Example: Convert an ESRI Personal Geodatabase into a .map Project

This topic shows how to convert data in ESRI's legacy personal geodatabase format into a  Manifold .map project in a single step.


Manifold uses Microsoft facilities to work with Microsoft .mdb files, including the .mdb files used within ESRI personal geodatabase format.  If Manifold cannot import from, link to, or export to an ESRI personal geodatabase .mdb file, that means the Windows system we are using is missing the necessary facilities.  Please see the Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends topic for a solution.


ESRI's personal geodatabase format is the original ArcGIS "geodatabase" format.  Data in a personal geodatabase is stored and managed in Microsoft Access .mdb files, and thus subject to all the limitations and inconveniences of .mdb format in a 64-bit world.  Personal geodatabases are limited to 2 GB,  with performance typically degrading between 250 MB and 500 MB.   Manifold users will want to convert their personal geodatabases into either Manifold .map projects for immediate, high-speed use or into ultra-compact Manifold .mxb archive files for archival storage and exchange.


Lucky for us, Manifold's Export  capability can convert an entire ESRI personal geodatabase into a .map or .mxb project in a single step.   


We will illustrate export of a personal geodatabase containing information on New York city in the United States published by Baruch College.   Non-profit organizations using the free Manifold Viewer for analytics can more easily access this data in .map or .mxb form, which the license for the data allows.  The "geodatabase" consists of a Microsoft Access .mdb file called nyc_gdb_july2017.mdb.   

Link the Personal Geodatabase as a Data Source

To fit into this documentation, illustrations show an artificially small Manifold desktop, with only a few panes, docked to the right side.   In real life we use a much larger Manifold desktop, and all panes would be turned on, with some panes docked to the left and others docked to the right.



We launch Manifold and choose File - Link.  



We navigate into the folder that holds the nyc_gdb_july2017.mdb file.   We click on the nyc_gdb_july2017.mdb file and choose Link.


There is no need to specify the file type since the Manifold dataport for .mdb automatically swings into action.



A new data source called nyc_gdb_july2017 appears in the project.  


If a new data source for the .mdb is not created as shown above, that means the Windows system we are using is missing facilities necessary for a connection to .mdb. Please see the Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends topic for a solution.

Export the Data Source

We click on the + box by the name of the data source to expand the data source, to see the many drawings and tables that are stored in the geodatabase.    Next, we Right-click onto the nyc_gdb_july2017 data source.



From the context menu that appears we choose Export.



In the Export dialog, we can choose between .map, .mml and .mxb formats.  .mml is a specialized format used for development.   .mxb is a compressed, archival form of .map format.   .map is regular Manifold .map format.  If we want to export to a .map file we choose MAP Files as the type.   We provide a name for the new .map file and we press Export.   Done!



In the Export dialog, if we want to export to an .mxb file we choose MXB Files as the type.   We provide a name for the new .mxb file and we press Export.   Done!


We can see a new .map project has been created by opening the newly-created .map file.  



In a new, blank Manifold session, which could be 64-bit Manifold running in 64-bit Windows,  we choose File - Open.



We navigate to where we saved our .map and, if we also exported it, our .mxb files.   We click on the .map and choose Open.



The .map project opens instantly, and we see that the export process did, indeed, convert all of the nyc_gdb_july2017.mdb personal  geodatabase content into a single, high-performance .map project.     In the illustration below we have used Style to color the areas in the a_greenspace Drawing using the OBJECTID field.  We have also added a Bing satellite layer below the drawing layer.



If we had opened the Manifold .mxb archive, we would have reconstituted the above project as well.   The only difference would be that the .mxb would not open instantaneously as does Manifold's everyday working format, .map.

File Sizes Compared

We can compare file sizes when storing the same spatial data in ESRI form or Manifold form.


The personal geodatabase in native ESRI personal geodatabase format, ready for use within ArcGIS, occupies about 67 MB and requires one file.  


Converted to a .map the spatial data occupies about 110 MB, roughly 40% larger than the original ESRI file geodatabase.  However, .mdb format is a slower and more fragile format.   The .map file, of course, is also fully parallel Radian technology delivering speed many times faster than possible with Microsoft .mdb format, while being much more reliable than .mdb format.


Manifold's MXB archive and exchange format has been designed to compress Manifold projects as good as or better than zip technology.    When converting a personal geodatabase into a Manifold project the resulting .mxb archive file will usually be significantly smaller than a zip file containing the personal geodatabase in Microsoft Access .mdb format.   With file geodatabases a zipped geodatabase will often be about the same size as an equivalent .mxb archive file or even slightly smaller.


In the case of the nyc_gdb_july2017.mdb personal geodatabase, when the .mdb is zipped the zip file requires 29 MB.    The equivalent Manifold .mxb file is about 27 MB, slightly smaller, a typical result.  



ESRI Geodatabase Formats - ESRI products utilize three forms of "geodatabase" format for storing spatial data:





Manifold can link into a project as a data source all of the above three ESRI geodatabase formats.


Viewer is Free - Manifold Viewer provides a free viewer to explore and to analyze sophisticated databases.   Although Viewer is perfectly capable of connecting to the above three different forms of ESRI geodatabases, it makes way more sense to publish such data in the form of .mxb files for people who are using Viewer.     


See Also

File - Export


File - Export Project


File - Link


Example: Convert an ESRI File Geodatabase into a .map Project - How to convert data in ESRI's current file geodatabase format into a  Manifold .map project in a single step.  We convert ESRI's example NapervilleGas GDB geodatabase, all 857 files, into a single, unified Manifold .map project.


Example: Connect to an ESRI GDB File Geodatabase - Connect Manifold to an ESRI GDB file geodatabase, display the contents, make a selection in the GDB and overlay in a map.


Example: Connect to an ESRI GDB usng GDAL/OGR  -  Instead of using Manifold's built-in ability to connect to modern ESRI GDB file geodatabases, use the Manifold GDAL/OGR dataport to take advantage of the GDAL library's ability to connect to deprecated GDB formats.


Example: Connect LibreOffice Through Manifold to an ESRI GDB - A companion example topic to the Example: Connect Through Manifold ODBC to a Third Party  topic.  Shows how to connect LibreOffice Base, the database part of LIbreOffice, through Manifold to link an ESRI GDB file geodatabase table into LibreOffice.


Microsoft Office Formats - MDB, XLS and Friends