Feature templates streamline adding features to a map and were introduced in ArcGIS 10. While the workflow for creating features using templates has not changed in ArcGIS 10.1, several focused improvements make templates simpler to use and address the most common areas of confusion when working with them. ArcGIS 10.1 creates feature templates automatically on a layer-by-layer basis, provides more guidance on the Create Features window when feature templates are not displayed, and includes other enhancements that increase productivity.
I am editing a map containing data from Zion National Park, including layers representing watersheds, streams, roads, and a variety of other features in the park. As I use this map, I encounter some of these enhancements to feature templates, making it easier for me to create features.
Feature templates are created on a layer-by-layer basis
When I start an edit session in my Zion map, feature templates are created for each layer on a layer-by-layer
basis, rather than at the map level. In ArcGIS 10, templates were created automatically only the very first time I started editing in a map. So, if I added a layer to a map that had existing templates in it, I had to make my own templates for those additional layers. Now, every time I start an edit session, ArcMap checks each editable layer to see if it has templates and creates them for me if a particular layer does not have them. However, if I have previously deleted all the templates in a layer, they are not re-created automatically the next time I start editing since I’ve made it clear that I do not need templates for that layer.
If I add a layer in the middle of an active edit session, templates are not created automatically at that time. This gives me a chance to properly symbolize the layer and ensure the templates will reflect the features I want to create.
Better feedback when feature templates are not displayed
As with ArcGIS 10, feature templates are not shown on the Create Features window if the new features would not display on the map. When this happens now, a message appears at the top of the Create Features window. This alerts me that some templates are not listed and helps me avoid creating duplicate templates because I think that they do not exist. Although the reasons why feature templates are hidden remain the same as before, I have better feedback with ArcGIS 10.1.
When I click the message, a dialog box opens listing all the feature templates for editable layers. I can click each template and see an explanation of why it is not listed on the Create Features window. The explanations are hierarchical, so only the highest cause is listed even if there are multiple reasons a template may not be shown. As I resolve the foremost issue, any additional ones are listed later. For example, the explanation for a layer not being visible would be shown before a problem with definition queries. At the bottom of the dialog box, I can click a link to open a help topic that provides more information about feature templates.
While a layer not being visible is one of the more obvious reasons why feature templates are hidden, definition queries can be subtle. For example, I want to create a new intermittent stream feature on my map. There is a symbol for it in the table of contents and an Intermittent feature template exists, yet it is not displaying in the Create Features window. By clicking the message, I see the explanation that the Intermittent feature template’s default attribute values do not match the definition query set for the Streams layer. This reminds me that I am using a definition query to show perennial streams and hide intermittent streams. To create an intermittent stream feature, I should update the query to make intermittent streams show on the map. Doing this will then make the Intermittent feature template display in the Create Features window. In other cases, I may need to resolve this issue by changing the properties of the feature template instead of editing the query.
Create Features window remembers its previous state
In ArcGIS 10, the Create Features window opened automatically at the start of every edit session to help familiarize editors with the new environment. With ArcGIS 10.1, it opens for the very first edit session; after that, the window retains its previous state of being docked, pinned, or closed. For example, if I close the Create Features window because I am only editing existing features or attribute values, it will still be closed the next time I start editing—even in a different map or ArcMap session. When I need the window, I can display it again from the Editor toolbar. This framework change has been applied to all windows used in the editing environment, such as the Attributes or the Edit Sketch Properties windows. If any editing-related windows are open when I am not in an edit session, the windows are shown in gray to indicate they are inactive.
Other enhancements to feature templates
With ArcGIS 10.1, I can use an existing feature as the source for the properties of a new feature template. To do this, I select the feature I want to use as the basis of the new feature template, open the Organize Feature
Templates dialog box, click the New Template drop-down arrow, and click New Template From Feature. Any attribute values for the fields in the existing feature are automatically entered as the new feature template’s default attribute values.
In addition, the Organize Feature Templates dialog box now allows me to update properties of multiple feature templates in a layer at once. I select all the templates I want to change, click Properties, then can update the default construction tool or attribute values, for example.