Real SQL

Manifold Has the Real Thing

Get Manifold for Real SQL

GIS is Better with Real SQL

SQL is the world's standard for manipulating data. If you rely on the phenomenal power and convenience of SQL in databases, you need that same power and convenience in your desktop GIS.

Surprisingly, GIS packages like FME, Global Mapper, QGIS, and ArcGIS® Pro either have no built in SQL at all or a subset too limited to be real SQL. Manifold® Release 9 includes real, full-featured SQL built in while other desktop GIS packages do not:

  • FME - A wonderful package from a great company but, alas, no built-in SQL.
  • Global Mapper - Another fine package, but no SQL.
  • MapInfo® Pro - SQL subset with limited Select and Join in dialogs. No SQL for rasters.
  • QGIS - Very extensive capabilities, but no native SQL. Depends on SQLite, PostGIS, etc.
  • Esri ArcGIS Pro - Many capabilities and a fine GIS, but it has a less than 5% SQL subset, for simple, read-only expressions with a few functions. No SQL for rasters. See the SQL: Manifold vs. Arc comparison page.
  • Manifold - A modern, full featured desktop GIS with real SQL, the world's best spatial SQL built in: no need for an external DBMS. Works for all data, including rasters, vector, and tables. The only SQL that is automatically CPU parallel and GPU parallel. Includes hundreds of spatial SQL functions. See the Manifold Spatial SQL page for more.

New !   Get Real SQL in ArcGIS Pro

SQL for ArcGIS Pro

New ! Esri users can now enjoy the world's best spatial SQL as an add-in to Esri's flagship desktop GIS package. Launch the full power of Manifold SQL from ArcGIS® Pro.

SQL for ArcGIS Pro is a new add-in for Esri's ArcGIS Pro desktop GIS. The add-in provides spatial SQL for Esri file geodatabases in your ArcGIS Pro project in tight integration with ArcGIS Pro.

The add-in enhances ArcGIS Pro with the world's most powerful desktop spatial SQL engine, Manifold's Radian® engine, to unleash the phenomenal power of SQL from your ArcGIS Pro desktop. Enjoy full-featured SQL, superior quality, and the amazing speed of parallel CPU and parallel GPU query execution, all supported with hundreds of SQL functions for every spatial need.

In Advanced mode the add-in runs spatial SQL with hundreds of file formats, databases, web servers, and other data sources outside of ArcGIS Pro. Ultrafast data storage in the add-in makes it easy to combine huge data from outside your ArcGIS Pro project with data inside the project.

When you read about the many advantages of real SQL in web pages like this, keep in mind that you can upgrade ArcGIS Pro to have real SQL as well by installing Manifold's SQL for ArcGIS Pro add-in.

Special introductory offer: Save $100 off the regular price of $245 - Only 145.   Visit the website for complete information.

Real SQL or Just a Client to Something Else?

Most desktop GIS packages don't have real SQL, although some can connect as dumb clients to DBMS packages that do have SQL. Those GIS packages depend totally on whatever the external data source can do. If the data source doesn't have real SQL, the GIS doesn't have it either. Connect to a different DBMS and you need to learn a different SQL, whatever SQL that different DBMS uses.

  • Clients - If an external DBMS package with SQL is used, FME, QGIS, and ArcGIS Pro can launch queries in that DBMS's SQL, but only for data in that DBMS. QGIS can also provide partial SQL functionality for views by opening a temp file in SQLite.
  • Manifold - Manifold can be a client too, even while it is acting as its own server. Manifold can query external DBMS sources using Manifold SQL, or the native SQL for the package, or mix of both in the same query. Manifold can mix data from different DBMS sources in the same query.

It's easy to tell if a GIS is just a client instead of having real, built in SQL capability: connect to a shapefile or to a GeoTIFF and run an SQL query like the simple example below. If the package can't do that, it doesn't have real SQL.

For example, suppose your shapefile has lines for highways in the US, with Name and Length attributes for each highway, but each highway, like Interstate 80 across the US, is represented by many small lines laid end to end instead of one big line. Does the package allow writing a simple query to merge all like-named lines into a single polyline, adding up their lengths, and placing the result in a new table? If not, the package doesn't have real SQL.

