Have you ever wonder if maybe you should use the “Data Connect” or the “Mapimport” to bring in a shape file or maybe an image? What method you use may depend on what the feature is and what you plan on doing with it after you add it to your map. If it is static data, something that will not change over time then maybe mapimport is the way to go. If it is a shape file that gets edited by another department or replaced every so often then the data connect may be what you want to used.
Take for instance a parcel file that has owners and land value with it. The owner may change on some of the features weekly, the land value will also change depending on how often an assessment is done or the property changes ownership. If you use one of shape file’s attributes to link to other data, for example the address field is linked to a water meter database file, then you may run into outdated data. With the file imported with object data it becomes static and any changes will not happen, until you or someone on your team makes the changes. However with the same file that is connected to with the data connect method will update when that shape file is edited, any links to your watermeter database will still be current and still available for queries.
Another case maybe on displaying those features. With mapimport you can set up AutoCAD layers to control how the features are displayed and assign those features to those layers upon import but again that method is static again. Take for instance zoning data from a parcel shape file. You can create AutoCAD layers for residential, commercial and agriculture and assign features to those AutoCAD layers during the import but what happens when the zoning board changes zoning for some of those parcels. You will need to change those AutoCAD layers manually. With data connect the display changes automatically when the data changes in those shape files. Now you can always use the quick select method to select all the parcels by layers, erase them, then import the shape file again but why waste the time and take the chance that you make break a link to the object data or that the object data tables creates a duplicate of existing data.
Now lets take a look at creating a theme on some data. With the last few releases of AutoCAD MAP 3D we can query the current drawing to create a map layer then theme that layer based on object data but anyone that has done it this method know there are a lot of steps to it and if you made a mistake are better off starting out all over again. Using the style manger is not only less steps but it also allows you to create the labels or annotations at the same time. Speaking of annotations and labels annotation blocks and using an alter-property query with text is a nice and easy way to label features but how many times have you had to go back and edit the placement of a text object or annotation blocks? With the style editor and using data connect there’s no manual editing of the placement of labels. Granted it may take a few trials and errors or some practicing to get the hang of how it works but once you learn it, it’s super.