ArcMap

Merging multiple shapefiles into a single shapefile

Question: I have multiple shapefiles of underwater forms (coral reef, outcrop, sandflat, etc) that I would like to combine into a single shapefile. This would make the data easier to manage and I would use a column in the attribute table to delineate each form, rather than have each be in a separate shapefile. How would I go about doing this?

Answer: First, all the data have to be of the same type (e.g., polygon).  Then you can use the Merge tool (ArcToolbox -> Data Management toolbox -> General toolset) to combines your multiple input datasets of the same data type into a single, new output dataset. You could also use Append, but the Merge tool has the advantage that it creates a new dataset from all the combined data. In contrast, Append appends multiple input datasets into an existing target dataset.

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About the author

Dr. Aileen Buckley has been making maps since she was an undergraduate student. She has a Bachelors in Geography and Spanish from Valparaiso University, a Masters in Geography from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Geography from Oregon State University. She is a senior product engineer on the Living Atlas team, and her work focuses on determining and sharing best practices for mapping and analysis with modern GIS. She publishes and presents world-wide on many aspects of mapping and GIS. She is a co-author of Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation, and she is a co-editor for the Atlas of Oregon. Aileen is a former president of CaGIS (the U.S. cartographic association) and is actively involved with the International Cartographic Association in which she is the lead delegate for the United States.

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