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Reading and Writing Data

FME contains a large number of formats because there are so many different fields that use spatial data.

At Safe Software, we sometimes call these families of data and each family has data with a set of characteristics that differentiates it from the structures of other data types.

Type Characteristics
CAD High-precision elements, traditionally backed by little or no underlying intelligence.
GIS Spatial representation of real-world features, mostly with underlying intelligence.
Raster Representations of spatial data as a series of cells – usually for GIS or visualization purposes.
Database Data held as a centralized collection of records and usually processed using transactions.
BIM/3D Data of buildings, often based on a data model where the building is divided into components.
Web Any form of spatial data – vector or raster – that is stored online and distributed through a network.

In addition, these families could also include:

Type Characteristics
Cartographic Data optimized to visually highlight certain spatial characteristics or concepts.
Transfer Formats specifically designed as a means to standardize the supply of data.

Of course, the big challenge is to preserve meaning and content when working with different types of data; for example, combining cartographic and database data into a GIS-ready output. This is where in-depth knowledge of FME’s readers and writers is a great benefit.

Reading or Writing

It’s worth noting that not every FME-supported format permits both reading and writing. Some formats only support reading, whereas others only support writing.

Non-Spatial Formats

FME support includes a number of non-spatial formats. Therefore, not only can FME work with the non-spatial attributes of spatial features, it can also work on a completely non-spatial basis.

Licensing and System Requirements

FME is available in various editions. The FME edition is determined by the license, rather than by the product that is installed, so the FME installation package and downloads for FME are all identical.

Each different FME edition differs only in the formats available. Only the FME Desktop Base Edition has a different (more limited) set of functionality. Editions are often named for the type of formats they support; for example, support for GE Smallworld format datasets is provided by the FME Smallworld Edition.

Some formats are only supported when suitable application software is also installed on the user’s system. Esri GeoDatabase is an example of this. Because FME uses ArcObjects to read from a GeoDatabase, it’s necessary that ArcGIS is installed and licensed to enable this format in FME.

Format Plug-Ins

Some FME supported formats relate to very specialist data types. In these cases, support is provided by an extra-cost plug-in. In some cases these plug-ins are created by third-party suppliers using the FME Plug-In SDK.