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A question arose at the Sept. meeting: What are acceptable data release formats for GIS data. SDTS has been withdrawn with no replacement, geodatabases are proprietary, shapefiles are said to have problems with spatial reproducibility. It would be okay to release in two formats, one of which (shapefiles) is more widely accessible, and the other (file geodatabase) has other good features.

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  1. As a practical matter, shapefiles work well if your data fit within their limitations.  Specifically the field labels must be 10 characters or less, and the length of an individual text field must not exceed 254 bytes.  For data that exceed the length limit, I've begun to make packages that give the attribute data as CSV files (since they have no field length limit), with a shapefile containing a small number of short attributes, one of which is a URL to a web presentation of the full data record.  Example:

  2. would be good to establish protocol or whatever for raster-types of data content. For example, would netcdf with CF metadata conventions work for that kind of content? Or would one need CF in the netcdf file itself plus some external XML file of FGDC (or whatever the norm is)?

  3. This from Tana:

    Under Policy:
    The link for "Data Release Basics"
    this powerpoint says shapefile.
    also looks like rasters will be geotifs.
  4. In case you did not know, there are two methods for using file geodatabases and open source libraries, which provide access to data distributed in ESRI file geodatabases. One relies on an ESRI API and the other does not. More information can be found here:

    And some definitions here: The FileGDB driver provides read and write access to File Geodatabases (.gdb directories) created by ArcGIS 10 and above. The OpenFileGDB driver driver exists as an alternative built-in i.e. not depending on a third-party library) read-only driver.


    I have used these in R, but I have not tested various types of data (tables, raster, vector--tested) and read/write combinations.