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Tip 24: Successful Editing

Date: 3/4/2013

For anyone new to ArcGIS, using the editing tools can initially appear a little tricky, and while delivering our training courses I sometimes hear people say the editing process is not very intuitive.

In an earlier Exprodat tip (Tip 20: ArcGIS Editing Sessions) I looked at selecting editable elements and organising templates. Here are a few more tips to help improve your editing session. If you follow these steps you should have a trouble-free editing session and find it quite straightforward.

Why Use GIS in Petroleum?

1. Pre-editing set up

For efficient editing, ensure all layers are in the same workspace and that all layers to be edited in this workspace have the same coordinate reference system.  

2. Start an editing session

Now you can start an edit session. You have two choices:

• If you only want to edit one or two features - right-click on the layer you wish to edit and choose Edit Features > Start Editing.

• If you want to edit more than a few features it’s probably easier to base the Edit session on the workspace containing all of the source Feature Classes or Shapefiles – to do this open the Editor Toolbar and choose Editor > Start Editing from the dropdown menu.

Opening the Editor Toolbar

If you are working with Feature Classes point to the editable Geodatabase that holds the source Feature Classes. If you are working with Shapefiles, simply point to the folder containing them.

You are given this choice when you start to edit (see Tip 20, Step 1)

3. Organise templates

See Tip 20: ArcGIS Editing Sessions, Step 2.

4. Select the layer to edit

Until you make the layer available for selection, it cannot be edited, so make sure the layer you want to edit is Selectable in the List by Selection option of your Table of Contents. This is often overlooked resulting in users clicking on the map to find nothing happens.

Select the layer to edit

If you intend to edit an existing feature, such as changing the shape of a polygon (as opposed to creating a new polygon), remember to select the feature using the Edit Tool. Once selected a blue highlight line appears around the selected feature.

Selected features appear highlighted

5. Edit the feature geometry

Edit or digitise the existing or new feature (point, line or polygon) once you have selected a tool

Editing a feature's geometry

6. Finish the edit session

Save your edits and stop editing to get out of Edit mode.

Stop editing



Most of the work is in the set up process. Do the set-up correctly, and your editing session will be well managed and the data easy to use. Remember that you only have to set up the template once.

In a future tip, I will look at how to edit attributes in an editing session, and give a review of some of the different editing tools available. If you can set up an editing session correctly, you can confidently explore the large range of editing tools and what they do.

Oh, and if you get stuck, remember to use the ArcGIS "Editing data" help topic for more information.


Posted by Mike Phillips, Senior GIS Consultant

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