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ArcMap Desktop Introduction: Geodatabases

Create a File Geodatabase / Setting Default Geodatabase : Easy Step-by-Step

Although it isn't necessary, it's recommended that you keep all related data within a geodatabase (.gdb).

  • Packaging all your related data in a geodatabase makes it relatively portable since it's all together.
  • Some ArcMap tools will save output to a default geodatabase in your Windows profile if you don't specify a location, and your output is likely to get lost on a public computer.
  • Some ArcMap tools are more robust when the inputs and/or the outputs are contained within a geodatabase.
  • You can have multiple map documents (.mxd files) outside of the geodabase, one for each layout. Each of these can point to data in one or more geodatabases, or other data that isn't contained in a geodatabase.
  • From within ArcGIS, you can always export layers in a geodatabase to a shapefile feature layer, or export tables to ASCII text files, for sharing or for use in other programs.
  • Please see our blog post regarding the geodatabase structure versus working with separate shapefile layers.

Step 1

(3) See below. Right click on your new geodatabase and choose to make it the Default Geodatabase of your current Map Document.

This is particularly important on public computer in the Data/Visualization computer lab (Bostock first floor), since the default "Default Geodatabase" is in your Windows profile that is wiped clean after you log out.

Steps 3 & 4

(1) See at left. When you open a blank document in ArcMap, click on the Catalog tab at right and navigate to the folder where you want to keep your geodatabase. Make a New Folder Connection where you'll want your geodatabase (or where it already is) if it isn't showing up.

(2) See below. Right-click on the folder and choose New ... File Geodatabase.

If you already have an existing geodatabase that you'll be using, you can skip this step.

Step 2

(4) See at left. You can import layers (e.g., shapefiles) and tables (e.g., CSV, DBF, XLS) that are currently outside your geodatabase. From the Catalog tab, navigate to your geodatabase, right-click, and choose Import.

You can also get layers into the geodatabase from the Table of Contents of the Data View by right-clicking the layer, choosing Data ... Export.

You can also use the Feature Class to Geodatabase conversion tool.

(5) See below. Choose File ... Map Document Properties. If you didn't change the Default Geodatabase when in the catalog window in Step 3, click the folder to the right of the Default Geodatabase to navigate to the geodatabase where most of the data for this project will be stored and where you want default output to go if you don't specify a location.

(6) See below. While you have the Map Document Properties dialog open, check the box to "Store relative pathnames to data sources" to make your Map Document more portable. If you're saving on a flash drive, portable hard drive, or a network drive, then it will be easier to reopen on another computer even if the drive is mapped to a different drive letter.

Steps 5 & 6