to point me in the right direction. The resulting Map/Database should be Easy to use and update. Reports amay also neeed to be run on a monthly basis.

  • What kind of users will be using this database? How many users are there? Are there multiple levels of users (end user, editor, administrator)? How will they access the database? How many of them have ArcGIS Desktop? How many of them have Microsoft Office? How many of them will need to be accessing or editing the database at the same time? Have you thought about hiring someone to create a web application for this? – blah238 Oct 16 '12 at 19:55
  • Hi - there will be about 20 different perspns who will use this database from time to time. Only about 3 persons will have ARCGIS Desktop. Everyone will have Ms Office, I was planning to use ARCGIS Explorer online to view the data. It would be good to be able to update the information using the internet - Thanks – Jermaine Brown Oct 16 '12 at 20:46
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    It is unfortunate that all the old functionality of ArcView 3.2x does not seem to have been translated into ArcGIS. With 3.2x, you could link between Access and ArcView using Access forms. This meant that you could select a feature in ArcView and the system would switch to an Access form to display the attributes, and allow update and movement on to other related forms from within Access. Alternatively, selecting features in Access via a form would then transfer focus to ArcView to display the spatial view. I haven't seen any indication that this works in ArcGIS. Two (or maybe a dozen) steps f – user28310 Mar 21 '14 at 0:19

I think you should take into account that personal geodatabase is created and accessed through ESRI clients, following proprietary patterns. MsAccess is not a spatial database on its own (it does not provide a spatial data model, so obviously no spatial data loading capabilities, spatial indexing or extended spatial SQL), so ESRI manages spatial information within a standard BLOB attribute. You would not be able to access such a spatial information from outside of ArcGIS environment, as it would be the case for other spatial databases not managed through any middle tier (i.e. ArcSDE), as Oracle (including free entry point Oracle XE, available also for commercial use) and Open Source PostgreSQL/PostGIS (the latter version of PostGIS, 2.0, supporting integrated raster and vector data model).

A previous reply pointed attention to the 2Gb limit, while I would also stress how the ESRI file geodatabase model looks like more flexible and not affected by previous limit.

Considering that most of your system users would not have access to ArcGIS licenses, I understand the reasons why you pointed attention at MsOffice applications; however I would not recommend to edit your MsAccess geodatabase outside of ESRI environment, namely ArcCatalog or ArcMap.

You should consider the option of a traditional dual architecture, alphanumeric attributes being managed in the databases clearly distinct from geographic information managed within the GIS environment. It is an old fashioned architecture, I do not like it too much. However if you would still want to explore the option, you could store spatio-temporal coordinates as attributes, but you would obviously be confined to simple point geometries and you would still lack spatial reference system and any related geographic metadata.

A much better solution, particularly if you consider multi-user concurrent access, would be to focus on native spatial databases. Since ArcGIS 10.0, direct access is supported through query layers: once you connect to a spatial database, you can define a (spatial) query and use the resulting layer in the table of contents as any other layers. Such an option would empower you with the flexibility of fully SQL standard compliant databases and the possibility to access the spatial information also through geographic clients other than ESRI (i.e. QuantumGIS, which is natively coupled with PostGIS).

Depending upon license levels, query layers would be in read-only mode, which is an issue you should probably consider with care.


You can do both, kinda. If you wanted, which would be a good thing to do, make a Personal Geodatabase (which is a MS Access DB). This will allow you to store all the spatial data and any tabular data in one DB. You will also be able to access the tables in MS Access. There are limitations, the ones imposed by MS Access; a large one being the 2GB size limit.

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    Good answer. I believe non-gis Access tables are read-only from ArcMap, which is ok. Manage the GIS points from ArcGIS, manage the tabular data from MS Access. You can dynamically connect the two via a "join" or "relate". – klewis Oct 16 '12 at 19:06
  • Thanks...I find this is some of the information that is lost in the ESRI training....the practical and how-to do a real project info. – Ryan Garnett Oct 16 '12 at 19:11
  • Thanks Ryan. I dont think the DB should be reach the 2gb limit. Would I be able to run some reports from this DB in ARCGIS, or would I have to link it to MSAccess. The – Jermaine Brown Oct 16 '12 at 19:23
  • I dont want to make things too technical for the users - as I will not be doing the routine updates – Jermaine Brown Oct 16 '12 at 19:25

There is good news and bad news:

The good news is that ArcGIS does support geodata in an as Access database, as Ryan Garnett states in his answer..

The bad news is: Although geodata is placed in Access, the structure of a geodatabase is very complex. Thus, you should not expect to be able to update data directly in Access.

Fortunately ArcGIS is packed with different tools for data manipulation:

  • directly in the map
  • by modelling tools
  • by python scripts
  • by programming in the through the SDK (ArcObjects)
  • Thanks Morten - More things to consider. I want to use the easiest way to update the database as I will not be doing the routine updates – Jermaine Brown Oct 16 '12 at 19:29
  • Can you give some examples? It could be as easy as using ArcCatalog or just a Field Calculation in the attribute table. It really depends on the use and the data in the database. – Ryan Garnett Oct 16 '12 at 19:42
  • Ryan- I am still in the early stages - Example reports would be -Most productive/Unproductive farmers based on crop yields, acreage planted for the month, # and cost of farm loans applied for. # of farm loans granted and doing a comparison between the two etc. Graphs, pie charts etc would also be useful – Jermaine Brown Oct 16 '12 at 20:21

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