Add x,y coordinate data as a layer

Coordinates describe points on the earth's surface, such as the location of fire hydrants in a city or the points where water samples were collected. You can collect coordinate data directly using a GPS, or you can obtain tabular data that contains geographic locations in the form of x,y coordinates from a variety of data sources. You can then add that tabular data to a map. If the table also contains z-coordinates, such as elevation values, you can add the tabular data as 3D content to a scene.

To add x,y coordinates to a map, you use the XY Point Data option on the Add Data menu as described in the steps below. This opens the XY Table To Point tool, which creates a feature class from the tabular data and adds a layer based on that feature class to the current map or scene.

The source table must contain at least two numeric fields: one for the x-coordinate and one for the y-coordinate. A field for the z-coordinates that enables 3D geometry is optional. The values can represent any coordinate system and units such as latitude and longitude or meters. If the fields are not numeric, such as coordinate values in degrees, minutes, and seconds (for example, -120 13 58), the coordinates are converted and displayed as decimal degrees.

Once you add the table to your map or scene, it becomes an x,y event layer and behaves in the same way as other point feature layers. For instance, you can display it, symbolize it, set the visible scale, or display a subset of features that meet some criteria. In 3D, you can also change properties such as the layer's vertical exaggeration or its offset from an elevation surface. However, if the table on which an x,y event layer is based does not have an ObjectID field, such as a delimited text file, you cannot perform certain tasks on the layer. For example, you cannot select features, navigate between the table and the map, edit attributes, or define relates. If you want to do these things, export the x,y layer to a feature class to create a fully functional feature class with an ObjectID field.

Add x,y coordinate data to a map or scene

  1. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, click the Add Data drop-down menu, and click XY Point Data XY Point Data. If the stand-alone table is already in the map, you can right-click it in the Contents pane and click Display XY Data Display XY Data.
  2. The XY Table To Point geoprocessing tool opens in the Geoprocessing pane. Specify the parameters and click Run Run to execute the tool and create the point feature layer.

If you are working with tabular data that updates often, you may want to create an x,y event layer instead. In this case, use the Make XY Event Layer tool directly.

Related topics