I have a query regarding changing field and alias names in a shapefile.

ArcGIS info for 10.2 says: ...For example, you can do any of the following: Define an alias for a field name so the field appears in the table with a name that is easy to understand. This is helpful because you cannot change the names of fields in your data once they are created. ....

I'm bringing MapInfo files over into ArcMap and run into the 10 character truncation limit when changing to a .shp. Note that I need to use the shapefile format.

As I cannot change the properties in the .shp format, I import the shapes into a .gdb and then change the Name fields in Properties using ArcCatalog. My query is how to change the Alias to align with the now-changed 10 character limited Name.

  • With a bit more searching I have found the relevant area in ArcCatalog under Field Properties. This saves ok. Went right past it the first time.
    – DirkB
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 2:33
  • Yes that's sort-of correct. In file geodatabase you can't change the field name but you can in personal geodatabase except the required fields OBJECTID, shape, shape_length and shape_area using Microsoft Access. Likewise in an enterprise geodatabase (SDE) you can change field names using the database, just be careful of triggers, subtypes and domains. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 3:56
  • BTW. To bring features from MapINFO into geodatabase look at OGR2OGR, it is possible to convert directly from TAB to fGDB without needing the shapefile step. Also Data Interoperablility will let you do this if you have the extension. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 3:59
  • Thanks Michael. I hadn't looked at that and the FME functionality it has. I'll also look at OGR2OGR. However I need to work in .shp's (ie NOT geodatabases) for transferability around different apps so need to sort out the header limitations. Maybe I should just edit (dumb down) my original file headers to fit the .shp limits. Cheers
    – DirkB
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


Both the Field and Alias can only be changed in the Properties\Field Properties within a .gdb using ArcCatalog. Later versions eg 10.2.1 and above have a Data Management / Alter Field tool (although still only for .gdb). I export the changed file back to a shapefile for further use.

A solution will be to change the MapInfo header file to align with the shapefile limit and therefore do away with the .gdb step.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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