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Create a feature class

There are four primary ways to create a new feature class:

  • Using the Create Feature Class wizard
  • Using the Create Feature Class geoprocessing tool
  • Saving the contents of a map layer
  • Converting an external data source, such as a shapefile or CAD data, into a feature class

When creating a feature class, you choose whether to create one that stores polygons, lines, points, annotation, multipoint, multipatch, or dimension features. Refer to Feature class properties for information about the various properties that need to be set during the creation of a new feature class.

Create a new stand-alone feature class

  1. In the Catalog pane, right-click the geodatabase in which you want to create a new feature class.
  2. Point to New > Feature Class. This opens the Create Feature Class wizard.
  3. On the Define page of the wizard, type a name for the feature class in the Name text box. To create an alias for this feature class, type one in the Alias text box.
  4. Choose the type of features that will be stored in this feature class from the Feature Class Type drop-down list.
  5. If your new feature class will require m- or z-values, check the appropriate check boxes under Geometric Properties.
  6. Click Next.
  7. On the Fields page of the wizard, you can add fields to the feature class. To add a field to the feature class, click the final row where it says "Click here to add a new field". A new row will be added to the list of fields. In the Field Name column, type a name.
  8. Click the drop-down menu in the Data Type column and choose a data type for the new field.
  9. In the Field Properties section at the bottom of the pane you can make edits to the properties of the new field. The properties displayed will depend on what you've chosen as the data type for the field. To create an alias for this field, click the text box next to Alias and type in an alias.
  10. To prevent nulls from being stored in this field, click the drop-down arrow next to Allow Null Values, and choose No.
  11. To associate a default value with this field, click the text box next to Default value and type the value.
  12. To set other properties specific to the type of field, either click the property in the drop-down list or type the property.
  13. Repeat steps 7 through 12 until all the feature class fields have been defined.

    You can only have one field of data type Global ID or Raster in your feature class.

  14. If you want to import field definitions from another feature class or table, click Import and browse to its location, select the feature class or table, and click OK.
  15. If you want to change the order of the fields you've added, you can click on a field and drag and drop it into another position above or below its current position in the fields list. Note that the OBJECTID and SHAPE fields are greyed out and immovable.
  16. Click Next when you are done managing fields.
  17. On the Spatial Reference page of the wizard you will set the spatial reference for the new feature class. The box for Current XY is highlighted. Under XY Coordinate Systems Available, browse to the coordinate system you want to use. This control has search and filter options to help you locate a specific coordinate system. You can also base the coordinate system for the new feature class on a layer in the current map, create your own coordinate system, or import a coordinate system from another feature class. To learn more about specifying a coordinate system, see Specify a coordinate system.
  18. If you chose to include z-values on the first page of the wizard, click the box under Current Z and browse to the z-coordinate system you would like to use.
  19. Once you have chosen a coordinate system, click Next to continue with the wizard. You can also click Finish at this point to accept the default values for tolerance, resolution, and configuration keywords and create the new feature class.
  20. On the Tolerance page, enter an x,y tolerance or accept the default value.
  21. If the feature class will have z-values, enter the z-tolerance or accept the default.
  22. If the feature class will have measures, enter the m-tolerance or accept the default.
  23. If you make changes to the x,y, z-, or m-tolerances and want to revert back to the default value, click the Reset To Default button.
  24. Click Next.
  25. On the Resolution page, by default the Accept default resolution and domain extent (recommended) check box is checked. The default resolution and extents are sufficient in most situations, but if you know that your data needs these properties changed you can uncheck the Accept default resolution and domain extent (recommended) check box and edit the x,y, z-, or m-resolution values as well as the minimum and maximum values for the z- and m-domain extents. Learn more about The properties of a spatial reference
  26. Click Next.
  27. On the Storage Configuration page of the wizard you can customize how the feature class will be stored. If you want to specify a storage configuration for the new feature class, click Use Configuration Keyword and choose the appropriate configuration keyword from the drop-down menu. Learn more about Configuration keywords
  28. Click Finish to create the new feature class. If at any point you want to discard your changes and not create a new feature class, you can click the close button at the top of the dialog box and close the Create Feature Class wizard.

