Driver short name


OGR optionally supports reading ESRI ArcSDE database instances. ArcSDE is a middleware spatial solution for storing spatial data in a variety of backend relational databases. The OGR ArcSDE driver depends on being built with the ESRI provided ArcSDE client libraries.

ArcSDE instances are accessed with a datasource name of the following form. The server, instance, username and password fields are required. The instance is the port number of the SDE server, which generally defaults to 5151. If the layer parameter is specified then the SDE driver is able to skip reading the summary metadata for each layer; skipping this step can be a significant time savings.

Note: Only GDAL 1.6+ supports querying against versions and write operations. Older versions only support querying against the base (SDE.DEFAULT) version and no writing operations.


To specify a version to query against, you *must* specify a layer as well. The SDE.DEFAULT version will be used when no version name is specified.


You can also request to create a new version if it does not already exist. If the child version already exists, it will be used unless the SDE_VERSIONOVERWRITE environment variable is set to “TRUE”. In that case, the version will be deleted and recreated.


The OGR ArcSDE driver does not support reading CAD data (treated as BLOB attribute), annotation properties, measure values at vertices, or raster data. The ExecuteSQL() method does not get passed through to the underlying database. For now it is interpreted by the limited OGR SQL handler. Spatial indexes are used to accelerate spatial queries.

The driver has been tested with ArcSDE 9.x, and should work with newer versions, as well as ArcSDE 8.2 or 8.3. Both 2D and 3D geometries are supported. Curve geometries are approximated as line strings (actually still TODO).

ArcSDE is generally sensitive to case-specific, fully-qualified tablenames. While you may be able to use short names for some operations, others (notably deleting) will require a fully-qualified name. Because of this fact, it is generally best to always use fully-qualified table names.

Layer Creation Options

  • OVERWRITE: This can be set to allow an existing layer to be overwritten during the layer creation process. If set, and the value is not “NO”, the layer will first be deleted prior to creating a new layer of the same name as an existing layer. Set to “NO” explicitly, or do not include the option to treat attempts to create new layers which collide with existing layers of the same name as an error. Off by default.

  • GEOMETRY_NAME: By default OGR creates new layers with the geometry (feature) column named `SHAPE’. If you wish to use a different name, it can be supplied with the GEOMETRY_NAME layer creation option.

  • SDE_FID: Can be set to override the default name of the feature ID column. The default is “OBJECTID”.

  • SDE_KEYWORD: The DBTUNE keyword with which to create the layer. Defaults to “DEFAULTS”.

  • SDE_DESCRIPTION: The text description of the layer. Defaults to “Created by GDAL/OGR 1.6” (Also used as the version description when creating a new child version from a parent version.)

  • SDE_MULTIVERSION: If this creation option is set is set to “FALSE”, multi-versioning will be disabled for the layer at creation time. By default, multiversion tables are created when layers are created on an SDE datasource.

  • USE_NSTRING: If this option is set to “TRUE” then string fields will be created as type NSTRING. This option was added for GDAL/OGR 1.9.0.

Environment variables

  • OGR_SDE_GETLAYERTYPE: This may be “TRUE” to determine the geometry type from the database. Otherwise, the SDE driver will always return an Unknown geometry type.

  • OGR_SDE_SEARCHORDER: This may be “ATTRIBUTE_FIRST” to tell ArcSDE to filter based on attributes *before* using a spatial filter or “SPATIAL_FIRST” to use the spatial filter. By default, it uses the spatial filter first.

  • SDE_VERSIONOVERWRITE: If set to “TRUE”, the specified child version will be deleted before being recreated. Note that this action does nothing to reconcile any edits that existed on that version before doing so and essentially throws them away.

  • OGR_SDE_USE_NSTRING: If this option is set to “TRUE” then string fields will be created as type NSTRING. This option was added for GDAL/OGR 1.9.0.


See the test script for some example connection strings and usage of the driver.