I've had version 10 for a few months but it wasn't until today that I really tested the 3D Analyst extension. (Other then visualizing data)

I already noticed a lot of changes; a number of tools have been re-named or re-worked all together which also impacts my usual work-flow.

I will not list all the details but the question is whether the 'TIN format' has been superseded by the improved 'Terrain Dataset'? Should I be using terrain datasets now even for simple surfaces?

Example: Hardclip and Softclip functions do now work in version 10 (as far as I can tell) and I noticed that defining the edges of a TIN dataset should be accomplished by using the 'Deliniate TIN Data Area' tool instead. However, to do this Average Point Spacing is required. Strangely this needs to be obtained from the input XYZ file not from the TIN itself. Alternatively, knowledge of the data is needed to take some manual measurements and to estimate the average spacing. This information is also needed to create a Terrain Dataset so it might be easier to just migrate to Terrain Datasets all together. But, di functions such as 'Extrude Between' support Terrain Datasets? TIN not processed with 'Delineate TIN Data Area' yields very strange contour results so it looks like things have to be done this way.

2 Answers 2


It has not. Only some geoprocessing is supported with Terrain Datasets. TIN should be used for with TIN Editing tools and most geo-processing


I still havent gotten on Arc10 yet - but it surprises me if this is true,the terrain dataset is much better than tin , yes. But you still will rely on the TIN format. Especially the getTIN method that you can run based on the tiling scheme for your terrain dataset.

The average point spacing has a bearing on how ESRI decides the tiling scheme and what I've found is that if you take a small average point spacing you tend to make tiles inefficiently small, if its too large your tiles include too many points and the TINs from the tile hit the node limit or 750mb TIN size limitations.

Average point spacing estimates can come from running stats on your point cloud or manually taking a representative sample and measuring, although good surveyors, LiDAR vendors should include this in the metadata.

  • Yes up until v 9.3 I used TIN extensively because Terrain Datasets were only suitable for visualization and cartography. I use TIN for 3D modeling and geo-processing more so then visualization. It seems that in version 10 you are able to do more with Terrain Datasets but still not all that you can do with TIN. I was eventually able to use hardclip / softclip but not until I restarted ArcMap, a workaround that I also sometimes used with legacy versions. Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 13:06
  • Welcome, @ved! It's nice to see your reply. I hope to see more from you over time.
    – whuber
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 4:44

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