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I try to create buffers of 5m on the selected points only (in ArcGIS 10.3):

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The problem is that the buffer tool create buffers for all the features, why is that?

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It is important to keep in mind the difference between data sources and layers. Layers are constructed upon data sources, but they have a Query Definition property which defines the maximum rows available, and a Selection Set which defines which features are highlighted.

When you start the Buffer dialog, there are TWO pickers available: Buffer dialog

The left picklist chooses among layers: layer picklist

While the folder button chooses among data sources: data explorer

(You can also "Drag-n-drop" data sources from the Catalog window.)

The difference in behavior you are seeing is based on whether you have a layer or a data source in the Input Features picker:

  • If the input is a layer, then it uses the current selection environment within the query definition, and bufferes the resulting rows.
  • If the input is a data source, it uses all the features (as if no query definition were defined, and no selection made)

For example, if I open the attribute table of the "cities" layer and query all cities with "Lake" in their name:

Select by Attributes

And buffer based on the "cities" layer: Layer buffer

Then the resulting buffer only contains buffers around the selected features: buffered layer

However, if I buffer the data source: Source buffer

Then I get what I asked for (though maybe not what was intended): buffered source

There are times when it becomes necessary to create a temporary feature class by exporting the selected set to a new feature class, but for the most part, layers have rendered that requirement obsolete (you just need to choose the right Input Features).

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ArcMap usually works correctly but sometimes not. Try restarting software and/or computer.

  • If those won't help try selecting desired features again.
  • Go to Table of Contents.
  • Right mouse click on desired point layer. Selection -> Create Layer From Selected Features.
  • A new layer is created and appearing in Table of Contents.
  • Try buffering with new temporary selection layer.
  • 2
    Restarting the software and/or computer should not be the first step in diagnosing a problem in ArcMap. – Vince Jan 3 '18 at 13:58

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