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I have a geodatabase containing hundreds of feature classes that I want to be able to search within so that I know which feature class to load. All the feature classes come from different data sources, so there is no consistency in naming or structure.

As an example, from my hundred or so feature classes within my geodatabase, say I have two feature classes structured like this:


ID Animal Age Sex

01 Cat 3 F

02 Dog 3 M


ID Legs Genus Age

01 3 Dog 16

02 6.5 Arach 3

What I want is to search for Dog within the catalog window, and get a list of feature classes that have the word Dog in them, and from there I can work out which feature classes to load.

Is this possible in Arc?

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are you looking for a programmatic solution? – Emi May 29 '13 at 6:20
no, just within ArcGIS while working on a map – Ian May 29 '13 at 6:41
Are you looking for the string 'Dog' as a field name or just as part of a field value or either? Is case sensitivity important? – PolyGeo May 29 '13 at 6:46
I am looking for field values, case sensitivity is not important – Ian May 29 '13 at 6:50
I would suggest making sure the desired values are somewhere in the metadata for each feature class and use the built-in search index Jürgen mentions. – blah238 Aug 27 '13 at 14:13

What you want is a search index. ArcGIS has a indexing engine builtin, and I have that it is not so bad either. Read the ArcGIS Help about search index (

The options for building the index can be found in the search tab. You can create a local search index for your own, or even an enterprise search service published via ArcGIS Server.

The advantage of an search index is that you only have one search field which you can perform some kind of "fuzzy" search. The disadvantage is, that you have to rebuild/update your index every time your feature classes change. As far as I know, you can configure ArcGIS to rebuild the index periodically.

BTW: Other popular search index products (with spatial capabilities) are:

Both are Apache Lucene based, and provide a REST interface, so you have to do some programming to use them comfortably with ESRI products.

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