Here's the simple query to do that in Manifold, using one of Manifold's many SQL functions to merge the lines:

INSERT INTO [merged roads] ([Name], [Length], [Geom]) 
  SELECT [Name], Sum([Length]), GeomMergeLines([Geom]) 
    FROM [roads] GROUP BY [Name];

A few, simple lines of SQL can easily replace hundreds of lines in Python code that re-invents the wheel for GIS packages that don't have SQL. Manifold can run the above query, but FME, Global Mapper, MapInfo, QGIS, and ArcGIS Pro cannot. For other examples, consider simple UPDATE queries, adding data with JOINs and other routine SQL queries.

Manifold Release 9 is only $145, fully paid. The world's most advanced spatial SQL is only $145. Amazing! That's the fully paid price for Manifold System Release 9. The world's fastest and most powerful desktop GIS ever created now also has the world's lowest cost of ownership. Manifold never crashes, no matter how complex the query. Super!

Love SQL? - Try out Manifold SQL for free in the free Manifold Viewer.

Check the Documentation

Another way to tell if a GIS package has real SQL is to search for "SQL" in the user manual. If it doesn't have a chapter with many topics providing an SQL reference and full discussion of how to use SQL, it doesn't have real SQL.

Search for "SQL" in the Manifold User Manual search box and you get almost 500 topics, including numerous, step-by-step SQL example topics. The main set of reference SQL topics appears in the SQL chapter in the user manual.

Search for "SQL" in the documentation for FME, Global Mapper, QGIS, or ArcGIS Pro and you find absolutely nothing about SQL, or a discussion of how to use SQL in an external DBMS like SQL Server or PostgreSQL, or, in the case of ArcGIS Pro, a one page discussion of Arc's limited capability for SQL expressions.

Although the MapInfo User Manual table of contents does not mention SQL, MapInfo provides limited SQL select and join functionality in the form of dialogs.

No Database? ...No SQL

Desktop GIS packages like Esri and Q don't have real SQL because they have no internal DBMS at their cores. Almost all originally were designed as viewers of data stored in external data sources, so they don't have their own data storage engines inside the GIS. Because they don't have their own data storage engines, they don't have real SQL either. Instead, they connect as dumb clients to external DBMS packages that do have SQL, like Oracle or PostgreSQL DBMS servers, or to file databases like Microsoft Access or SQLite. That means you only get SQL when connecting to those data sources, and you get zero SQL with hundreds of other formats or data sources.

QGIS is a good example of a viewer/client GIS that is not a database itself and has no native SQL: there's no such thing as importing data from a file format, like GeoTIFF, into QGIS and then doing SQL on the raster data. Q has to leave the data in the file format or data store to which it has connected. If that data store is a DBMS package with the SQL capabilities you want, you're in luck and you can use Q as a client to launch queries in that DBMS. You're out of luck for real SQL if the data source, like GeoTIFF or a shapefile, is not a DBMS package that provides SQL.

QGIS can create temporary SQLlite files that provide views of vector layers that are not databases, but only with data compatible with Spatialite (no rasters) and with the crushingly slower performance of routing data out to and back from the external SQLite file. The limited SQL subset available allows no UPDATE or other manipulation of the original data the way a real SQL person expects, so it's not like having real SQL built into the GIS.

ESRI's ArcGIS Pro is a bit higher up the evolutionary ladder in that it provides some native "SQL-like" capabilities even when not connected to a real DBMS package like Oracle, MySQL, or SQL Server. But those capabilities are such an extremely limited subset of SQL, basically only using SQL syntax in simple expressions, that you don't get the power of real SQL. Surprisingly, that's true even when connected to ESRI's own file geodatabases. If you want real SQL when connected to an ESRI file geodatabase, you have to use Manifold, or Manifold's new SQL for ArcGIS Pro add-in for ArcGIS Pro.

Manifold SQL Advantages

Unlike other desktop GIS packages, which have no built-in SQL, Manifold is built from the ground up as one of the world's most modern and fastest SQL machines. That provides many advantages and exceptional spatial SQL expertise. More than just a well-implemented SQL, Manifold's SQL engine includes multiple hardcore features specifically designed for spatial SQL in real life use with emphasis on performance and control: constraints, computed fields, spatial and non-spatial indexes, temporary tables and temporary databases, precisely controlled multi-threaded execution, offloading of advanced raster operations to GPGPU, read-only and transparent read-write caches, a wealth of highly useful SQL functions, and much more.

"It has taken me a long time to get my head round COLLECT, but on several occasions recently I have had occasion to use it and what a great function it is! This tutorial topic has been invaluable in getting to grips with it so many thanks for adding this to the original documentation for COLLECT which I struggled with." - Forum post .

