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I am doing some basic constraint mapping in ArcMap 10.1 and need some pointers on organizing my project for portability. My project TOC in ArcMap contains shapefiles in the following structure:

Project Details -Project Lands

Features -POI's, roads, railways etc

Constraints -Setbacks from features

Typically the folder structure for our Arcmap and data looks like this:

Arcmap file path: Client -> Project -> ArcMap -> Date -> mxd file

Shape file paths: Client -> Project -> Data -> Data Type i.e. Project detail, feature, constraint -> Date -> shp file

Often we will package up the Arcmap and shp files to send to the client. What is the easiest way to do this without breaking links in Arcmap? With the folder structure the way that it is, I am unable to only pull the Arcmap -> Date -> mxd file and Data -> Date -> shp files.

I have played with exporting/importing to/from file geodatabases in ArcCatalog but don't think this is the solution other than it being just one file rather than a bunch of different shape files to send to the client.

The other solution that I think should work would be making the paths relative but it seems whenever I change a folder name it breaks the data source and I end up having to reconnect everything which is error prone.

closed as primarily opinion-based by BERA, nmtoken, whyzar, Antonio Falciano, MaryBeth Dec 19 '17 at 13:42

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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My first suggestion would be to take a look at Map Packages or Layer Packages, which will take all of the relevant data and put it into a single file for easy distribution. It's part of the Package Toolset. They can also be accessed by right-clicking the layer(s) in the ToC, choosing File > Share As, or a couple of other methods.

Having everything in a file geodatabase does simplify things down to a single folder to track, among other advantages over shapefiles. Your client (and you) does have to understand that it isn't a folder even though it looks like one. I've seen people save mxds, spreadsheets, and other documents into the .gdb folder. But then this isn't terribly different from shapefiles and all their related components (you just can't browse to them in a .gdb).

Relative pathing will break if you rename folders. That approach relies on everything being the same from the initial folder down (ie, it will search subfolders from the initial path, but not completely new trees). However, if everything is located in the same places, just fixing one broken link should fix all of the others.

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