First of all, I'm not a GIS professional, just a developer using SQL spatial tools. I am inserting data in to ArcGIS feature class to be modified by users within ArcGIS desktop. For most cases, there is an existing polygon that I can create from an existing ArcGIS layer as the starting point. The user then within ArcGIS desktop edits the polygon by modifying the vertices.

This all works well, with the exception of when there is not an existing polygon to use as a base. Initially I would insert a null as the shape into the feature class, but that caused issues in the application. Then I found the concept of POLYGON EMPTY and that worked well within the application. But my GIS friends are telling me that users can't modify this "empty" polygon. They say can't modify what doesn't exist.

This doesn't make sense to me, can someone validate I am being told truths.

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    Have you tried modifying the polygon yourself? NULL and Empty geometry do not show up on a map, therefore, it isn't really possible for an end user to move the vertices themselves. – MaryBeth Dec 30 '16 at 20:46
  • That's fair, i guess what I am looking for is the ability to create a polygon that will overwrite the empty polygon. – trouta Dec 30 '16 at 20:51
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    Ask the users to describe where they get stuck trying to modify the "empty" polygon so that you can describe that in detail to us. – PolyGeo Dec 30 '16 at 20:52
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    How about adding missing geometries as new features into a new feature class and join attributes with a common ID? – user30184 Dec 30 '16 at 22:30
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    ArcGIS doesn't make a large distinction between NULL and a Nil geometry. Vertex modification is certainly the wrong task for an UPDATE of an existing NULL or Nil. – Vince Dec 31 '16 at 0:47

"Replace Geometry" was the operation I was looking, the ERSI documentation states

You can also use the Replace Geometry tool to create valid geometry for a feature that currently has null geometry. For example, you might encounter this when geocoding a list of addresses and you have unmatched records in an attribute table without a corresponding location on the map. To use Replace Geometry this way, select one row at a time in the attribute table containing null geometry, then click the map to create the feature.


  • Click the Edit tool Edit Tool on the Editor toolbar.
  • Click the feature with the geometry you want to replace.
  • Click the Replace Geometry tool Replace Geometry on the Advanced Editing toolbar.


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