How to enable editing tools and commands

To enable editing tools and commands, you must be in an edit session, with editable feature layers, and have the data frame active that contains the edit session. When working with the topology tools, you need to have either a map topology or a geodatabase topology in the map.

Once you are in an edit session, the primary editing tools on the Editor toolbar are generally enabled. If a tool cannot be used because certain criteria are not met, a message appears and provides information about the tool's requirements and intended usage. This makes it easier for you to remedy the situation and be able to use the tool successfully.

Some of the common conditions required by tools include these:

Required selections

Most tools require a single feature of a certain geometry type to be selected, although some need two or more features. If you attempt to use a tool and do not have the proper selection, the active tool automatically switches to the tool you need to use to make the selection. For example, the Reshape Feature tool requires a single line or polygon to be selected. Without a feature selected (or when more than one is selected), the Edit tool is activated as soon as you close the error message box, allowing you to make the proper selection.

Similarly, the tools on the Topology toolbar generally require a single topology edge to be selected with the Topology Edit tool. For example, when using Reshape Edge without a topology edge selected, the Topology Edit tool is activated.

Following are some examples of required selections for the more common editing tools and menu commands:

Required selection

Example tool or command name

One line feature

Split tool, Split command, Copy Parallel (requires one or more lines)

One polygon feature

Clip, Cut Polygons (requires one or more polygons)

One line or one polygon

Reshape Feature

One feature

Edit Vertices

One geodatabase annotation feature

Many commands on the Edit Annotation tool shortcut menu that appears when you right-click

Two features of the same geometry type

Merge (requires features be from the same layer), Union

Other buttons on the Editor toolbar are always enabled and open new windows when you click them, but the content of the window is blank until certain conditions are met. The Attributes window requires you to select one or more features from an editable layer, and Edit Sketch Properties requires that you are editing the geometry of a feature (double-click it with the Edit tool). The Create Features window contains separate buttons allowing you to add feature templates to the window. However, feature templates are hidden for layers that are turned off and for layers or feature templates that have been filtered from view, so check those settings before going to create new feature templates.

Required feature templates

Feature templates are used when creating new features. Having the required feature template in the map generally is prompted by an editing command, such as Union or Buffer, that outputs new features.

If you have no templates at all for any of the layers in your map, you can choose from a list of available layers in which to create the new features. However, if you have templates for only certain layer types, a message appears if you attempt to use a command that requires templates for a different type. For example, when using Copy Parallel, if you have a template in the map for a polygon but no line templates, a message tells you to create line templates to use the command.