I have a shapefile consisting of 10 contiguous polygons. I want to reduce this to a single polygon encompassing the entire area of the existing 10. I don't need to retain data.

I've googled but without the proper terminology I get pointed to Merge and Clip functions which I don't think are what I am looking for.

  • 1
    The Merge function should do what you want as it 'merges' all the selected polygons into one.
    – Joseph
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 12:04
  • 1
    Could you clarify your question? Your title says you want to reduce your shapefile to an "outline" but the body of your question sounds like you simply want to merge polygons.
    – GISHuman
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 12:45
  • As Erica mentions, Merge would in fact do what you want regardless of attributes - Clip not so much. Dissolve is the most appropriate tool for more complex operations (multiple shapes based on attribute, etc). Another option if your polygons weren't contiguous and you had an Advanced license is the Aggregate Polygons tool.
    – Chris W
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


If you want a single polygon (which you have indicated), you want to use Dissolve. This is under Data Management Tools in the toolbox. It is also in the Geoprocessing menu. http://resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.2/index.html#//00170000005n000000

  • This worked for me, I just had to make sure I had a field with the same information across the records I wanted to dissolve.
    – yope
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 14:46

You want to use Merge in an edit session. This will modify the original shapefile.

  1. Click the Edit Tool on the Editor toolbar.
  2. Click the features you want to merge. The features must be from the same layer.
  3. Click the Editor menu and click Merge.
  4. Click the feature that the features will be merged into and will supply the attributes for the merged feature.

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