[postgis-users] optimal textbased geometry format

Obe, Regina robe.dnd at cityofboston.gov
Tue Jul 29 07:46:57 PDT 2008

Haven't done any benchmarks, but I know the following
the ::text display you get is basically the string representation of the
native binary format that PostGIS actually stores the geometries.
It is not WKB nor WKT.  Its a PostGIS proprietary format if you will.  I
would guess casting from that format is the most efficient since in
theory there is very little processing that PostgreSQL needs to do to
reconstitute from that format.
Keep in mind EWKT and WKT also may result in floating point errors since
they will round the decimals so be careful using those. 
So your best formats to maintain precision (and not have lossiness) are
EWKB and the ::text representation (which I shall dubb the native
PostGIS binary notation (which I guess we can call light-weight
something or other)).
Hope that helps,


From: postgis-users-bounces at postgis.refractions.net
[mailto:postgis-users-bounces at postgis.refractions.net] On Behalf Of
Willy-Bas Loos
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 8:43 AM
To: postgis-users at postgis.refractions.net
Subject: [postgis-users] optimal textbased geometry format

Sometimes i build queries inside plpgsql scripts, that i then run using
Is there a preferred way to include geometries in those?

I use postgis 1.1 (for now). Are there are any changes in later versions
that influence this aspect of PostGIS?
The SRID is a factor for me, so asText(the_geom) is no option.
I eiter use asEWKT(the_geom), or just the_geom::text .
Just casting the geometry directly into text results in a very long text
value (what is the name of this format?). The length of the string might
be a network transfer drawback.
asEWKT results in human readable format, possibly shorter, but it might
require more processing power (back and forth!). 

I've tested both difference in length and performance, all on a limited
The difference in length varies greatly. I use SRID 28992, which is a
national grid that has coordinates in meters, so it is possible to have
coordinates with 0 decimal places (1 meter precision). Simple geometries
seem to benefit most from the WKT format. The EWKT is 40% of the number
of characters for some cases (square polygons from coordinates without
decimals). Most polygons score 50-60% of length, but in some cases the
WKT representation is up to 10% longer than the direct cast
  --select length(the_geom::text), length(asewkt(the_geom)),
)*100) as perc
100) as perc
  from atable
  order by perc

I've tested these "warm" (not the first run), and averaged the scores
from 3 measurements each. The fluctuations were minimal.
The diference in performance is small for converting from geometries to
a text representation. Casting directly is a factor 1.1 faster (90% of
the time needed)
The other way around is a diferent story. Converting a directly casted
geometry back to a geometry is a factor 6 faster than a EWKT string (16%
of the time needed)!
I hope my method (code below) is adequate?

  select area(the_geom::text::geometry)
  --select area(asewkt(the_geom)::geometry)
  from atable

Regarding my tests, i would say that the format that results from a
direct cast is the better string representation for intra-application
communication. Are there any drawbacks?
Of course my test was limited to a small dataset on a windows pc (mem
2GB, athlon 64 3200+) with postgis 1.1. Does anyone else have different
results/ideas about this?



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