Defining tables

You define the properties of a table or feature class when you create it in a geodatabase. You can use the New Table or New Feature Class wizards in the Catalog window to do this. Both these wizards are accessed by right-clicking a geodatabase (or feature dataset for new feature classes), pointing to New, then clicking either Feature Class or Table.

Create new table or feature class through the Catalog window

The properties you define using the wizards are shown in the following table. The Ys indicate to which object—a table or a feature class (spatial tables)—a property applies.



Feature class

Name and alias



Feature type


Spatial properties, including

  • Presence of m- or z-values
  • Coordinate system
  • X,y tolerance


Reference scale and map units

Y (Dimension and annotation feature classes only)

Annotation class

Y (Annotation feature classes only)

Scale range

Y (Annotation feature classes only)

Dimension style

Y (Dimension feature classes only)

Configuration keyword



Field name, data type, and length



Define table properties

Names, aliases, feature types, and spatial properties are discussed in the sections below. For information on the other properties, follow the links in the table.

Table and feature class names

When you create a table, you should give it a name that indicates what data the table stores. Table names must be unique in a geodatabase—you can't have more than one table with the same name.

The name that you indicate when you create the table in ArcGIS Desktop, however, is not the name of the table as it appears in the geodatabase. The geodatabase appends the name of the database and the name of the schema in which the table is stored. This is referred to as the fully qualified table name. For example, if user Werther creates a table called alpacas in the ArcSDE database, the name of the table in the geodatabase is as follows:


Therefore, it is possible for other users to create tables called alpacas because the tables they create will have their user names appended to the table names. For example, if user Gretchen created her own alpacas table, this is the name in the database:


However, it is not recommended that you reuse table names even if they are stored in different schemas or databases. In this example, if both tables contained information about alpacas, there would be no reason to have two separate tables. If the data was distinctly different between the two tables, the table names should reflect that.

Additional rules


Table or feature class names with the following prefixes are not supported: gdb_, sde_, delta_.


When you create a table or feature class in the geodatabase, you can assign an alias to it. An alias is an alternate name. If you assign an alias to a table or feature class, that is the name users will see when they add it to ArcMap. Users can still look up the name of the table or feature class by going to the Source tab on the Layer Properties dialog box.

Feature types

Feature types are only defined for feature classes and are defined at the time of feature class creation. They specify what type of geometry will be stored in the feature class.

You should choose a feature type that best represents the real-world object you are trying to symbolize on your maps. This could vary depending on the map scale with which you use the feature class. You should also take into consideration the type of analyses you may want to perform with the data.

The following table contains a list of the types of features you can specify for a feature class, along with descriptions of typical objects or concepts represented with that feature type. A third column contains notes on the sort of analyses or relationships you can create or perform only with this feature type.

Feature type

Real-world object or concept

Unique spatial analyses or relationships


Objects or places that have area, such as water bodies, jurisdictional or service area boundaries, wildlife ranges, or flood zones

  • Union with other polygon features
  • Symmetrical differences
  • Clip other features with


Linear objects, such as rivers, streets and highways, utility lines, or survey transects

  • Use as edge feature sources for networks
  • Model flow


A narrowly localized position or spot, such as a survey marker, sample point, telephone pole, or individual plant

  • Generate Thiessen polygons from
  • Use with survey data (Survey Analyst)
  • Use as junction feature sources in a network


An object or place that is composed of multiple localized positions, having the same attributes; for instance, a stand of the same species of tree, an island chain, multiple buildings in the same office complex, or lidar or sonar point clusters


Three-dimensional features, such as buildings, mountains, water tables, and planets

  • 3D analyses to derive contours, produce a hillshade, or analyze a viewshed or volume
  • Cannot participate in a topology
  • Cannot snap other features to


Place or object names or identifiers, such as street names, hydrant ID numbers, land values, or elevation

  • Can be linked to specific features
  • When combining annotation feature classes, must all use the same label engine, standard or Maplex


Measurements, such as distances, lengths, widths, and depths

  • A specific type of annotation used only for showing distances and lengths

feature types

You may find you need to have feature classes of different feature types to represent the same data. For example, if you usually create maps at a scale at which it makes sense to use a polygon feature class to represent city parks (approximately 1:25,000 to 1:100,000) but you sometimes need to create maps at a scale at which you need the parks to be shown as points (approximately 1:250,000 to 1:500,000), you could create a second parks feature class that uses centroid points to represent the location of the parks.

Or you may find for mapping purposes you need data represented in one feature type, but to perform certain analyses, you need the same data represented in a different feature type. For example, you might have a river feature class that stores the rivers as lines. That works fine for modeling flow or analyzing where rivers cross other features, but if you need to perform any sort of area analysis, such as clipping or calculating the area of your soils polygon feature class that is covered by rivers, you'll need to also model your rivers as polygon features so they have area, not just length.

Spatial properties

Tables that store spatial data, such as those that make up feature classes, possess properties that define where the data is located in space:

Together, these properties allow you to find the location of a given feature on the earth.

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