I am using the ArcGIS Add XY Coordinates tool to populate XYZ values in a shapefile after converting .las data to .shp using LAS to Multipoint tool.

Does the Add XY Coordinates tool get the location info from the LAS dataset OR is it getting it from the data frame somehow?

I need to make sure I am getting the actual data from the LAS files because, I will eventually convert the shapefiles dbf to a .pts file to do some other calcs outside of ArcGIS.

Also, is there a better way of getting XYZ from LAS in ArcGIS?


There is an LAS to Multipoint tool to import .las files in to ArcMap.

Add XY is getting the XY/Z values from your file that you feed into it.

From Adding x,y coordinate data as a layer:

In addition to data sources, such as a shapefile, you can add tabular data that contains geographic locations in the form of x,y coordinates to your map. If the table also contains z-coordinates, such as elevation values, you can add tabular data as 3D content into your globe or scene.

If you open your .las file in a text editor, you will see the many x, y & z values for your point cloud. This is what is being read using the Add XY tool.

  • I have tried opening the .las files in notepad and notepad++ but both applications display a garbled mess of characters. Is there something else I should be doing to display them in a text editor? – Tom Jan 4 '17 at 22:05

The 'Add XY Coordinates' tool is generally meant for adding coordinate fields to data tables already in arcmap. If you've already converted your .LAS to a .SHP then you should be able to add that to your data frame as-is without any special import procedure. It will already have a SHAPE column which has the XY info in it. If you want to expose the X & Y coordinates explicitly in your table (ie, add new columns) then this is the tool for you. Alternatively there is the 'Add XY Data' tool which does more what you're thinking; that is, add data from an existing table into a new layer by telling ArcMap which are the X & Y fields. However, it sounds like you've already done the conversion and are just looking to expose the XY data in ArcMap.

I can't speak to working with .LAS in ArcMap specifically but did dig up a few links for you:



  • 1
    I think you're confusing the Add XY Coordinates tool and the Add XY Data 'tool' (and it's confusing, I agree). The former adds fields to an attribute table and populates them with the data's coordinates. The Add XY Data tool takes a file like text or csv and creates a layer from the xy coordinate values. – mkennedy Jan 3 '17 at 18:29
  • Ah true enough ... both deal with tabular data though do they not? – giJess Jan 3 '17 at 18:32

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