Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It there a good strategy for deleting a few thousand fields from the attribute table of a shapefile in ArcGIS using either ArcMap or ArcCatalog?

I know how to manually right-click and choose 'delete field;; I'm wondering if there is any other strategy. If I could export the shapefile with columns selected, that would also be fine, but I don't think that can be done.

share|improve this question
do you want it to be more automated then the Delete Field geoprocessing tool? With the tool you can select all fields then just unselect a handful that you want to keep. – artwork21 Aug 10 '11 at 14:24
I'm not familiar with that tool - I'll take a look. I just tried out @Dan's method and it worked fine. – djq Aug 10 '11 at 14:32
You should have a few less clicks of the mouse with the Delete Field tool. Otherwise @Dan's method is good if you want to have a copy of the orig layer. – artwork21 Aug 10 '11 at 14:34
Delete Field tool can also be scripted as part of a larger workflow, if needed. I don't think Dan's technique can be scripted. – user3461 Aug 10 '11 at 14:54
@Kevin, Dan's method can be scripted by using ArcObjects. – artwork21 Aug 10 '11 at 15:09
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Tested with a shapefile.

1 Right-click on the layer in ArcMap

2 Select Properties, then the Field tab

3 Select the All fields Off icon, which is beneath the General Tab

4 Toggle back on the fields that you want to keep (I am assuming that you have less fields to toggle back on than to toggle off)

5 Click OK,

6 Right-click back on the layer and select, Data, Export Data to create a new file which has the fields you want (which as minimum must contain FID, Shape and ID)

share|improve this answer
Perfect! Thanks, another useful timesaver. – djq Aug 10 '11 at 14:32

As I commented to your question, you can use the Delete Field tool.

share|improve this answer
I think both answers are very useful, but I choose the other one as I did it first. Wish I could mark them both as an answer.... – djq Aug 11 '11 at 15:57

The Xtools extension will also do this with its "Multi Delete Fields" tool. It's one of the free tools (Xtools is a paid extension but most of its features are free if you just register with your email address).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.