I see that Rob Elkins gave a good link to the Data Interoperability Extension on his blog, which reminded me that i keep meaning to write something about this.

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Data Interoperability Extension or DIE as we are not allowed to call it, is by far and away my favourite ArcGIS extension. I have used it extensively in the last two large projects I have worked on. Not only does it have great support for a wide range of data formats, but it can also go a lot further than just reading data natively. You get a full support for defining custom transformations, which allow you to convert data not just between formats, but use a whole bunch of “transformers” on the way. The workbench application gives you drag and drop support for these transformers, allowing you to do things like field manipulation, string transformations and geometry calculations. Once you have built these custom transformations, you can embed them in geoprocessing models so that they are really well integrated into ArcGIS. If I was only able to use a single ArcGIS extension the DIE would be the one. The only confusing thing I find about FME is the number of different license levels that you can have. If you get the DIE, then this is an extension that you buy from ESRI, however if you need additional formats or functionality, you can extend the extension by purchasing additional licenses from safe software. This page outlines some of the options you have with DIE and Fme extensions. Basically you have three options, You can use the standard Data Interoperability Extension, on top of which you can add the snappily named FME For ArcGIS Format pack for ArcGIS Data Interoperability, which builds on the ArcGIS Extension with additional format support. Finally you can go the whole hog and use the full grown FME for ESRI, which gives similar integration with ArcGIS, but also the standalone workbench application. When you combine this with the support for geoprocessing, especially in 9.2 with server and engine support, there is almost no type of data that you cannot support with ArcGIS.

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