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A small non-profit specializing in fish habitat restoration, has asked me to link a spreadsheet of field notes to their GIS.

What we have is:

  1. A spreadsheet of field notes for small fish streams.
  2. A shapefile of unnamed rivers. Each branch of a river is often comprised of several individual lines.

What we need is:

  1. Merge together lines that form a single branch of river.
  2. Give a name to every branch of river corresponding to the spreadsheet notes.

Ideally, I will pan across the shapefile, clicking each branch and entering data for the "Name" attribute. I do not want to have to mess about, zooming in and merging multiple lines into a single branch, before I name it.

Using QGIS or ArcGIS extension or script.

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Assuming that each of the line segments has the correct branch name in the name field, you can use the Dissolve tool in ArcGIS. Your name field will be the dissolve field.

The dissolve tool is available at all license levels of ArcGIS.

You can watch a video demonstrating the dissolve tool here.

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I edited my question to, hopefully, be more precise. Thank you, Fezter. – bd200 Feb 18 '13 at 18:35
Your question seems to have changed significantly since you originally posted. My answer doesn't seem relevant anymore. Perhaps you should "unaccept" it if it doesn't provide you with the answer you want. – Fezter Feb 19 '13 at 1:53
@bd200 and Fezter - while there was a change to the question, the answer given is still the right one and relevant. The dissolve tool doesn't have to do so on an attribute. With careful use of the 'allow multipart' and 'unsplit lines' options, this is the tool you want to use to accomplish the goal. A very similar/related question is though it has a slightly different output goal (keep branches merged). There is good info in the comments though that are relevant to this question, along with – Chris W Apr 16 '15 at 19:40

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