Getting started with creating features in ArcGIS 10

When you open the Editor toolbar in ArcGIS 10, you’ll notice that the toolbar looks different. For starters, there is no task list and no target layer list. So how do you add a feature without them? In ArcGIS 10, you use the new Create Features window, which contains all the elements you need. The workflow to create features is the same whether you are editing geodatabases or shapefiles or using an ArcView, ArcEditor, or ArcInfo license.

Introducing feature templates and the Create Features window

When you start editing, the Create Features window opens vertically and docks on the right side of your ArcMap application. The top of the Create Features window lists the feature templates in your map. A feature template is a new concept at ArcGIS 10. It is somewhat like setting the old target layer but is more powerful than that because it contains properties about how new features should be created: the target layer (feature class) where a feature will be stored, the attributes that a feature is created with, and the default tool that is used to create that feature. Feature templates also have a name, description, and tags that can help you find and organize them. You can review and set these on the Template Properties dialog box, which you can open by double-clicking a feature template on the Create Features window.

ArcMap automatically creates feature templates for the layers in the current editing workspace the first time you start an edit session in a map. Feature templates are based on the symbology of the layer, so you can have more than one feature template per layer. One feature template is created for a layer symbolized with the single symbol renderer, but a layer drawn with unique values gets a feature template for each symbol category. For example, if you have a layer of roads, a new feature template is created for each symbol type: freeway, major road, local road, and so on. The feature templates have the same target layer property but different road type attributes. This way, if you create a new feature using the freeway feature template, the attribute for the road type is automatically assigned as freeway. The new feature will also be symbolized correctly as a freeway.

The graphics below show the Layer Properties > Symbology tab listing the unique values symbols used for a Roads layer and the resulting feature templates in the Create Features window. Since the Roads layer has three unique values categories, three feature templates are created, where each one has a different default attribute value for the road type (Freeway, Major road, or Local road).

The bottom panel of the Create Features window lists the tools available to create features for the kind of feature template you have selected at the top of the window. For example, if you click the Springs point feature template at the top of the window, the construction tools will change to tools used to create points. If the Freeway line feature template is active, only construction tools that create lines are listed, as shown below.

Creating features with feature templates

So, simply put, to create a feature, choose a feature template at the top of the window and a tool at the bottom of the window. Each feature template has a default construction tool that is automatically activated when you choose a feature template, but you can click a different construction tool in the list to use instead. If you want to create a point representing the location of a spring water feature, simply click the Springs feature template and the Point tool, then click the map where you want to add the point.

To digitize segments as you did with the Sketch tool in previous releases, click a line or polygon feature template, then use the Line or Polygon tool to click the map where you want to place vertices. Straight segments are created by default as you click, but you can change the segment types using the palette on the Editor toolbar or Feature Construction mini toolbar. The Feature Construction toolbar follows the pointer as you click to give you easy access to commonly used tools. If the toolbar gets in your way while digitizing, press the TAB key to reposition it.

The process for creating annotation and dimensions is the same as for other feature types, so the Annotation and Dimensioning toolbars are not found in ArcGIS 10 since the tools have been integrated with the Create Features window. To create annotation, choose an annotation feature template on the Create Features window and a construction tool, such as Horizontal or Straight. When you click the feature template, the Annotation Construction window appears so you can enter the text of the new annotation, control how the text is placed, and set any additional symbol properties.

Feature templates and editing commands

Feature templates are also used when you are creating features with editing commands, such as Copy Parallel, Buffer, and Union on the Editor menu. In these cases, you set the feature template on the dialog box that opens when you click the command; you do not use the Create Features window. Choosing the feature template on the command’s dialog box specifies the target layer and the default attributes for the new features that will be created. To change the feature template, click the Template button to open the Select Feature Template window and click one of the available feature templates. Editing commands that can only output one type of geometry, such as Copy Parallel for lines, list templates just for that layer type. Commands that can output a variety of layer types list any existing templates that are the proper types.

When copying and pasting features, a dialog box appears immediately after you click the Paste button, allowing you to set the target layer. When you paste, you can choose an actual layer, rather than a feature template, so you can retain the attribute values from the copied feature instead of using default attributes. If you are just editing an existing feature, you do not need to specify a feature template.

To learn more about editing in ArcGIS 10, see these help topics:

What’s new for editing in ArcGIS 10

What is editing?

Editing in ArcGIS 10 tutorial

Content provided by Rhonda

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  1. Tomsriv says:

    Features that are not symbolized do not show up in the list. How do I create a point that is not symbolized?

  2. pfaffrm says:

    Symbolize the point layer on the Layer Properties > Symbology tab and then you can make feature templates so you can create new points on the map. If you have a layer drawn with unique values, you can add a new symbol category and feature template in one step if you right-click the layer in the table of contents, point to Edit Features, then click Define New Types Of Features. See the Aug 2 blog post on “Using feature templates effectively” for more on creating features with templates.

  3. dh42891 says:

    How do I just digitize- without all this template nonsense?

  4. cipher6 says:

    How do you create new features on a point layer that’s been filtered with a SQL query. No templates show up until there is no query.

  5. lbarbato says:

    The template deal is fine if you are developing on the web. But it adds complications for new (and existing) users – particulary when the “There are no templates to show” message comes up.

    If no templates are shown, I’d like to be able to turn on the layer and have the symbol of that layer automatically display as the template and display in the Create Feature window (I’ll refresh if necessary).

    Please bring back ‘Classic’ editing. Like the ‘classic snapping’ that is buried in the menus. I miss the simple, quick, good old, task-target-tool. It avoids the need for dozens of clicks, complications of templates and setting selectable layers to make sure you are editing the right one.

  6. eulessdave says:

    Bring back “classic editing”?!? Are you kidding?!?
    Do 5 minutes of serious editing and you’ll never want to go back.

  7. owenwootton says:

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around this new form of editing. It might be good for creating a new complex layer from scratch but it is completely ‘backwords’ for simple tasks like clipping a polygon. Kinda like NASA making a pen that works in zero gravity when a pencil will do the trick.

  8. lyndy says:

    I agree this new editing is tough when you just want to do something very simple. For example, I am just trying to add a point to an existing feature class; however, that feature class doesn’t show up in the create features box, so I’m stuck.

  9. lyndy says:

    Also, in response to the comment that you have to symbolize the point before it shows up as a template, this trick doesn’t seem to work in my case. My points are symbolized and the feature still is not showing up in the create features box.

    So, if I try to add a point to my map, it adds the point from the wrong feature class.

  10. lyndy says:

    I figured out what you need to do to get the feature class to show up in the create feature class window:

    1.) Start Editing
    2.) Go to Editing Window > Create Features
    3.) Click on the arrange template button. (It’s in the top left corner of the Create Features box.)
    4.) Go to Show all Templates.
    5.) Select the template you want to edit.

    Why we have to take this extra step to tell ArcMap we want to edit a feature is beyond me.

  11. tdsaulnier says:

    Lyndy’s steps don’t necessarily work for me. I’ve found that there needs to be no definition query set and it helps if the coordinate system of the data view matches the feature class.