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Is there a way to create a catalog of vector layers in ESRI? We have thousands of tiles of 25cm contour data which we need to individually find and add to maps. It would be so much easier if there was a way to load the best available tiles based on the current map extent.

For Raster we use the Mosaic Dataset which works very well but is there a similar format for vectors?

Mapinfo has hotlinks so we use the index tiles to open files in the frame without having to find the tiles but the best system is the Global Mapper Catalog (gmc) format which works great for vectors and rasters but a search online shows nothing for ESRI (the last mention of this though was in 2005).

Any ideas?

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There certainly used to be in ARC/INFO (that became ArcInfo Workstation) where it was known as a map library and had an awesome command called VISIT that made tile-wise geoprocessing very easy to implement. To draw a map library layer you just had to say something like POLYGONSHADES .<layer> and you would see tiles drawn successively in much the same way that a raster catalog works today. If you create/find an ArcGIS Idea for this I will certainly vote for it. –  PolyGeo Mar 8 '13 at 1:37
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The closest thing available today I think will be to create a layer group. Thinking a little more about it an approach might be to use a Python Add-in to use the current extent to access an index feature class to work out the best tile FCs there which need to turn on (with rest turned off). The hardest part might be creating/maintaining your index feature class. –  PolyGeo Mar 8 '13 at 1:49
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Is there a reason you can't load it into one feature class? –  Craig Williams Mar 8 '13 at 8:27
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@CraigWilliams Have you ever tried loading fine Contour Data in ArcMap? I wouldn't wish that experience even on my worst enemy! –  Devdatta Tengshe Mar 8 '13 at 11:04
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I've now logged an ArcGIS Idea for this. –  PolyGeo Mar 15 '13 at 6:56

2 Answers 2

The functionality you describe was available in ARC/INFO (later called ArcInfo Workstation) where it was known as a map library and had an awesome command called VISIT that made tile-wise geoprocessing very easy to implement.

To draw a map library layer you just had to say something like POLYGONSHADES.<layer> and you would see tiles drawn successively in much the same way that a raster catalog works today.

I logged an ArcGIS Idea called Implement vector catalog (akin to raster catalog):

to request that the "vector catalog" display (and VISIT) capabilities from Workstation LIBRARIAN find their way back into ArcGIS for Desktop.

The use case is when feature classes with many very large and complex features like contours need to be stored as tiles for display (and geoprocessing) performance reasons.

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"Is there a way to create a catalog of vector layers in ESRI?"

Outside of ArcGIS Desktop, there is an open-source product called Esri Geoportal Server which is:

...a free, open source product that enables discovery and use of geospatial resources including datasets, rasters, and Web services. It helps organizations manage and publish metadata for their geospatial resources to let users discover and connect to those resources.

You could publish your contour layers via Geoportal Server, allowing a mechanism for users to find the layer(s) which apply to their area of interest.

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I think @GeorgeC was looking for a vector equivalent of Desktop's raster catalog rather than catalog services, but have just broadened the slightly ambiguous Question title (to reflect the first sentence of the body) pending further clarification. –  PolyGeo Jun 13 at 4:10

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