I found a lot of related questions, but not completely an answer to my struggle. I can open the dbf-file in ACL and save it as dbf. I added some attributes and wanted to open it again in ArcGIS, but apparently I loose 2 columns when opening my dbf in ACL (and it does too when I open it in Excel): the objectid and the geometry. How can I prevent this from happening? Or are there other options I have to join the object ID's with a new attribute that I only have in a table format (no GIS-coordinates).

Cheers, Mieke


The ObjectID is internal to ArcGIS and the geometry is not stored in the dbf for a shapefile - so you are not 'losing' them as they were never in the dbf in the first place. The dbf file is an attributes only file. You are better advised to add the columns in ArcGIS and edit them there rather than 'hacking' the dbf separate from the shapefile.

Of course, if the columns you are adding are just attributes and don't impact on the geometry, then just ignore the fact that you don't see the ObjectID and Geometry columns in Excel. When you load the shapefile with your hacked DBF, ArcGIS will read the geometry out of one of the other existing parts of the Shapefile file-set... but I still wouldn't advise hacking a shapefile's dbf in this way unless you HAVE to (and I can't think of many instance where that would occur)!

If you must do it like that and must have the goemetry/objectID columns, then you will need to pull the ObjectID and geometry into the dbf. However, if you are going down this route then it may be preferable to use some other other database that is spatially enabled like PostGIS, or SpatiaLite. The easiest option to get the ObjectID and Geometry columns into such a database is to use the loaders available for importing a shapefile to postgis or spatialite.

If you don't want to use PostGis or SpatiaLite, then you'll need to convert your geometry manually into WKT or WKB and store it (possibly as a BLOB depending on the complexity of your geometry) in a column in the dbf by hand. Of course, ArcGIS won't read this column for your shapefile and automatically update the geometry, which is why you are really best advised NOT to hack the dbf outside of the GIS.

  • Hi, thanks for such a quick and clear answer! I understand I best don't hack the dbf-file, but it really is just for adding another column that has nothing to do with the geometry. I already did my extension and stored it as a new dbf-file. I copied the shp and shx file of the original shapefile to a new folder, together with my new dbf-file, but it is not opened correctly in ArcGIS. – Mieke Jun 14 '13 at 13:43
  • To hack your DBF in this way, make a copy of your shapefile using ArcGIS and then open the DBF of your copy in Excel, do what you need and then close it. That should be all that is required. When you start copying bits of the shapefile with Windows and then editting other parts manually, you are risking breaking the Shapefile (as you have). If your new dbf has a different name to the original, then it will not work for sure. – MappaGnosis Jun 14 '13 at 14:45
  • Thank you. I will try this immediately. I hope to crack this nut today :s. – Mieke Jun 18 '13 at 8:08
  • Hi, in the end I managed to just join in ArcGIS itself... But thank you very much for the very experienced and quick help. I am now performing my first spatial joins in ArcGIS... – Mieke Jun 19 '13 at 15:25

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