Tutorial: Getting Started with the Smallworld Database

Liz Sanderson
Liz Sanderson
  • Updated

FME Version

  • FME 2017.x


Welcome to the FME for Smallworld 5 tutorial. This series of articles will lead you through using FME to access data in your Smallworld database. The tutorial is based on the Smallworld Cambridge database which you will need to install if you wish to walk through all of the examples. You will also need to ensure that your copy of FME has been properly configured to work with your specific version of Smallworld (more details can be found here).

The Smallworld database provides a rich set of functions and capabilities for managing GIS data. Smallworld uses the VMDS database for its data storage. That database structure often needs to be translated into other formats suited to other GIS and CAD applications.

Smallworld objects typically contain multiple geometries, whereas many other GIS formats have limitations on their support for multiple geometries. FME provides a powerful toolkit to translate between Smallworld objects, including multiple geometries, and other GIS formats.



FME Smallworld Suite consists of several components;

  • FME for Smallworld Edition - FME with Smallworld licensing
  • Smallworld Translators Suite DVD which contains:
    • Install documentation and installer
    • Smallworld FME Translator magik
    • FME dll and FME metafile


Both the Smallworld core and the Smallworld FME Translator must be installed in order for FME to be able to read or write Smallworld data.

The installation components are supplied by GE Smallworld on the Smallworld Translators Suite DVD. Ensure you have the installation pack that matches your version of Smallworld core product.

Smallworld 5 documentation is available online through your GE Support Central site. This also includes Smallworld FME Translator documentation.


Starting the Smallworld 5 GIS

Before you start the FME for Smallworld training, you need to start-up the Smallworld GIS. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Double click or Open the Start Smallworld FME Application shortcut icon.


Credentials for the Smallworld Cambridge database are:

  • User: root
  • Password: <blank>

This will open the Smallworld Applications manager:


The Smallworld Connection Service is started automatically. This service allows the FME ‘client’ to connect to the Smallworld VMDS database ‘server’.


2. From the Smallworld Applications manager, start the "Professional (core) - Smallworld Core"

The Smallworld GIS window should open.


3. In the Smallworld GIS, select the Bookmark tool (or use View – Bookmarks) and select the Electric Network bookmark. This will zoom into the area of interest for the training.


Import/Export Errors

If an import/export error occurs, check the FME log first. The traceback messages in Smallworld will generally be misleading. If you can’t determine the problem cause in the FME log, next check the traceback to see whether the error occurred in the Smallworld FME translator. The document “Smallworld Translators Suite, Smallworld FME® Reference” from GE does describe some of the typical Smallworld errors which may occur.

If an error occurs during an import to Smallworld it is probably wise to rollback to a checkpoint to ensure that invalid data was not loaded.


Coordinate Systems

Smallworld 5 generally uses the application coordinate system for the coordinate reference. The coordinate units are usually in metres or feet. You'll need to set your coordinate system in FME when translating to other formats. Generally, FME will already support the Smallworld application coordinate system you are using. For example, we'll be using EPSG:27700 or the British National Grid (OSGB-GPS-2015) coordinate system for the Cambridge database.

In some cases, your application coordinate system may be set to the world coordinate system in mm, cm or in. For example, the Cambridge database uses a British National Grid millimeter for the world coordinate system. So we have created a coordinate system called BritishNatGrid_mm for the FME Smallworld training if needed.

FME might not contain an application or world coordinate system that matches your Smallworld database. In that case, you may have to create a custom FME coordinate system to match your Smallworld database. See the FME KnowledgeCenter.

Note: Smallworld 4 and earlier exported the data in the 'world' coordinate system. This coordinate system is generally in mm, cm or in units of measure. You might need to create an appropriate FME coordinate system to match your Smallworld world coordinate system, as described above.


Install a Coordinate System

If you need to install a new coordinate system, follow the steps in the FME Coordinate System documentation. You must restart FME Workbench and FME Data Inspector so they will load a new coordinate system.

Note: FME does not know which coordinate system a Smallworld database is using. You must determine which coordinate system Smallworld is using and be sure to specify that coordinate system explicitly for each FME reader and writer that is connected to Smallworld. We'll be using OSGB-GPS-2015 for these tutorials.


TICS Port 30000

FME defaults to port 30000 to connect to the Smallworld service. You may see the warning dialog:


This indicates that another FME application is using the port and the service has opened a new port (30001 in this example). Change the port number to match in your FME application.



Connecting to Smallworld

This article introduces the basic steps for connecting to you Smallworld database using FME.

Exporting from Smallworld

This article covers how to export from Smallworld to FME Feature Store (FFS), Esri Geodatabase and Autodesk AutoCAD 3D.

Importing into Smallworld

This article covers importing data into your Smallworld 5 database, including how to import a simple geometry object.

Writing to Smallworld Multiple Geometries

This article covers importing data into your Smallworld 5 database, including how to import into a multiple geometry object.

Database Operations in Smallworld

This article covers importing data into your Smallworld 5 database, including how to handle incremental updates to the Smallworld database.

Working with Alternatives or Versions in Smallworld

This article covers different ways to read in data into Smallworld

Join Fields in Smallworld

This article describes how to work with Smallworld 5 join fields in FME.

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