Creating a new shapefile

You can create new shapefiles in ArcCatalog or by using the Create Feature Class tool. When you create a new shapefile, you must define the types of features it will contain, whether those features will represent routes (m-values), and whether those features will be three-dimensional (z-values). These properties can't be modified after the shapefile has been created. You can also define the coordinate system of the shapefile. If you choose to define the shapefile coordinate system later, it will be classified as Unknown until then.

The process of defining the new shapefile's attributes is separate from creating the shapefile itself. After creating the item, define its attributes by right-clicking it in ArcCatalog and clicking Properties. Because it must contain at least one attribute column, ArcCatalog adds a default column to the shapefile when it is created. For shapefiles, an integer column named Id is added as an attribute. Add the appropriate attributes to your shapefile. After the new attributes have been added as part of the shapefile, you can delete the default column if you decide you don't want to use it.

  1. Select a folder or folder connection in the Catalog tree.
  2. Click the File menu, point to New, then click Shapefile.
  3. Click in the Name text box and type a name for the new shapefile.
  4. Click the Feature Type drop-down arrow and click the type of geometry the shapefile will contain.
  5. Click Edit to define the shapefile's coordinate system.
  6. Select, import, or define a new coordinate system.

    It's highly recommended that you define the shapefile's coordinate system now; however, you can postpone this step until a later time. For more information, see Fundamentals of a shapefile's coordinate system.

  7. Click OK.
  8. If the shapefile will store polylines representing routes, check Coordinates will contain M values.
  9. If the shapefile will store three-dimensional features, check Coordinates will contain Z values.
  10. Click OK.

    The new shapefile appears in the folder's contents.

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