For the love of god, make "Relative Paths for data source" the installation default.

10-09-2012 11:37 AM
Status: Open
Occasional Contributor III
This still causes so many problems, I have to repost this as a fresh idea. Probably 10% of the support requests I get have to do with broken data links.  

We have ArcGIS installed on hundreds of machines on campus and students often move from lab to lab to work on projects.  We've managed to create a registry hack that enables this setting at installation, but REALLY!!! Should we have to do that?

Someone tell me ONE INSTANCE where absolute paths makes more sense than relative paths and I will shutup.

If I could "promote" this post or "like" or whatever you call it a hundred times, I would do it.  Please ESRI, make it happen.  Relative paths as the default.
When you are in a large organization and using SDE as well as layers from other directories. I have 3-4 directories for some of my documents.

In our case relative paths will not work. Period. End of Story.

If you are getting support calls for broken data links, your students need to learn how to:
1) Read the Help to figure out how to fix them.
2) Be instructed on how to set the relative path themselves when they start the project in the first place.
In addition, I really wish that relative paths would support traversal through parents, like UNIX paths. For example, it is quite common to keep map documents in sister directories to data directories, and currently ArcGIS relative paths are no use in this case (I think, though I haven't checked recently). Data has to be in same directory or a descendant directory for relative paths to work.
@dknudesn, the scenario you described worked fine for me. I have a Top Level folder, and sub folders called Data and Maps. I stored my MXD in the maps folder and the data in the data folder. I moved the Top Level folder to another directory and everything was sourced fine.
I will be a dissenter in this. Absolute paths make sense when users move the MXD and not the source data. For me, the source data (geodatabase) always stays in one spot, but the MXD can move almost anywhere (we have a large network of related projects). If I am unlucky enough to have "Store relative pathnames to data sources" checked, then all of my layer links will be broken when I move the MXD. Maybe I am a minority, and the majority should win one way or the other, but a solution to satisfy all parties would be to have a respective checkbox within AdvancedArcMapSettings.exe to change the default setting, and to have this program easily accessible to users (like put it in the Start Menu folder).
All the arguments I see here for Absolute Paths seem to be very special cases. I'm not saying DO AWAY with Abs Paths, I'm saying make Relative Paths the default. Relative paths to SDE and non-local folders/data will, for all practical purposes, BE the absolute paths. Relative Paths setting uses AS MUCH OF THE PATH to the data as is needed to reference it from the location of the MXD. I still think Relative Paths should be the default.
Either way you do it, some users will love it while others fight broken links.  Why not make "relative or absolute" a question during installation, or a post installation the first time a user opens ArcMap.