It there a good strategy for deleting a few thousand fields from the attribute table of a shapefile in ArcGIS using either ArcMap or ArcCatalog?

I know how to manually right-click and choose 'delete field;; I'm wondering if there is any other strategy. If I could export the shapefile with columns selected, that would also be fine, but I don't think that can be done.

  • do you want it to be more automated then the Delete Field geoprocessing tool? With the tool you can select all fields then just unselect a handful that you want to keep. – artwork21 Aug 10 '11 at 14:24
  • I'm not familiar with that tool - I'll take a look. I just tried out @Dan's method and it worked fine. – djq Aug 10 '11 at 14:32
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    You should have a few less clicks of the mouse with the Delete Field tool. Otherwise @Dan's method is good if you want to have a copy of the orig layer. – artwork21 Aug 10 '11 at 14:34
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    Delete Field tool can also be scripted as part of a larger workflow, if needed. I don't think Dan's technique can be scripted. – user3461 Aug 10 '11 at 14:54
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    @Kevin, Dan's method can be scripted by using ArcObjects. – artwork21 Aug 10 '11 at 15:09

Tested with a shapefile.

1 Right-click on the layer in ArcMap

2 Select Properties, then the Field tab

3 Select the All fields Off icon, which is beneath the General Tab

4 Toggle back on the fields that you want to keep (I am assuming that you have less fields to toggle back on than to toggle off)

5 Click OK,

6 Right-click back on the layer and select, Data, Export Data to create a new file which has the fields you want (which as minimum must contain FID, Shape and ID)


As I commented to your question, you can use the Delete Field tool.

  • I think both answers are very useful, but I choose the other one as I did it first. Wish I could mark them both as an answer.... – djq Aug 11 '11 at 15:57

The Xtools extension will also do this with its "Multi Delete Fields" tool. It's one of the free tools (Xtools is a paid extension but most of its features are free if you just register with your email address).

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