Astonishing Speed and Parallel Power

Manifold internally is a very fast, fully parallel spatial DBMS designed for GIS use, that includes a fully parallel SQL query engine. Write ordinary SQL and the Manifold query engine automatically parallelizes it to run CPU parallel in many CPU threads, as well as running massively parallel in hundreds or thousands of GPU cores as well. No other desktop GIS can do that.

Manifold's SQL is so incredibly fast and so highly optimized that complex SQL queries in Manifold usually will execute faster than equivalent programs written in C++. In most applications, Manifold SQL is usually faster than PostgreSQL/PostGIS for vector GIS work and dramatically faster than PostgreSQL/PostGIS with raster data, at times doing in minutes what takes hours in Postgres. PostgreSQL is a fast DBMS, so that's saying a lot.

Parallel SQL in Manifold also is dramatically faster than non-parallel scripting using ArcPy or Python, even when using well-known libraries like pandas. In extreme cases, when Manifold's on the fly SQL optimizer can dispatch heavy math work to a massively parallel computation on thousands of GPU cores, Manifold SQL can do in a few minutes what can take days in Arc. That's not just a fully-implemented SQL, that's an SQL with parallel GPU power you can't get in Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL or PostgreSQL/PostGIS. Amazing!

"Manifold's function works flawlessly, seamlessly piping the data from SQL Server, through the M9 function and the result back out to the table on SQL Server. It has replaced a slow ArcPy script of a few hundred lines with a few lines of SQL which achieve the same near instantaneously. The ability to use Manifold to supplement functions missing from other DBMS is amazingly powerful." - Corporate SQL Server setup, Forum post .

Easy to Learn, Always Available

With other GIS packages, besides not having any SQL at all for hundreds of different data sources, in the handful of data sources where you do get SQL it comes with lots of extra complexity. If you get SQL at all, the SQL you get depends on the data source you connect to. Connect to a shapefile and you get zero SQL with QGIS, and near-zero SQL with ArcGIS Pro. Connect to Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, or Postgres, and you'll have to learn four different SQL variations since a different SQL is used with each.

Want to write just one SQL query that works with all your data sources, and all those different DBMS packages? Can't do that, because they all have different SQLs with different capabilities for handling rasters and vectors. Import a 100GB GeoTIFF and use SQL to do spatial joins on raster data? Can't do that at all with Arc or Q but it's fast and easy and built in with Manifold.

With Manifold you always have at your fingertips the same, full-power, fully-articulated SQL, both for native Manifold projects and for hundreds of different data sources, raster and vector, no matter what data source you connect to, from shapefiles to GeoTIFFs to LiDAR to SQL Server. Write a single query in Manifold SQL and you can use that same query with data stored in Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, shapefiles, ESRI geodatabases, or SQLite. You also can use the data source's native SQL if you prefer, even mixing both native SQL and Manifold SQL in the same query.

For example, the same query could launch native SQL on an Oracle server for server-side extraction of records of interest, and then use Manifold SQL in the same query to analyze those records using the astonishing speed of massively parallel GPU computation using thousands of cores on your desktop. No other desktop GIS can do that, and none of the big DBMS servers provide the very wide roster of CPU parallel and GPU parallel SQL functions Manifold provides.

If you like using SQL in data science and DBMS, the so-called "SQL" features in other GIS packages will drive you nuts with their limitations. In contrast, when you launch Manifold the higher your standards for SQL, the more you'll be pleased by the breadth and depth of SQL in Manifold, with total mastery of details in an outstanding, professional query engine and SQL implementation. Manifold not only delivers a superior SQL within its own native spatial database engine, it also delivers superior SQL use when connected as a client to world class DBMS packages like Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL/PostGIS, and DB2.

Links and Sources

For comparisons to other systems, this page uses information from the following links:

If links have changed, use any search engine to find the latest documentation for the above packages.

Manifold Commander

New! Automate Complex Jobs with Manifold® Commander

New ! Manifold® Commander is a console application version of Manifold that provides the full range of Manifold query and scripting capabilities from a command line, making it easy to automate tasks.

Commander launches from a command line such as in a Windows Command Prompt window, or in a .bat batch file, or from a Windows PowerShell script, from within Windows Task Manager to automate tasks.  Commander can run either SQL queries or scripts from within a specified .map file, and Commander also can run scripts from a specified script file stored outside a Manifold project. Script in ten different languages!

