I am trying to do a simple measure of the length of seperate sides of a polygon depending on which other polygons it borders (in the image: the dark blue borders of the green polygon to the white area and the red border to the light blue area).

measuring only specific borders

While I'd be keen to hear what tools would be useful for this exercise I have the problem that the polygons come from different sources and do not border exactly (gap) or overlap. I am thus trying to measure the length using the 'Measure' tool in ArcGIS 10.5. This works fine for straight lines but the snapping of the measure tool to curved lines (holding down CTRL) is fairly imprecise. Is there any method to trace outlines similar to the 'Trace' tool or which other method could I use?


One method would be to make a copy of your polygons into a file-geodatabase and then convert the polygons to lines using the Polygon to Line tool.

You could then use the Split Tool in the Editor toolbar to manually split the lines at the points that you want to measure from/to.

As your data is in a file-geodatabase, in the attribute table there will be an automatic Length field that will update when you use the split tool.



  1. Integrate to fix the gaps (backup your data before you do). Set cluster tolerance as small as possible: enter image description here

    Integrate is used to maintain the integrity of shared feature boundaries by making features coincident if they fall within the specified x,y tolerance. Features that fall within the specified x,y tolerance are considered identical or coincident.

  2. Intersect with output_type line:

Computes a geometric intersection of the input features. Features or portions of features which overlap in all layers and/or feature classes will be written to the output feature class.

In the output line feature class you will now have the length of the shared border: enter image description here

  • Thanks @BERA. Do you also happen to know a way to do this if the shared border is with a feature within the other polygon? The big layer contains many features (EEZ of countried bordering each other) and the protected area polygon borders several different EEZs (feature boundaries). – Kristina Dec 12 '17 at 14:27

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