Using existing data

Using existing data can be the quickest and easiest way to perform a field data project. Amending or annotating existing data can be a far quicker (and more efficient) operation than starting with nothing. The following data is directly supported by ArcPad.

Additional data formats can be supported via ArcPad extensions.


Shapefiles can be displayed and edited in ArcPad, but depending on the nature of your project editing capabilities for any one shapefile may vary.

Firstly, existing shapefiles that you may already be using in ArcGIS, can simply be copied to ArcPad either manually, or via the Get Data for ArcPad wizard in the ArcPad Data Manager. Shapefiles can be displayed and edited in ArcPad, but changes cannot be merged with or ‘checked in’ to your desktop GIS using the ArcPad Data Manager.

The ArcPad Data Manager in ArcGIS gives you the choice to create shapefiles when preparing ‘background data’. Read only shapefiles are drawn much faster than AXFs, but editable shapefiles take much longer, therefore shapefiles are ideal for data layers that you only wish to view in ArcPad (and not edit).

A good example of a background layer suited to the shapefile format, is a contour layer. Contours are rarely edited and contain a large amount of geometric features. The ArcPad Data Manager does allow you to export editable shapefiles, but note that these edits cannot be checked in.

ArcPad AXF file

An ArcPad AXF file (filename.AXF), which uses Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition, is a single file that is made up of the following multiple components:

The ArcPad AXF file can also store the following:

AXF’s are created by the Get Data for ArcPad wizard in the ArcPad Data Manager for ArcGIS when you choose to Check out layers for editing. Edits made to AXF’s in ArcPad can subsequently be checked into your geodatabase.

ArcPad Graphics layer

An ArcPad Graphics layer (filename.APG) is a vector file format written in XML. The XML tags used by the ArcPad Graphics layer are described in the ArcPad Studio Help.

The ArcPad Data Manager for ArcGIS Desktop includes tools for exporting ArcGIS graphic elements to ArcPad graphics layers, and vice versa. You can deploy a graphics layer to your ArcPad session together with other data layers or simply create a new graphic layer on its own, and add to an existing project in ArcPad.

ArcPad Photo layer

An ArcPad Photo layer (filename.APH) is a file format written in XML. An ArcPad Photo layer specifies how georeferenced photos are to be displayed in ArcPad. Before opening an existing Photo Layer in ArcPad, ensure that the layer file and photo files are in the same folder.

ArcPad StreetMap file

An ArcPad StreetMap file (filename.NAVMAP) does not consist of a single file but instead consists of a number of files. Each file corresponds to a different layer in the ArcPad StreetMap file, for example, cities, streets, highways, major roads, rivers, parks, counties, and states. Adding an ArcPad StreetMap file to ArcPad automatically adds all the layers referenced by the StreetMap file.

The ArcPad StreetMap file is read-only and is supported only if the ArcPad StreetMap extension is installed.

Raster layers

All raster layers must have either a world file or AUX file, with the exception of GeoTIFF and MrSID images. When adding a raster layer to an ArcPad map, ArcPad first looks in the image header for the georeferencing information, then in the associated .aux (if present), then within an associated world file (if present).