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Using ArcGIS Desktop

When you dene a feature dataset, you specify its spatial reference. This includes its coordinate system and the

coordinate domainsthe minimum x-, y-, z-, and m-values and their precision. All feature classes in the dataset use the
same coordinate system, and all coordinates in all features in all feature classes must fall within the coordinate domains.
Any new feature classes you create within the feature dataset are automatically in that coordinate system. Any datasets
you want to import to the feature dataset have to be transformed or projected into the coordinate system before you add
them. When dening the coordinate system, you can choose a predened coordinate system, import it from an existing
feature dataset, or dene a custom coordinate system.

Feature datasets are primarily used for storing feature classes that will participate in a topology, network, or other
specialized dataset. These datasets can only be created within a feature dataset, the reason being that all participating
feature classes must have the same spatial reference (otherwise, it would be impossible to build the dataset), which the
feature dataset ensures.
Getting data into a feature dataset

When you rst create a feature dataset, its empty. There are several ways to add feature classes to the feature dataset.

One easy way is towithin ArcCatalogsimply drag and drop a feature class from elsewhere in the geodatabase, or
from another geodatabase. Another way to add a feature class is to import it to the feature dataset. Importing lets you
modify the incoming feature class, to some extent.

To import data, right-click the feature


dataset in the Catalog tree, point to
Import, and click Feature Class (single) or
(multiple). The (single) option imports one
feature class at a time, and lets you specify
the input parameters. The (multiple) option
lets you import several feature classes at
once, but they are imported as-is.

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2 Geographic Data Management


You can also dene a new, empty feature class within the feature dataset. The process for dening the feature class is

the same as for creating a feature class at the geodatabase level (see Creating feature classes and tables in this chapter).

To create a feature class within a feature dataset, right-click the feature dataset,
point to New, and click Feature Class.

As you develop the geodatabase, you may add topologies, relationship classes, and specialized datasets to the feature
dataset.
Creating a geodatabase topology

Besides referencing the same location on the Earths surface, datasets for the same place often have spatial relationships

with each other. These are relationships you can see when looking at a map and are often intuitively obvious, but they
must be made explicit in the GIS. For example, streets must connect at intersections; parcel boundaries cannot overlap;
parcels nest within block boundaries; and so on.
A geodatabase topology is a set of rules that specify how points, lines, and polygons share geometry. The rules can
apply to features within a single feature classfor example, one topology rule would ensure that adjacent features, such
as two counties, will share a common edge, so county boundaries dont overlap. The rules can also apply to features in
different feature classes. For example, county boundaries (one feature class) must completely nest within states (another
feature class), and share edges along state boundaries.
A topology is created within a feature dataset, and applies to one or more feature classes in the dataset (so if you want
to create a topology in your geodatabase, you must rst create a feature dataset and add the pertinent feature classes to

it). Only feature classes in the same dataset can participate in a topology, but not all the feature classes in a dataset are
required to participate in the topology. And a feature class can only participate in one topology at a time.
When you validate a topology, ArcGIS checks the rules youve established. To ensure the rules are not broken, ArcGIS
will, if necessary, snap feature vertices together to make them coincident. For example, if two street centerlines are
supposed to connect but dont quite meet, ArcGIS will snap the end points of the lines together. Specify a cluster
tolerance to control how far features are allowed to move during snapping (the default cluster tolerance is the minimum
possible). The cluster tolerance should be small, so only close vertices are snapped together. A typical cluster tolerance
is at least an order of magnitude smaller than the accuracy of your data. For example, if your features are accurate to
2 meters, your cluster tolerance should be no more than 0.2 meters.

Youll want the less reliable features to snap to the more reliable ones. Ranks are used to implement this. Vertices of
lower-ranking features within the cluster tolerance will be snapped to nearby vertices of higher-ranking features.
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