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I want to generate the shortest distance to coastlines from interested points worldwide. My question is given existing world map polygon file, what the standard way to create coastlines is. Thanks very much!

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Aren't the polygon boundaries coastlines? Surely then you could just dissolve and convert polygon to line. – Michael Miles-Stimson Apr 23 '14 at 4:15
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You could dissolve all polygons together to create one big landmass. Then, convert to polylines using the Feature to Line tool. Note, Feature to Line requires an ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced license. However, there are other tools out there that will convert polygons to polylines.

XTools, for example.

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Or create a polyline feature class, open the polygons and empty polylines in ArcMap, start editing, select all the polygons and copy/paste into the lines - works with Basic (ArcView) level of license too. – Michael Miles-Stimson Apr 23 '14 at 4:19
It sounds pretty simple. But how to empty polylines and where should I paste to? – user25458 Apr 23 '14 at 4:42
"empty polylines" means the empty feature class of type polyline, and that is where you paste the copied polygons - neat solution by @MichaelMiles-Stimson ! – PolyGeo Apr 23 '14 at 4:47
@user25458 to create an empty polyline feature class in ArcCatalog right click in some empty space and select new shapefile or in a geodatabase right click and select new feature class, preferably use the same spatial reference as the polygons and select polyline as the feature type... this creates an empty feature class. Or you can use Create feature class tool… – Michael Miles-Stimson Apr 23 '14 at 4:54
Do I still need to dissolve the map first? – user25458 Apr 23 '14 at 16:21

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