FOSS4G 2010 Notes: SpatiaLite, the Shapefile of the Future?

While we discussed SpatiaLite in the past (but the archives haven’t been imported to this new site yet), here’s the notes I took during Pirmin Kalberer’s talk at FOSS4G 2010 named “SpatiaLite, the Shapefile of the Future?”. In the notes below, Frank Warmerdam is the main developer of the famous GDAL/OGR library. In the discussion, people wondered about the status of the promised ESRI File GeoDatabase API.

  • SpatiaLite doesn’t replace PostGIS as a real database
  • SpatiaLite is spatial extension to SQLite
  • Single file storage
  • Spatial data types and functions
  • Launched in March 2008
  • File based, so no server process
  • Well proven and widely used
  • Now with SQLite 3.7 reading and writing can proceed concurrently, which was not the case not so long ago – this is not activated by default, for backward compatibility issues
  • It supports OGC simple feature types, SQL-SF
  • Indexes for spatial data
  • Supports networks and routing
  • Raster data also supported
  • Based on the GEOS lib
  • Spatial queries and operations
  • Supports OGC metadata
  • Built-in shapefile import and export capabilities
  • Coordinate reprojection via the proj.4 lib
  • There’s a spatiality GUI and GIS GUI, two GUIs for SpatiaLite, which are real nice too
  • Supported by GDAL, QQGIS, GeoTools, FDO, etc
  • Many advantages over shapefiles
  • Long interesting demo done
  • SpatiaLite databases can be edited directly in QGIS for instance
  • Performance can be less than shapefiles if we’re talking raw access, such as dynamically serving to MapServer
  • SQLite exists for Android, but not SpatiaLite yet
  • There is no available benchmarking of the ESRI File GeoDatabase vs SpatiaLite done so far, that would be interesting!
  • There is no API for the ESRI File GeoDatabase at the moment, it has been promised “soon” for the last three years
  • Frank Warmerdam comment: questioning the stability of the SpatiaLite, Spatialite is not there yet: Alessandro, the SpatiaLite maintainer, has not opened the development of SpatiaLite as much as it could be in regards to community consensus and backward compatibility

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  1. Right here: “In this case SpatiaLite is dying a slow death because no one is actually implementing it. […] Now yes, I think we all need a better format than the venerable shapefile (and it’s three amigos) which as a transmission format fails miserably. But there doesn’t seem to be any indication that this is a problem people actually want solved.”

  2. SpatiaLite is a great tool, providing all I need, just there. Embed a number of shapefiles inside it, and plug & play. When you need to give all the sapefiles to a friend, you just give him ONE single file. SpatiaLite.

  3. In this entry, Paul shares: “The title implied a discussion of the use of SpatialLite files as a format standard, but the talk was about the functionality of the SpatialLite tool set (which is, let’s be clear, impressive). The topic is not an idle one, since the geospatial community needs a modern common format, and FGDB is unavailable to anyone outside the ESRI ecosystem. SpatialLite is an obvious alternative candidate, but only if the changes to the format are made judiciously and in cooperation with all consumers of it. Thus far the format has changed more-or-less at the whim of the SpatialLite developer, so the rest of the community is loath to spend development effort on supporting it. There is a big opportunity here for SpatialLite to become the central format for the whole open source community, but it will require that the SpatialLite team give up a little control to the rest of us.”

  4. I find that SpatiaLite is a great tool too. Thanks for providing the information that I was searching for in this forum post. I’ve been using SQLite, but will try this out too.