Where is the ArcGIS 10 tool for creating a shapefile from current dataframe extents in layout view?

Have looked around and the closet thing i can find is Toolbox's Grid/Strip Map Index tools under Data Drive Pages.

I just want to be able to create a single polygon rectangle shp file based on the data frame (in layout view) for any given scale / page setup.

  • are you using the mapbook tool, or just wanting to create a shp polygon for one layout view?
    – artwork21
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 15:54
  • for just one layout view
    – sirgeo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 16:24
  • If this is for an inset map, check out the extent indicator option in the data frame properties. If it is for other reasons, I would just write a python script for it.
    – MLowry
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 18:05
  • How much time would it take to write a python script for this MLowry? It is for taking raster image exports from ArcGIS to AutoCad and will be needed many times in the future. I just downloaded VS Express and will give Kirk's C# a shot but working with this stuff is way beyond my knowledge base.
    – sirgeo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:23

8 Answers 8


I created a tool to do this via a Toolbox in ArcGIS 10. It might be easier to use than scripting. You can download from https://github.com/nickpeihl/mapindextool. Just copy your mxd(s) into a folder and run the tool on that folder. It will create a shapefile containing all the main extents of each mxd in that folder.


This c# code could be used to build an add-in for Arcmap.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;
using System.IO;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using ESRI.ArcGIS.Geometry;
using ESRI.ArcGIS.Carto;
using ESRI.ArcGIS.ArcMapUI;
using ESRI.ArcGIS.DataSourcesFile;
using ESRI.ArcGIS.Geodatabase;

namespace MainToolsAddin
    public class Extent2ShapefileButton : ESRI.ArcGIS.Desktop.AddIns.Button
        public Extent2ShapefileButton()

        protected override void OnClick()
                var polygon = GetExtentPolygon(ArcMap.Document.FocusMap);
                //IGraphicsContainer gc = ArcMap.Document.FocusMap as IGraphicsContainer;
                //var element = new PolygonElementClass() as IElement;
                //element.Geometry = polygon;
                //((IFillShapeElement)element).Symbol = ((IDocumentDefaultSymbols)ArcMap.Document).FillSymbol;
                WritePolygon(@"C:\projects\forums\extents.shp", polygon);
            catch (Exception ex)

        protected override void OnUpdate()

        private void WritePolygon(string shpFilePath, IGeometry geom)
            var featClass = OpenShapeFile(shpFilePath);
            if (featClass == null)
                featClass = CreateShapeFile(shpFilePath, geom);
            IFeature feat = featClass.CreateFeature();
            feat.Shape = geom;
        private IFeatureClass CreateShapeFile(string shpFilepath, IGeometry geom)
            System.IO.FileInfo fi = new FileInfo(shpFilepath);
            var wsf = Activator.CreateInstance(Type.GetTypeFromProgID("esriDataSourcesFile.ShapefileWorkspaceFactory")) as IWorkspaceFactory;
            var fws = wsf.OpenFromFile(fi.DirectoryName, 0) as IFeatureWorkspace;
            IFieldsEdit flds = new FieldsClass();
            flds.AddField(MakeField("ObjectID", esriFieldType.esriFieldTypeOID,0));
            IGeometryDefEdit geomDef = new GeometryDefClass();
            geomDef.GeometryType_2 = geom.GeometryType;
            geomDef.SpatialReference_2 = geom.SpatialReference;
            var shpField = MakeField("Shape", esriFieldType.esriFieldTypeGeometry, 0) as IFieldEdit;
            shpField.GeometryDef_2 = geomDef;
            flds.AddField(MakeField("Name", esriFieldType.esriFieldTypeString, 16));
            string fcName = fi.Name;
            if (fcName.ToUpper().EndsWith(".SHP"))
                fcName = fcName.Substring(0, fcName.LastIndexOf("."));

            var fc = fws.CreateFeatureClass(fcName, flds, null, null, esriFeatureType.esriFTSimple, "Shape", "");
            return fc;

        private IField MakeField(string name, esriFieldType fType, int length)
            IFieldEdit fld = new FieldClass();
            fld.Name_2 = name;
            fld.Type_2 = fType;
            if (length > 0 && fType == esriFieldType.esriFieldTypeString)
                fld.Length_2 = length;
            return fld;

        private IFeatureClass OpenShapeFile(string shpFilepath)
            var wsf = Activator.CreateInstance(Type.GetTypeFromProgID("esriDataSourcesFile.ShapefileWorkspaceFactory")) as IWorkspaceFactory;

