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This is a very basic question, but I'm not finding the answer on Google or here...

I have a bundle of files I have to submit in an incredibly specific format. Our sub-consultants gave us a set of shapefiles, but the shapefiles have a different file name than the required feature class. All the required attributes are correct.

For example, they named the file "boundary.shp" (plus all of it's accompanying files) whereas the feature class needs to be named "gis_boundary_limit".

Can you have the feature class name be different than the shape file name? If I just rename the files have I renamed the feature classes? Is there a way in ArcMap to rename a feature class within a shapefile?

Forgive how basic this question is, I had been operating on the assumption that shapefiles and feature classes were interchangeable.

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    Please ask separate questions in separate posts. Otherwise you attract composite answers that are difficult to vote for because they are right for one question, and wrong for the other question. IMHO the answers are NO/YES/ArcCatalog. A shapefiles contains one and only one feature class, which is named after the shapefile name but can be DISPLAYED with another name using a layer. – radouxju Sep 9 '14 at 20:34
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A "feature class" is an abstract name for source data for mapping. The origin of that data can be shapefile, file geodatabase, enterprise geodatabase, or any number of other sources (feature class factories).

File and enterprise geodatabase sources are tables, with naming constraints that include:

  • The initial character must be alphabetic
  • The remaining characters can be alphanumeric or underscore
  • The name length is restricted by the underlying RDBMS (or FGDB specification), or by the ArcSDE limit of 31 characters (32 including terminator), when applicable.

Technically, shapefiles are supposed to conform to the "8.3" DOS file-naming convention, though most applications are pretty forgiving in this regard.

Once in the table of contents, you can rename a layer from the original source name to be anything you want (including something very confusing). When converting between data formats, you can also rename, though they must conform to the target format naming conventions. Many storage formats also permit the owner to rename tables within the storage container (provided no other application is using the object when the rename is attempted).

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First...

You can name a feature class whatever you like, as long as you dont use special characters.

Almost, there is also a limitation on using a number as the first character. See this page.

Can you have the feature class name be different than the shape file name? If I just rename the files have I renamed the feature classes?

These are two SEPARATE things. If you have a shapefile and a feature class that are the same data, they are in fact still two different files. One can be named differently than the other.

Is there a way in ArcMap to rename a feature class within a shapefile?

If you have a bunch of shapefiles that need to be feature classes, and they also need renamed, you have two options:

  1. Rename the Shapefiles in ArcCatalog. You can do this by right-clicking the file and selecting Rename. Once all of the shapefiles are renamed, right-click on the geodatabase you need the feature classes in, Select Import Shapefiles (multiple), select all of the shapefiles, and click Ok.

-or-

  1. Rename the files as they are imported into a geodatabase. Right-click the geodatabase you need the feature classes in, Select Import Shapefiles (single), select one of the shapefiles, then in the Field for Feature Class Name, write the correct name, click Ok and repeat process for each layer.

I highly recommend the first option as it is the easiest way to achieve what you are looking for.

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A feature class belongs to a geodatabase, whereas a shapefile can be free-standing. You can name a feature class whatever you like, as long as you dont use special characters.

The name of a feature class can be different than the name of the shapefile. I don't think you can have a feature class within a shapefile.

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    So how would I name a feature class a different name than it's parent file? I have a map file, I import the shape files, but I can't find anywhere to view/edit feature class names once they're in the program. – Terrik Sep 9 '14 at 19:39
  • Create a geodatabase and import your files, or right click on your layers in the table of contents and export into a geodatabas. You can choose the name there. There is also an 'export' tool – Maksim Sep 9 '14 at 19:43
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    a feature class can also be stored in a shapefile. and in the case of a shapefile, the feature class and the shapefile have the same name. – radouxju Sep 9 '14 at 20:27
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    @Maksim In this case, the featureclass is the shapefile – Stephen Lead Sep 10 '14 at 10:13

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