The ArcPad Team Blog

Unofficial stuff from the team behind the World's leading mobile GIS platform

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Basic Workflows for Getting Started with ArcPad

When I ask my family what they’d like to have for dinner, I often hear a familiar response: “I don’t know.” If I rephrase the question and ask if they’d rather have stir-fried veggies or spaghetti and meatballs, they are quick to tell me their preferences. It helps to focus the mind when choices are presented to you. In the same spirit, today I’d like to present some basic workflows for getting started with ArcPad.

First, let’s break the general workflow categories into two groups. First is the ‘field to office’ group. These workflows require no office preparation. You simply grab your mobile device and use ArcPad tools to start a new project in the field. Next is the ‘office to field to office’ group. This is the set of workflows to choose from when you have an existing GIS in the office that you’d like to take out into the field with ArcPad and have integrate your field data.

Field to Office Workflows

QuickProject. ArcPad can create a QuickProject using the default template. It provides the schema that you can customize to make work for just about any project. After you complete your field work, you can bring the shapefiles over to your office computer where they can be managed as shapefiles or converted to a new geodatabase via the QuickProject to Geodatabase geoprocessing tool.

Create New Shapefile. ArcPad is also equipped to create new shapefiles in the field. You specify the geometry type, add whatever attribute fields you need, and even create a QuickForm to make attribute entry quick and easy. Back in the office, you can continue to manage the data in shapefile format or use ArcGIS editing and geoprocessing tools to convert to another format.

Field-to-office workflows feature ArcPad tools for generating new QuickProjects and individual shapefiles.  Here you see the options for managing the data once in the office.

Office to Field to Office Workflows


Check Out / Check In. For GIS data stored in a geodatabase, you can use the ArcPad Data Manager to check data out for ArcPad and then check the field edits back into the geodatabase. The Get Data for ArcPad tool walks you through the process which results in a folder of data containing the AXF file that stores your geodatabase feature classes and supported behavior. You can choose the extent of the data to check out to limit unnecessary panning and zooming in the field. This workflow requires that the check-out process occur every time you go out into the field and that the check-in occur when you return.

The geodatabase check-out / check-in workflow is good for continual field edits to your master geodatabase.

QuickProject with a Custom Template. QuickProjects can be generated from your own ‘custom’ templates which contain field editable feature classes, background data, symbology, and more. The beauty of this workflow is that the template stays on the mobile device so you can use it to generate numerous QuickProjects. You do not have to check out the data every time you plan for a day in the field. Another plus is that you can store multiple templates – one for each of your projects – on the mobile device. Back in the office, use the Get Data from ArcPad tool to check in your field edits to the same geodatabase used to create the template. Any changes to the geodatabase schema will require you to recreate the template and replace the old one on the mobile device.

You can create a custom template based on your master geodatabase and use it to generate QuickProjects in the field.   Field edits are then checked in to the master geodatabase.


Copy Out. If you manage your GIS data as shapefiles, you can simply copy the shapefiles over to the mobile device for use in ArcPad. One way to do this is via the Get Data for ArcPad tool. Unlike geodatabase feature classes which can be checked out, shapefiles can only be copied out. This means that a copy of the shapefile is made for use in the field. You can also use Windows Explorer to simply copy the shapefile(s) from your office computer over to your mobile device. After you’ve collected your field data, you can bring the shapefile(s) over to your office computer and manage them in ArcGIS. There is no tool that will integrate the field edits from the copied out shapefile into the original shapefile residing in your office GIS.

Shapefiles can be copied over to the mobile device, edited in ArcPad, then managed in ArcGIS. 

QuickProject with a Custom Template.  As for the geodatabase, above, you can create a custom template based on shapefiles and use it to generate QuickProjects in ArcPad. Everything is the same except for the options available for integrating the field data with your existing GIS. Because you will have shapefiles here, you cannot check in the data and have it automatically integrate with the original shapefiles. You can, however, use the geoprocessing tool, QuickProject to Geodatabase, mentioned above to convert the QuickProject shapefiles into a new geodatabase. You can also, as always, use the ArcGIS editing tools to further manage and integrate your data.

Custom templates built on shapefiles can generate QuickProjects.  Back in the office you can convert the QuickProject to a geodatabase or manage the shapefiles however you like.

So there are a few of your choices for getting started with ArcPad. Hopefully they help to focus your mind and begin to think about which workflow best captures your situation. Do you have an ArcPad workflow that isn’t covered here? We’d love to hear about it.