What is FME Desktop?

FME Desktop is the authoring component of the FME platform. It is used for data translations and transformations at the desktop level (as opposed to FME Server, which is an enterprise-level, web-based product). FME Desktop consists of a number of different tools and applications. The two key applications are FME Workbench and the FME Data Inspector.

FME Desktop has various components and functions that give you the power to integrate data exactly the way you want to. Learn about each component and the essential functions below.

FME Workbench

Everything starts in FME Workbench, the authoring environment where you configure and run data integration workspaces. A workspace is made up of various connections to readers, transformers, and writers that are used to create your custom workflow. The visual representation of your workspace is what you see in the Main window (also known as the canvas).

Listed below are the main components of FME Workbench that you should become familiar with:

  1. Navigator: Provides a list of all workspace objects including readers, writers, transformers, and specific parameters.
  2. Main Window (Canvas): Where you build your workspace by adding a data source, transformers, and output data type.
  3. Translation Log: As a workspace runs, this pane updates to indicate the current status and the end result.
  4. Visual Preview: Displays 2D, 3D, or tabular data. View the data from your reader, writer, or at any transformation point.
Shapefile to KML conversion in FME Desktop

The above embedded windows are the standard windows you will see when you first open FME Workbench. You can, however, remove and add other windows to display additional information about FME Workbench and the data.

Other options for personalizing your workspace include the use of tools like:

  • Bookmarks: Organize readers, writers, and transformers into labeled sections for clarity
  • Annotations: Add contents alongside your workflow to add any additional notes

Inspecting Data

There are two methods for inspecting data:

  1. Visual Preview: View data directly within FME Workbench
  2. Data Inspector: View data in a window separate from FME Workbench

Both methods of viewing data will help you better understand the data you are working with and how it is being integrated. By inspecting data before, at a transformation point, or after running your workflow, you can easily quality control data before saving it to your computer. Both Visual Preview and FME Data Inspector support viewing 2D, 3D, and spreadsheet data. If you are inspecting spatial data, you can overlay data on background maps as well.

Visual Preview

Visual Preview is embedded within FME Workbench, allowing you to view data and workflow all in the same place. The components of Visual Preview include:

  1. Table: View the dataset’s visible attributes. These attributes can be sorted or searched to explore the data.
  2. Graphics: If the dataset contains graphics, geometry, or any spatial components, Visual Preview will display this data in the Graphics View. If there are no graphics or geometry, this view will not be available. (same as “View” in FME Data Inspector)
  3. Feature Information: Where any additional information about a feature can be found, including format-specific attributes and coordinate systems.
Visual preview within workbench

FME Data Inspector

FME Data Inspector is an application that is directly linked to FME Workbench. Like Visual Preview, it allows you to inspect and view data before, after, or at a specific point in your workflow. FME Data Inspector may be preferred by those interested in viewing large datasets in a window that is separate from FME Workbench or for accessing some additional tools.

FME Workbench Essentials

Now that you understand the components that make up FME Workbench, it’s time to learn how you can use them. Below are some of the essential operations that you will need to perform to build data integration workflows in FME Workbench.

Adding Data into FME

Drag and drop data from your file browser into your empty FME canvas to create a Reader. In the Reader dialog, confirm that the format and dataset are correct. Format parameters can be edited if desired. Once ready, click OK, to add your Reader to the canvas.

Run Workspace to View Data

To view the data you’ve added, click the Run button. The data can now be seen in the Visual Preview window. At any time while building a workspace, click the Run button to view the data at different points of your workflow.

Type on the Canvas to Add a Transformer

Transformers help you modify data. Click anywhere on the canvas and type the name of the transformer you need and double click it to add it to the canvas. To connect transformers, drag the output arrow of a Reader or Transformer to the input arrow of another transformer.

Modify Transformer Parameters

Double-click on a Transformer to open the parameters window. Each Transformer will have different parameters with required parameters highlighted. Click on Help in any Transformer, Reader or Writer parameter window to view detailed documentation.

Add a Writer

To save your output data, add a writer using the Add Writer button. Choose the output format and file location, then change the Feature Type Definition to “Automatic”, and click OK. Name your Writer dataset in the next dialog, then click OK to add it to the canvas.

Run the Workspace to Write to Disk

Run the workspace to transform, convert, and write your output data to disk. After the workspace has been run, a "Translation was Successful" message will appear in the Translation Log window, and the data can be found in the output folder location.

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