    Automate complex jobs using SQL
  • Your own Automated Factory - Commander provide an automated production line for accomplishing nearly any GIS, DBMS or ETL task. String together any of hundreds of functions using whatever logic you want in a sequence of SQL queries, or use scripts in any of ten different programming languages. Manifold features like the Transform pane will automatically write SQL that accomplishes what you've set up using point and click templates. It's like being able to tell a factory full of robots what you want them to do.
  • Built into Universal and Server Editions - Manifold Release 9 Universal and Server licenses include Manifold Commander. Installing either Release 9 Universal or Release 9 Server automatically installs Manifold Commander. When you buy Release 9 Universal for $195 you automatically get Manifold Commander as well. There is no need to make any additional purchases to get Commander.
  • Replace Costly and Slow ETL Tools - Commander is Manifold, so just like Manifold it runs fully parallel, with incredible parallel CPU and massively parallel GPU speed. Queries and scripts provide access to the full power of Manifold, enabling use of hundreds of Manifold functions and the full power of SQL and scripts to interact with data in databases or in any of hundreds of formats and data sources, to transform that data, do analyses, and save the transformed data or results or output to desired formats. Replace costly, non-parallel tools like FME at a fraction of the price.
  • Schedule Tasks - Using Windows Task Scheduler you can launch tasks using Commander on a regular schedule, such as updating a CSV every night for serving to clients, updating databases, or converting files into different formats.

See the Manifold Commander user manual topic for details and illustrated, step by step examples.

Experience Manifold Power in a Free Tool

Manifold Viewer is completely free - no need to register, no ads, no upsell, no soliciting donations - it's really free!

Manifold Viewer is the free, read-only version of Manifold Release 9. Although Viewer cannot write projects or save edited data back out to the original data sources, Viewer provides phenomenal capability to view and to analyze almost all possible different types of data in tables, vector geometry, raster data, drawings, maps and images from thousands of different sources. Viewer includes full SQL as well, with hundreds of spatial and other analytic functions.

Viewer can also create and write spatial indices for entire folders full of LiDAR files, save connections to favorite files and data sources, and even edit and save localization files to translate Manifold into new languages.

Manifold Viewer delivers a truly useful, fully CPU-parallel and GPU-parallel Manifold tool that gives you parallel power and endless Manifold capabilities at zero cost. No need to register, no adware, no requests for donations and no selling: use Viewer however you like, including commercial purposes. You can even redistribute Viewer, all for free.

Viewer is a great way to share the amazing projects you create in Manifold for free. Publish multi-hundred GB projects created in Manifold that anybody can pop open in 1/10th second for free using Viewer. Publish projects that include automatic connections to your organization's databases and worldwide webserved data, and include pre-built, sophisticated analytics and dynamic reporting that users can launch with a point and click. Track pandemics, help first responders fight wildfires, or just help your organization do a better job.

See Manifold Viewer in Action.

Viewer's small download (only 50 MB), instant launch, and clean display - free of convoluted ribbons and endless, confusing buttons - make it perfect for unskilled users. With Viewer a million people can share the dazzling analytics and insights you create with an inexpensive Manifold license, all at fully parallel speed with no need to pay for costly, cloud-based, web processing. Like Manifold, Viewer never crashes, no matter how big or complicated the job.

See Viewer in action Watch the Manifold Viewer Introduction YouTube video.

"Mfd 9 is becoming a really good tool for sharing data with non-GIS folks. Clean interface makes it easy to teach others simple tasks. Easy to transfer a project. Easy to install software. Free viewer." - Forum post

Get Manifold Viewer

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Manifold imports everything.

Manifold imports everything: Manifold works with hundreds of different data sources, including almost any file format, database, or web protocol imaginable. The image shows parcel data in Australia imported from a MapInfo TAB format file.

About Manifold

Manifold is a deep technology company creating advanced, parallel algorithms, next-level technology, and computation know-how that powers faster performance and smarter operations.

License Manifold® technology to power your company's products, or take advantage of Manifold's off-the-shelf commercial products. Jump decades ahead of your competition.

Manifold® brand products deliver quality, performance and value in the world's most sophisticated, most modern, and most powerful spatial products for GIS, ETL, DBMS, and Data Science. Total integration ensures ease of use, amazing speed, and unbeatably low cost of ownership. Tell your friends!

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