PostGIS Working Copy

In order to use a PostGIS working copy, you need to have a PostgreSQL database server with the PostGIS extension installed. PostGIS 3.0 and later is officially supported by Kart (versions 2.0 and later are largely compatible but not officially supported)

PostgreSQL partitioning

PostgreSQL databases are designed so that they can be used for multiple apps simultaneously without those apps interfering with each other - they have multiple levels of data separation.

  • A single server hosts a PostgreSQL database cluster.

  • A database cluster contains one or more named databases. When a user connects to the server, they must specify up front which database they need, and then they can only access data in this database.

  • A single database contains one or more named schemas, which in turn contain tables. A user connected to the database can query tables in any schema they have access-rights to without starting a new connection. Two tables can have the same name, as long as they are in different schemas.

So PostgreSQL has a partition called a “schema” - the name can be confusing as “schema” can also have other meanings, but in this case it means a namespace. A Kart PostGIS working copy can share a database cluster or a database with any other app, but it expects to be given its own schema to manage (just as Kart expects to manage its own GPKG working copy, not share it with data from other apps). Managing the schema means that Kart is responsible for initialising that schema and importing the data in its initial state, then keeping track of any edits made to that data so that they can be committed. Kart expects that the user will use some other application to modify the data in that schema as part of making edits to a Kart working copy.

PostgreSQL Connection URI

A Kart repository with a PostGIS working copy needs to be configured with a postgresql:// connection URI. This URI contains how to connect to the database cluster, the name of the database to connect to (which can be shared with other apps), and the name of the schema that should be managed as a working copy by this Kart repository.

Kart needs a connection URL in the following format:


For example, a Kart repo called airport might have a URL like the following:


To configure a Kart repository to use a particular PostGIS schema as its working copy, specify the --workingcopy flag when creating the repository, for example:

kart init --workingcopy=postgresql://... --import=...

The schema that Kart is given to manage should be either non-existent or empty at the time Kart is configured, but the database cluster and database should already exist.

The database user needs to have full rights to modify objects in the specified schema. (eg: via GRANT ALL ON SCHEMA airport_kart TO kart_user;). As with psql, if no user or password is explicitly specified in the URL, the PGUSER and PGPASSWORD environment variables are consulted.

PostGIS limitations

Almost all geospatial data can be converted to PostGIS format without losing any fidelity, but it does have the following limitations.

Approximated types

There is one type that Kart supports that has no PostGIS equivalent - an 8-bit integer. This type is “approximated” as a SMALLINT (which has 16 bits) in the PostGIS working copy. See [APPROXIMATED_TYPES](] for more information.

CRS definitions

The PostGIS extension comes pre-installed with thousands of standard EPSG & ESRI coordinate reference system definitions. Although these are generally produced from official sources, unfortunately different vendors or products might have slightly different variations of them with respect to axis ordering, naming, authority codes, or other differences.

Kart has some design goals that make CRS management slightly more complicated in a PostGIS working copy:

  • Kart doesn’t want to interfere with the CRS definitions that come pre-installed in PostGIS, since these are shared by all database users - it would be unhelpful if they were forever being modified in minor ways by different users, instead software should try and use the standard. For this reason, Kart doesn’t take the CRS from the dataset and overwrite the pre-installed CRS in the PostGIS database.

  • Kart doesn’t want commit changes that only exist due to working copy limitations, as opposed to changes the user has made explicitly. A user might create a PostGIS working copy just to change one piece of data - they shouldn’t accidentally end up committing the PostGIS version of any CRS definitions that the data is using. It would be unhelpful if every type of working copy that was used to make a commit, caused the dataset CRS definitions to be modified to a different version of the standard. For this reason, Kart doesn’t take the CRS from the working copy and overwrite the CRS in the dataset.

The end result is that the standard CRS definitions are “approximated” - just as 8-bit integers in the Kart dataset are approximated by 16-bit integers in the PostGIS working copy, standard CRS definitions are approximated too - for instance EPSG:4326 as it is defined in the dataset, is approximated by EPSG:4326 however it is defined in the working copy. These may differ slightly, but because it is an officially defined CRS, they shouldn’t differ in any meaningful way. The difference between these two definitions is not shown when running kart status to see uncommitted changes, and the changed definition will not be committed.

In the case that you want to replace the working copy definition with the one from the dataset, manually delete the appropriate definition from the working copy and then run kart reset to rewrite the relevant part of your working copy.

For CRS definitions that are not considered standard, Kart works exactly as it does with a GPKG working copy - checkout of a working copy will write the relevant CRS definitions from the dataset to the working copy, and if those CRS definitions are then changed locally, these changes will show up in kart status and can be committed back to the dataset.

CRS definitions are considered standard in PostGIS if they have an authority of “EPSG” or “ESRI”.