            System.IO.FileInfo fi = new FileInfo(shpFilepath);
            string name = fi.Name.ToUpper().EndsWith(".SHP") ? fi.Name.Substring(0, fi.Name.LastIndexOf(".")) : fi.Name;
            string fileName = String.Format("{0}.shp", name);
            if (File.Exists(System.IO.Path.Combine(fi.DirectoryName,fileName)))
                var fws = wsf.OpenFromFile(fi.DirectoryName, 0) as IFeatureWorkspace;
                return fws.OpenFeatureClass(name);
                return null;

        private IPolygon GetExtentPolygon(IMap map)
            // A polygon is returned since the dataframe might be rotated
            var grphCont = ArcMap.Document.PageLayout as IGraphicsContainer;
            var mapFrame = grphCont.FindFrame(map) as IMapFrame;
            var av = map as IActiveView;
            var extent = mapFrame.MapBounds.Envelope;
            ISegmentCollection sc = new PolygonClass() as ISegmentCollection;

            var center = ((IArea)extent).Centroid;
            var angle = -(av.ScreenDisplay.DisplayTransformation.Rotation / 180.0 * Math.PI);
            ((ITransform2D)sc).Rotate(center, angle);
            return (IPolygon)sc;                        

When you create a new add-in project with Visual Studio, you should see some options like this. I'm not sure if it works with Visual Studio Express, or whether the ArcObjects SDK needs to be installed.

enter image description here

  • Thanks Kirk, this will be my first attempt using the new ArcGIS Add-Ins Wizard. First question, it says "1. Start Visual Studio" Where is Visual Studio? a download? I am a programming dunce so please explain gently.
    – sirgeo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 19:04
  • I've never used it, but you should be able to download the free ("Express") version of Visual Studio here. This link says "... due to limitations in the Express versions of Visual Studio, not all features of the framework are supported in the Express editions." They don't say which features though. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 19:10
  • okay, i downloaded the 700mb VS Express and now it is installing 3.4gb of stuff... what else is ArcGIS Add-Ins Wizard going to require?
    – sirgeo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:00
  • I'm not certain, but you might need to install the "ArcObjects SDK for the Microsoft framework" too. I have it installed on my machine. Have never tried to create an Add-in without it though. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:21
  • well i got to step 2 "Click File, select New, and click Project. The New Project dialog box opens." but step 3 "Under Project types, expand the Visual Basic or Visual C# project node, expand the ArcGIS node, and click Desktop Add-Ins." makes no sense... screen shot here: i.imgur.com/jHuJ6.png
    – sirgeo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:40

Here is a basic python script to create a polygon from the dataframe extent. Adjust the variable to suit your needs. If you just want a simple extent polygon, you can get rid of 'feat', 'scale', and 'Page'. ('Page' will only work if you are using data driven pages).

doc = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("current")
df = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(doc)[0] #First Dataframe
extent = df.extent
fc = arcpy.GetParameterAsText(0)
feat = arcpy.GetParameterAsText(1)
scale = arcpy.GetParameterAsText(2)
Page = doc.dataDrivenPages.currentPageID

# Create Extent Polygon
array = arcpy.Array()
polygon = arcpy.Polygon(array)
cursor = arcpy.da.InsertCursor(fc,["SHAPE@","Page","Feature","Scale"])
cursor.insertRow([polygon, Page, feat, scale])
del cursor

You may use the Map Extent to Polygon tool:

Creates a polygon feature from the current map extent. In layout the extent will be of the map data frame, in data view it the resulting extent will be of the application window extent. Data frame rotation is not supported.

#simple python script
import arcpy

mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("path to mxd")
data_frames = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(mxd)
df = data_frames[0]
arcpy.CopyFeatures_management([df.extent.polygon], r"path to file.shp")
  • Welcome to GIS SE! As a new user please take the tour. Thank you for answering this question - could you please edit your answer to add some information about what it does and how to use it?
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:29

This Create Data Frame polygon tool works in ArcGIS Desktop 10.3

Load the add-in, then customize a tool bar (or create a new one) and add it.


If you only need to do it once, you can find the extents in the Data Frame properties window. Then you can create a new shapefile, add a new feature, right-click and choose to manually enter the coordinates corresponding to the corners.

Otherwise go with the script from @artwork21.


I see this NOAA portal with a program.
Script - extents to shapefile
I know I have seen that somewhere. Still looking.
Here are a couple of ddp tools on the resources center.

  • i used to use that one in 9.3 For some reason it does not work in 10
    – sirgeo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 16:13

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