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I have a large number of shapefiles (>500) representing species' ranges for North America. I am wondering how I could open them all automatically, without having to open them one at a time in ArcGIS? The shapefiles are nested in a folder for each species, and then in a folder for groups of species by family.

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    this answer gis.stackexchange.com/questions/4882/… followed by this answer gis.stackexchange.com/questions/130950/… should get you started in the right direction. – mr.adam Apr 10 '15 at 15:36
  • Are you interested in adding the files to the current dataframe or access the files programmatically for some operation like "merge"? – Aaron Apr 10 '15 at 17:00
  • yes, I would like to be able to merge the files – macdonaw Apr 13 '15 at 18:52
  • also, I am not familiar with Python. Is there some way to do this in ArcGIS using one of the tools? – macdonaw Apr 13 '15 at 19:06
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If all of the data is the same type like polygon, you can try to use arctoolbox to merge them.

ArcToolbox -> Data Management toolbox -> General toolset -> Merge

There are two method to do merge all of your data including python and arctoolbox.

http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/Merge/001700000055000000/

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