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Does ArcGIS 9.x work with ArcSDE 8.3?
ArcGIS 9.x can be used to access an ArcSDE 8.3 instance but only for READONLY connections such as previewing data, panning, zooming in/out, identifying features, etc.
This configuration is not intended for READWRITE connections or as a permanent setup. It is a temporary solution so data can be still be accessible until ArcSDE is upgraded to the same version as the client.
If ArcSDE cannot be upgraded to 9.x immediately, it is strongly recommended to keep an ArcGIS 8.3 client available for loading/editing data.
ArcSDE 8.3 does not recognize many of the new features added in ArcGIS 9.x, such as geodatabase raster catalogs, improved annotation capabilities, topology with Z values, performing disconnected editing sessions, Direct Connect connections, XML, Geodatabase Replication, Archiving, etc. To take advantage of any of the new features offered at a particular version of ArcGIS 9.x, upgrade ArcSDE to that same version.