I have about 40 scanned, colorful Geology maps that are GeoTiffs. I want to bring them into an Esri FileGeodatabase to lower their size, combine them as one and display them with a mostly transparent overlay that is also scanned.

Right now they are individual Tif Images and I'm not sure which is the best way to store them in a FileGeodatabase. Does anyone have experience with these and could you tell me when I would want to use one and not the others?

Eventually we will have an ArcServer, but for now they will be served from a Geosoft DAP server. They will mostly be displayed in Arc 10.0, or 10.1, but will any of these options display well in Geosoft Target?

Edit: So after some more research I've found that none of these options are useable by Geosoft. At least not in a File Geodatabase. So what we will end up doing is making two mosaic rasters and save them as GeoTiffs with Packbits compression (which Geosoft supports, LZW on the other hand is not supported by Geosoft). One for the Geology and one for the Overlays. The compression will work great for the overlays which are mostly just one color with some black features, so the file size will be a fraction of the uncompressed size.

As to the difference between the 3 options I was considering, I'm still fuzzy on it. So if anyone has a good explanation, I would still love to know...

3 Answers 3


Well, I found the answer. Esri did in fact answer this with an in depth presentation at the 2010 San Diego User Conference called "Managing Imagery and Raster Data in ArcGIS". Here is the link for anyone else who is interested:


My short summary of this is:

Raster Catalog is on the way out the door. It isn't supported by ArcSDE anyway. Used to be a good way to store multiple raster datasets.

Raster Dataset is simplest way to store a raster, and generally the fastest for smaller applications.

Raster Mosaic offers the best display options and Scalability. This is what should be used for new applications although it's not worth going back and changing your old stuff into it. Less redundant, keeps overlapping information (opposed to stitching individual TIFs into a single Raster Dataset) but displays images seamlessly at all scales.

Edit: This is also a very useful question in implementation of Raster Catalogs and the like... How to workaround large mosaic process which is failing?


The differences between Raster Datasets, Mosaic Datasets, and Raster Catalogs are explained well on the Esri help page. At the bottom has a chart that breaks everything down and list pros and cons of all three types. http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/Raster_data_organization/009t0000000n000000/


Another illustrative documentation may be found here on Raster Catalog and Raster Dataset.


  • I edited the answer. I did not include the table since there is no table embedding option in this site except static uneditable image.
    – Learner
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 4:21

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