ArcGIS 9.3

At the ESRI Resources Symposium yesterday, we had a presentation from one of the ESRI people about what’s coming up in ArcGIS 9.3.  It was quite different than the MapInfo 9.5 release that Andrew blogged about previously.  Of course calling a 9.2 to 9.3 release the same as a 9.0 to 9.5 release isn’t really fair.

One of the things about ESRI suite these days* is that when they talk about “ArcGIS 9.3” they are talking about the entire product suite, including things like ArcGIS Server, Desktop, Engine, Extensions and the like.  It is a little difficult sometimes to recognize what you will be getting as a result of the new version depending upon what part of the suite you are using.  I’d really recommend that you look at the full list of “What’s new in 9.3” on the ESRI web site at to see what you’ll get.

Anyway, I thought there were two things that were good about this upgrade, but they’re not at the same level as MapInfo’s “support WFS-T”…

  • 9.3 will have full compatibility with Windows Vista and 64 bit processors across the whole range
  • 9.3 “will support PostgreSQL and PostGIS” – this actually means that geodatabases can be implemented with PostGIS as the back end.

The Vista compliance is a good thing.  One of the (many) reasons we haven’t trialled Vista is that we aren’t convinced of the compliance of our software like ArcGIS, so to know that this is one less problem.  But this sort of compliance is what I would expect from commercial software.

PostgreSQL and PostGIS support in geodatabases is cool, but the overwhelming feedback from the Symposium was that hardly anyone in the room used geodatabases.  This was no real surprise to me personally.  We are moving directly from our old file-based systems to spatially enabled open source databases, but I’m not that keen on setting up relationships and data models in our systems (for the amount of work, I don’t think there is much reward – yet).  When they announced this we thought it meant ArcSDE could use PostgreSQL, so this really became a bit of a disappointment.

Addendum: There’s an 8 minute ESRI podcast on what’s new in geodatabases in ArcGIS 9.3 at  At 5:09, there’s some discussion of PostgreSQL.  Derek Law says that it’s only for Enterprise ArcSDE geodatabases, using ArcGIS Server.  It also says they’re making their own spatial data type specifically for PostGIS.  And then there’s a “we’re making a positive guesture for open source” which I think is laying it on a bit thick – a positive guesture would be letting their desktop client connect to an open source product directly!

There were a bunch of tweaks across the board in 9.3, which I would call either “pretty things” (like a progress bar when tools are processing) or “productivity enhancements” (like better performance in the extensions).

I don’t think that 9.3 is worth the upgrade for us.  For all the “big” enterprise level stuff, we use open source products, so the upgrades to things like the ArcGIS Engine and so on issues just don’t apply.

The final thing to note about the release is when: “I’m thinking it will be maybe an early Christmas present” was the phrase used.  No release date has been fed on down to the ESRI Australia guys yet, or if it has, they’re not making it public.

We won’t be upgrading as a result of this release, anyway.

Email me directly here.

* I fully realise this makes me sounds like an old cranky man.  I still look back fondly at AML programming in Arc/Info 7, so perhaps I am old.  This darn flu thing I’ve had is certainly making me cranky.

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