Import data

You can add datasets to a geodatabase by importing them from other locations or by converting and importing them from other data formats.

Import feature classes

You can import feature classes into a geodatabase or feature dataset using the context menu in the Catalog pane. Shapefiles, coverages, computer-aided drafting (CAD) data, and geodatabase feature classes can all be imported in this way. You have two options for importing feature classes when you right-click on a geodatabase or feature dataset:

  • Feature Class - Converts a shapefile, coverage, or feature class to a geodatabase feature class using the Feature Class to Feature Class tool.
  • Feature Class(es) - Converts one or more feature classes or feature layers to geodatabase feature classes using the Feature Class to Geodatabase tool

If you're importing a number of feature classes into a geodatabase and they require the same settings at import, you can choose the Feature Class(es) option to run the Feature Class To Geodatabase tool and import them at the same time. One feature class will be created for each feature class you import.

On the other hand, other feature classes you import may require individual settings at import, such as field mapping, custom configuration keyword, or spatial index. If this is the case, you can choose Feature Class and have more control over the properties of the imported feature class.

If you have many feature classes to import and want to chain multiple tools together, you can create and run a model instead of manually repeating the import from the context menu. A model helps automate importing by allowing you to save and reuse environment settings and tool parameters. Once you've created a model, you can import data, edit the model to specify other input data, modify any parameters you want, then rerun the model with a single click.

Learn more about models and model building


The fields you create in the new feature classes are named the same as the fields you're importing. However, any invalid characters in the field names are automatically replaced-for example, a hyphen is replaced with an underscore

Feature classes and coordinate systems

Each feature class has a spatial reference with a coordinate system that defines how its locations are georeferenced. When importing feature classes, it is important to note the coordinate system of the dataset being imported. When you import into a feature dataset, the new feature class will automatically take on the same spatial reference as that feature dataset. If you import into a geodatabase, a new standalone feature class will be created with the same spatial reference as the dataset you're importing.

Learn more about spatial references

Suppose you want to import a feature class that's in another coordinate system. For example, you may want to import a feature class that uses the North American Datum (NAD) 1927 coordinate system into a feature dataset that uses the NAD 1983 coordinate system. To simultaneously import the data and convert it into the new coordinate system use the Project tool.

Learn more about the Project tool

Import tables

You can import tables into a geodatabase using the context menu in the Catalog pane. dBASE, INFO, vector product format (VPF), OLE DB, or geodatabase tables can all be imported in this way. You have two options for importing tables when you right-click on a geodatabase:

  • Table - Converts an input table to a dBASE table, a file geodatabase or enterprise geodatabase table using the Table to Table tool
  • Table(s) - Imports one or more tables into a file or enterprise geodatabase using the Table to Geodatabase tool


When you import several tables at the same time with the Table To Geodatabase tool, each table imports into a new table. The tool will automatically correct any illegal or duplicate field names.

Import an XML workspace document

XML workspace documents hold all of the contents of a geodatabase or any subset of the content and are used as a method of sharing schema information and optionally the data as well. You can import entire feature datasets, feature classes, or tables with the Import XML Workspace Document tool. You can also import just the geodatabase schema without any data.

You can create an XML workspace document for import by exporting data from a geodatabase, feature dataset, table, or feature class. Learn more about how to Export an XML workspace document

You can import an XML workspace document into a geodatabase by right-clicking it in the Catalog pane and choosing Import > XML Workspace Document. This opens the Import XML Workspace Document geoprocessing tool.

Import datasets using geoprocessing tools

To import datasets using geoprocessing tools, click on the Analysis tab on the ribbon and click Tools to open the Geoprocessing pane. In the Geoprocessing pane you can either use the search box to search for the tools or click on the Toolbox tab and find them under the Conversion Tools toolbox in the To Geodatabase section.

Learn more about the To Geodatabase toolset