1

I understand how to create features with existing templates, but sometimes a map has no templates to begin with and no layers to use to create them; perhaps just a basemap.

Is there a way within ArcMap to do this, or must I create features in Catalog first?

2

In the ArcGIS for Desktop documentation the About feature templates page says (with my bolding):

Creating features is accomplished through the use of feature templates. Feature templates define all the information required to create a feature: the layer where a feature will be stored, the attributes a feature is created with, and the default tool used to create that feature.

It is not possible to create a feature template until there is a layer in the map, and to create a layer it needs to have a data source.

Consequently, you need to first create a feature class in the Catalog window (or via the Create Feature Class tool), then add it to your map so that there is a layer with it as the source. A feature template will then be automatically created if that layer is turned on when you start editing.

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