I have a feature class with a string field that I want to update the length from 10 to 25.

Is there a way or a tool to update this property without having to create a new field and using field calculator to move over the records from old to new field?

This script below does what I want, the only thing is it pushes the updated field to the end of the table (not keeping the original field order).


Another option that seemed promissing is to use the Feature Class to Feature Class tool (access this tool by right clicking a layer in ArcCatolog and selecting Export>to Geodatabase single option) . It does create a new layer, however you can update field names and property information. It also appears that you can change the field order using the "Move Input Field Up/Down" arrows, but they seem to not work.

There has to be a solution to just edit field properties without having to create a new field.

  • Is this about a specific data source? For Shapefiles?
    – underdark
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 13:17
  • @underdark, The feature class is within a geodatabase.
    – artwork21
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 13:23
  • Not that it helps you any right now, but by judging from the comments on this ArcGIS Idea, they are considering implementing this in "the future". Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:59
  • XTools contains the tool "Table Restructure" that does all the heavy lifting in changing the characteristics of the field, but unfortunately, it is not one of the free tools that comes with the extension.
    – kenbuja
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


As far as I am aware there is currently no way to make schema edits in a geodatabase without either dropping and adding fields, or deleting and reloading feature classes/tables. The latter is what I recommend in order to maintain field order.

What I normally do is:

  1. Make a backup of the original feature class
  2. Export the original feature class's schema to an XML file
  3. Modify the schema in a text editor or ArcGIS Diagrammer 10.0, 10.1 or 10.2.
  4. Delete the original feature class
  5. Import the schema back into the geodatabase
  6. Use the Append tool, Simple Data Loader or Object Loader to load the contents of the backup feature class into the newly imported feature class. See the "About loading data into existing feature classes and tables" help topic for more information.

At ArcGIS 10.1 and up there are geoprocessing tools to handle the XML import/export but at 10.0 and earlier you either have to use ArcObjects or do it manually. For an ArcObjects example see: Export XML Workspace Document

  • What xml export do I do, workspace doc or recordset doc?
    – artwork21
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 16:21
  • 1
    Workspace, and the schema only option (not data) if you are following the steps above.
    – blah238
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 16:39
  • Ok so I made my updates saved out the xml in Diagrammer as workspace doc and when I attempt to load the schema back into the feature class it only gives me an option to load recordset doc not workspace? And Diagrammer only publishes out to a workspace doc. How do you work around this?
    – artwork21
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 16:55
  • 1
    Right click the geodatabase/database connection and do Import -> XML Workspace Document.
    – blah238
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 17:24
  • 1
    This procedure worked perfectly! To load your data back into the new schema once you've followed the steps above, use the Simple Data Loader wizard
    – Elliott
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 17:58

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