Create a feature class in a feature dataset

A feature dataset is a collection of related feature classes that share a common coordinate system. All feature classes in a feature dataset must use the same spatial reference, which is defined when the feature dataset is created. The exception to the rule are m-domains; feature classes in the same feature dataset can have different m-domains.

  1. In the Catalog pane, right-click the feature dataset in which you want to create a new feature class.
  2. Point to New > Feature Class.
  3. On the Define page of the wizard, type a name for the feature class in the Name text box. To create an alias for this feature class, type one in the Alias text box.
  4. Choose the type of features that will be stored in this feature class from the Feature Class Type drop-down list.
  5. If your new feature class will require m- or z-values, check the appropriate check boxes under Geometric Properties.
  6. Click Next.
  7. On the Fields page of the wizard, you can add fields to the feature class. To add a field to the feature class, click the final row where it says "Click here to add a new field". A new row will be added to the list of fields. In the Field Name column, type a name.
  8. Click the drop-down menu in the Data Type column and choose a data type for the new field.
  9. In the Field Properties section at the bottom of the pane you can make edits to the properties of the new field. The properties displayed will depend on what you've chosen as the data type for the field. To create an alias for this field, click the text box next to Alias and type in an alias.
  10. To prevent nulls from being stored in this field, click the drop-down arrow next to Allow Null Values, and choose No.
  11. To associate a default value with this field, click the text box next to Default value and type the value.
  12. To set other properties specific to the type of field, either click the property in the drop-down list or type the property.
  13. Repeat steps 7 through 12 until all the feature class fields have been defined.

    You can only have one field of data type Global ID or Raster in your feature class.

  14. If you want to import field definitions from another feature class or table, click Import and browse to its location, select the feature class or table, and click OK.
  15. If you want to change the order of the fields you've added, you can click on a field and drag and drop it into another position above or below its current position in the fields list. Note that the OBJECTID and SHAPE fields are greyed out and immovable.
  16. Click Next when you are done managing fields.
  17. When you create a new feature class in a feature dataset, the Spatial Reference page is read only. The coordinate system is inherited from the feature dataset. Click Next.
  18. The Tolerance page is also read-only except for m-values. If the feature class will have measures, enter the m-tolerance or accept the default.
  19. Click Next.
  20. On the Resolution page, by default the Accept default resolution and domain extent (recommended) check box is checked. The default resolution and extents are sufficient in most situations, but if you know that your data needs these properties changed you can uncheck the Accept default resolution and domain extent (recommended) check box and edit the m-resolution values as well as the minimum and maximum values for the m-domain extents. The x,y, and z-values for resolution are greyed out because they are inherited from the feature dataset. As are the minimum and maximum values for the z domain extent. Learn more about The properties of a spatial reference
  21. Click Next.
  22. On the Storage Configuration page of the wizard you can customize how the feature class will be stored. If you want to specify a storage configuration for the new feature class, click Use Configuration Keyword and choose the appropriate configuration keyword from the drop-down menu. Learn more about Configuration keywords
  23. Click Finish to create the new feature class. If at any point you want to discard your changes and not create a new feature class, you can click the close button at the top of the dialog box and close the Create Feature Class wizard.

Create a feature class using geoprocessing

The Create Feature Class geoprocessing tool is found in the Data Management Tools toolbox under Feature Class. You can also use the search text box in the Geoprocessing pane to find it. This tool will create an empty feature class. You can then create fields for the feature class in Fields view, or use the Append tool to add data from a feature class of the same type.

Create a feature class by exporting a map layer

If you are working with a layer in the map, you can export it to create a new feature class or shapefile. Right-click the layer in the Contents pane and click Data > Export Features. This opens the Copy Features geoprocessing tool. If the input is a layer that has a selection, only the selected features will be copied. If the input is a feature class or shapefile, all features will be copied. Type an output location in the Output Feature Class text box or browse to an output location for the new feature class. If the output location you select is a folder, the tool will create a new shapefile instead of a feature class.

Create a feature class by importing data

You can use the Import context menu in the Catalog pane to create a new feature class. Right-click a geodatabase or feature dataset in the Catalog pane and click Import > Feature Class. This opens the Feature Class to Feature Class geoprocessing tool, which allows you to choose a location and name for the feature class and select a subset of features using an SQL expression. You can also add, rename, or delete output fields as well as set properties such as data type and merge rule.