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Saving to previous versions of ArcGIS

Release 9.2
Last modified November 7, 2007
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About saving a map to a previous version of ArcGIS

Once you open and save an existing map document (.mxd) using ArcGIS 9.2, the map can no longer be opened with earlier versions of ArcGIS because it will now reflect the new functionality added at 9.2. Similarly, new documents you create with 9.2 also cannot be opened in earlier versions of the software. However, you can use the Save A Copy command to make a copy of a map document so you can open and work with it in previous versions of ArcGIS. With ArcGIS 9.2, you can save to ArcGIS 9.0/9.1 or 8.3. ArcGIS 9.0 and 9.1 map documents are directly compatible with each other and those versions of the software.

Each new version of ArcGIS introduces functionality and properties that aren't available in previous versions. When you save a map document, layer file, or 3D document to a previous version of ArcGIS, the format of the file is changed to eliminate properties not available in the older version.

This means saving from 9.2 to a previous version removes from the file any functionality that depends on the newer software in ArcGIS 9.2. Therefore, some work may be lost if you save to 9.0/9.1 or 8.3, then start working with the older copy again in 9.2, since the 9.2 functionality was stripped out in the Save A Copy process. (Your original ArcGIS 9.2 file will still have the new functionality.)

In addition, when you save a map document to a previous version of the software, only the .mxd file is saved; the data sources referenced in the .mxd remain unchanged. See the following sections for more information about geodatabases, data sources, and saving to previous versions.

You can also save layer files and ArcGlobe and ArcScene documents to previous versions of ArcGIS.

Geodatabases and saving map documents to previous versions

If your organization uses different versions of ArcGIS, you need to confirm the ArcGIS release version with which your geodatabase is associated, as it can have an impact on whether or not ArcGIS will be able to access the data referenced in the map. Newer versions of ArcGIS can read older geodatabases, but older versions of ArcGIS cannot read newer geodatabases, except in the case of 9.0 and 9.1 since they're directly compatible.

For example, if your map contains data from an ArcGIS 9.2 file, personal, or ArcSDE geodatabase, you can save the .mxd so it can be opened in ArcGIS 9.0, 9.1, or 8.3, but those versions won't be able to display the 9.2 data. Similarly, data in any 9.0, 9.1, or 9.2 geodatabase cannot be read in ArcGIS 8.3. Shapefiles, coverages, and file-based rasters don't present a problem in this regard.

Existing geodatabases created using previous releases can be opened and used in 9.2 without being upgraded to 9.2. However, to take advantage of new functionality added at 9.2 (representations, terrains, high-precision storage, vertical coordinate systems, and so on), existing geodatabases must be upgraded. However, if you upgrade a geodatabase, you can't convert it back for use in its original version of ArcGIS. For this reason, you may want to make a copy of the geodatabase before you upgrade.

If you already have a newer geodatabase that you want to work with in an older version of ArcGIS, you can create a geodatabase in the older version, then copy and paste the data into it using the current ArcGIS release. However, some items in newer geodatabases, including terrains, topology, and annotation feature classes, can't be copied into an older geodatabase.

Some other things to remember when working with geodatabases from different ArcGIS releases include:

Saving from ArcGIS 9.2 to ArcGIS 9.0/9.1

ArcGIS 9.2 introduced some new functionality and properties that were not available in previous versions of ArcGIS. Here are some tips to keep in mind when saving to ArcGIS 9.0/9.1.

Saving from ArcGIS 9.2 to ArcGIS 8.3

Functionality or properties that are not supported when saving from ArcGIS 9.2 to 9.0/9.1 are also not supported in ArcGIS 8.3. In addition, here are some other notes specific to saving to ArcGIS 8.3.

How to save a map to a previous version of ArcGIS

  1. Click the File menu and click Save A Copy.
  2. Navigate to the location where you want to save the map document.
  3. Type a file name.
  4. Click the Save as type drop-down arrow and click ArcMap 9.0/9.1 Document or ArcMap 8.3 Document, depending on to which version you want to save.
  5. If you choose ArcMap Document (the option without a version number), the map will be saved in the current version of the software.
  6. Click Save.
  7. The 9.0/9.1 or 8.3 map document will be saved to disk, and your ArcGIS 9.2 document will remain open.
    If there are any layers in your current document that the previous version won't be able to draw, a dialog box will appear listing them. You can then decide whether to continue with saving the copy in ArcGIS 9.0/9.1 or 8.3 format.


  • The Save A Copy command is different from the Save As command. The Save As command allows you to save your document with a new name, file location, or format (such as a map template or map document). When you use the Save As command, the new Save As document is loaded as the current document in the application.
  • With the Save A Copy command, you are saving a copy of the document to disk and the document is not reloaded in the application. In addition, the Save A Copy command can also be used to save a document so it can be opened in a previous version of ArcGIS.

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