Overview of Geospatial Data
Concept Procedure

Geospatial data is organized as follows:

The data hierarchy

Geospatial data is stored in a hierarchical fashion, like a set of tables: each row within a table is an individual feature, and each column is a property of that feature. The entire table (including its name, column names, data types, default values, and constraints) represents a feature class. The set of related tables is called a schema, and the entire collection of data resides in a data store.

For example, you might use a data store such as Oracle, which can encompass multiple schemas. The database might define the utilities for a town, with schemas for different types of utilities, such as electrical and water. The electrical schema would include feature classes for utility poles and boxes, while the water schema would include feature classes for pipes and hydrants.


Each feature class has properties that define it. The Pole feature class would have properties such as identification number, name, model, material, height, installation date, and so on. The properties that define a feature class can have data types, default values, and constraints. These can help ensure that a feature meets certain criteria in order to be included in a particular feature class. For example, the “Large Roads” feature class can include a field called “Lanes.” The constraint for “Lanes” can specify that its value must be six or higher in order for a road to be included in the “Large Roads” feature class.

Data stores

Features can be stored in a spatial database (such as Oracle, MySQL, or SQLServer), or in the ESRI ArcSDE data store, which can use either an Oracle- or SQL Server-based spatial database. Features can be stored in a file (such as SHP or SDF). Related SHP files might be stored in a folder.

Features can be accessed from a web-based service (such as WFS or WMS). AutoCAD Map 3D also supports ODBC (Open Database Connectivity), a standardized interface for accessing a database from a program.

A data store usually contains a spatial context, which describes the spatial metadata or parameters within which geometry for a collection of features resides. The spatial context can specify the coordinate system, extents, and tolerance. A data store can include multiple spatial contexts, for example, one context for ground-based data and another context for schematic data.

For more information about features, feature classes, and schemas (including diagrams that illustrate these concepts), see “What Are Features?” and “What is a Schema?” in Best Practices for Managing Geospatial Data, available from the Help menu in AutoCAD Map 3D.

Working with features in your map

To add a feature to your map, you connect to its data store and select the feature classes to include. After you connect to a data store in AutoCAD Map 3D, that data store is a feature source for the current map. Feature sources are listed by provider (for example, all SDF feature sources are listed together in Data Connect). Each feature class you add becomes a feature layer in your map. You can apply filters and spatial queries to the layers to show only some of the features within that layer. Filters are based on attributes, and queries are based on spatial location.

See Also