I have created a multipoint shapefile file and added lat/long data for a few hundred points (by copying and pasting columns of data from excel). The new shapefile is the same coordinate system as my data frame and all the other shapefiles.

How do I make these points display? My attribute table has everything it needs, why is nothing happening?

I tried importing my data from an Excel table but it kept freezing my computer so I'm trying a different method. I'm using ArcGIS 10.2.

  • Just adding the xy data to the attribute table doesn't do anything. It just means you have the numbers in the table. There are several methods for adding xy data to ArcMap, I would look up those options and try them. I always have best luck by exporting from excel to a text file or csv or something.
    – Tangnar
    Jul 16, 2015 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


Copying and pasting into a shapefile table isn't enough for ArcGIS to read the geometry.

Try to right-click the shapefile you created and go to "Display XY data" and specify the correct fields for your coordinates as well as the coordinate system. If you don't have that option, try this:

  1. Do a "Save As" on the Excel file and make it a .csv. In ArcCatalog (and you have to do this in ArcCatalog for some reason), drag the .csv into ArcMap.
  2. When it's in there, right click the file and go to "Display XY data..." Here, you'll be able to specify which is the X field, the Y field and, optionally, the Z field.
  3. Then, under "Coordinate System of Input Coordinates" go to "Edit..." and select the correct coordinate system. It will then display a shapefile-like file in the Table of Contents. Click "OK"
  4. Right click this point file and go to "Data > Export Data." Now you can export it as a proper shapefile.
  • Thanks! That's interesting, I had previously tried saving my excel file as a .csv and then added it using the "Add Data" tool and that had caused ArcMap to shut down completely. Yet dragging it in from ArcCatalog worked fine.
    – vt32
    Jul 16, 2015 at 19:29
  • Yeah I don't know why it does that, but it's been a frustrating bug for years.
    – Wes
    Jul 16, 2015 at 19:32
  • ArcMap can also handle .xls / .xlsx files, draged from either ArcCatalog or opened using the Add Data menu. Process them as per Wes' answer once opened in ArcMap
    – Adam
    Jul 17, 2015 at 4:12

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