ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

July 2009

Create Workspaces for Intermediate and Final Data

Ready, Set, Go

Organization is the key to preparing data for geographic information system (GIS) projects. Creating workspaces for intermediate and final data before you start working with datasets is an important step in project design. Taking time to create workspaces helps protect original datasets and keeps intermediate and final data separate.

  example of environment settings; click to enlarge
Use the Environment Settings to direct outputs first to the scratch workspace and then to the final workspace.

A workspace can be a system folder, geodatabase, or feature dataset. The container type chosen depends on the project's scope. For larger projects, a system folder hierarchy can be used to define a workspace. Under the main project folder, you can create subfolders for data, tools, and scripts. These folders can contain multiple geodatabases, custom toolboxes, and scripts.

For limited-scope projects that one or just a few people will use, a single geodatabase containing original and final data may be sufficient. Note that while scripts cannot be stored in a geodatabase, script tools that reference scripts can be stored in a geodatabase.

With geoprocessing tools, you can easily convert source data in almost any format into a geodatabase feature class. Data can be converted using tools via a dialog box or from the command line. Batch processing is available for some tools.

No matter which type of workspace is used, a solid naming convention is necessary so that you will know which data is being used as an input. The naming convention should be created before the geodatabase is created. To ensure consistency, document this naming convention and keep a copy of it handy. When devising a naming system, keep these tips in mind:

Create a scratch workspace to manage the data generated when performing geoprocessing operations such as changing the spatial reference of feature classes, creating new feature classes from existing ones, and performing other operations needed to prepare data before it can be used for analysis. Create a final workspace for feature datasets that have been processed.

By default, inputs and outputs from tools in ArcToolbox are directed to the current workspace. Initially, set the current workspace to the scratch workspace you created. Once processing is complete—and before any analysis operations—modify the current workspace to your final workspace.

To set the current workspace in either ArcMap or ArcCatalog, choose Tools > Options and click the Geoprocessing tab, then click the Environment button. Expand the General Settings to redirect output to the scratch geodatabase.

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