Skip To Content

Add and connect data and tools, and modify elements

A geoprocessing model is composed of model elements that are connected to form processes. You can add geoprocessing tools, data, and other elements, connect them to each other, and modify the elements' size and position.

Add data and tools

You can add data and tools to a model by dragging and dropping data, layers, and tools from other windows.

  • Drag geoprocessing tools into ModelBuilder from the Geoprocessing pane.
  • Drag data or geoprocessing tools into ModelBuilder from the Catalog pane.
  • Drag map layers into ModelBuilder from the Contents pane.

When you add data to a model, a data variable is created, which is colored blue. Data variables contain a description of the data, not the data itself. The value—a path to the dataset or a layer name—can be viewed or changed by double-clicking the variable. In addition, ModelBuilder stores other descriptive information about data variables, such as spatial extent, field information, and coordinate system.

Data description

When you add a geoprocessing tool to a model, a tool variable and related output variables are created. Both the tool and the output variables are gray when added, as required parameters for the tool have not yet been specified. Once the required tool parameters are specified, the tool variable changes to a yellow color, indicating the process is ready to run.

Connect data and tools

You can specify the data or other parameter settings for a geoprocessing tool to use as input by making a connection between the variables and tool in the model. You can make connections interactively in the model, or by opening the tool in the model and picking a model variable as an input, or by browsing to other data.

Connecting data to tool parameters

Draw a connection interactively

  1. Place your cursor over the variable that you want to connect to a tool so the cursor changes to the connection icon Point.
  2. Click and hold the left mouse button while you move the cursor to the tool to make a connection.
  3. When the cursor is above the desired tool, release the mouse button and select the tool parameter to which the variable should be connected.

    A connection is made between the variable and the tool.

Specify inputs on the tool

  1. To specify the parameter settings for a tool in the model, double-click the tool or right-click and select Open.
  2. You can specify parameter settings for the tool just as you would when running a tool in the Geoprocessing pane.
    • Select map layers or model variables from a list.
    • Browse for a dataset.
    • Fill in the parameter using other controls such as Extent or Where clause

In some cases, a tool parameter will not provide a list of model variables to select. In these cases, insert a new variable of the appropriate type and manually draw a connection to connect the variable to the tool parameter.


You can connect any variable to one or many tools.

Resize and move elements

To resize any model element, select the element and drag any of its handles. To move any model element, select it, hover over the middle of the element until the move cursor Move appears , then drag the element to any location in the model.

Renaming elements

The default names of tools and variables are automatically generated by ModelBuilder when you add the element. If the element name already exists in the model, it is appended with a unique number. To rename any model element to a unique name, right-click a model element and select Rename; then type in a new name and click outside the rename box.

Changing the name of a variable does not affect the contents, dataset, or value of the variable. For example, a variable references the value C:\Data\Example.gdb\Roads. Renaming the variable name from Roads to Streets does not change the dataset path, only the variable name.