Import Using Basic Personal and Basic File Geodatabase Reader


Esri Personal and File geodatabase feature classes can be imported using Import or Multiple Data Import. The main difference between these basic geodatabase readers and the Esri Personal Geodatabase and Esri File Geodatabase format is that the basic geodatabase readers are available without an installed ArcGIS license and work on both Mac and Windows.

Both Basic Personal Geodatabase Reader and Basic File Geodatabase Reader can import feature classes. The file selection is done in two steps: 1) choose the geodatabase (mdb or gdb); 2) select feature classes directly or through an SQL query. Optionally, define a spatial filter to limit the geographic extents of the data being imported.

Both Basic File Geodatabase Reader and Basic Personal Geodatabase Reader have several limitations:

Feature datasets are not supported

Relationships (intersect/contains) in spatial filters are not supported

Domain or subtypes are not supported

Feature classes that are in coordinate systems with unrecognized EPSG codes are not supported


The Basic File Geodatabase Reader has further limitations:

Only ArcGIS 10 and higher file geodatabases are supported

Arcs are not supported - arcs will be imported as straight lines based on its vertices

SQL queries on Unicode tables or attribute names is not supported

Bezier curves are not supported - curves will be imported as straight lines based on its vertices.

Import Using Basic Personal or Basic File Geodatabase Reader

In the Import or the Multiple Data Import > Add dialog box, in the Format drop-down list, choose Basic Personal Geodatabase Reader or Basic File Geodatabase Reader. Click the Browse button and select a geodatabase file with the extension mdb (Personal geodatabase) or gdb (File geodatabase)—only one geodatabase can be accessed at a time.  Click the hyperlink to open the Select Feature Classes dialog box to choose specific feature classes for import.

information Forward slash "/" in paths are not supported in Windows, but are supported on Mac.

Select Feature Classes

In the Select Feature Classes dialog box, directly import one or more tables or build SQL queries to select attributes of tables. To directly select tables, click the names of the table to import—selected tables are highlighted. To deselect a table, click the selected name again.


information Text layers in a geodatabase are seen as areas in the Select Tables dialog box, but are imported as text.

Specify Spatial Filter

A spatial filter consists of a rectangle that defines the extents of imported data. Use extents of an existing MAP Layer from the drop-down list or enter new coordinates values manually. When setting points manually, enter two opposite corner coordinates that represent the actual extent of the data. When MAP Locations exist on the document, it is possible to use them to specify corner coordinates. If required, click the Input Coordinate System link to use an alternate coordinate system for the inputs.


The Relationship type affects how the spatial filter boundary interacts with imported features:

Intersects: import objects that intersect the extents of the spatial filter

Contains: import objects fully contained within the extents of the spatial filter

Crop to Filter: includes only features that are cropped to the spatial extent

Create SQL Select Query

An SQL statement can be built to limit the number of objects and attributes imported from a single feature class. The SELECT clause should always contain one and one only "Shape" object (actual spatial feature). When possible, use the operator button to add formatted query statements (including spaces), to limit the typing errors.

information SQL Query for Basic Personal Geodatabase (mdb) Reader is only available on Windows.



Example SQL select queries:


SQL Select Query

In feature class "FC_Point", import all points and the "Valve" attribute (other attributes are not imported).

SELECT FC_Point.Shape, FC_Point.Valve_ID FROM FC_Point

In feature class "FC_Line", import lines (vector only) that have the attribute "Id" equals to 1, 2, 3 or 4.

SELECT FC_Line.Shape  FROM FC_Line WHERE FC_Line.Id IN (1,2,3,4)


It is recommended to use the Validate button to verify the query syntax prior to import.


SQL queries can be used to import a feature class and the attribute information from a related non-spatial table (see previous section). To perform SQL queries on multiple feature classes with different source coordinate systems, use the Multiple Data Import and add the feature classes in several Add sessions (see Multiple Data Import).


information Unlike the Esri geodatabase readers, the Basic geodatabase readers do not support multiple SQL statements separated by a semi-colon (;).


Recently used SQL queries are saved and accessed by clicking the Recent button. The number of recent queries saved is set in the MAPublisher Preferences on Spatial Database > General Spatial Database Editor.

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Last updated: 4/12/2019