What is the best method to convert a singlepart shapefile (i.e. one record that contains several non-connected polygons) into a mutlipart shapefile?

For clarification the original question asked how to produce a singlepart featureclass with unique IDs for each spatially non-connected polygons.

The explode method in Advanced Editing or Multipart to Singlepart would give this result.

  • 1
    What software are you using?
    – Aaron
    Sep 3, 2012 at 19:57
  • ArcGIS 10.0/Quantum GIS/GRASS
    – GeoPy
    Sep 3, 2012 at 20:25
  • 2
    It sounds like you may be confusing singlepart and multipart. Multipart is when you have several polygons that share the same attributes and are stored as one feature/one record in the attribute table. Singlepart is when each polygon has it's own record in the attribute table, even if some of the attributes are identical to other polygons.
    – user3461
    Sep 4, 2012 at 1:58

3 Answers 3


If you would like to convert a polygon feature class with a single record to a polygon feature class with a record for each polygon, use Multipart to singlepart (Data Management) aka "explode".

To convert single-part polygons to multi-part polygons, you can use the dissolve tool in ArcGIS. Make sure to dissolve by OBJECTID and select "Create multipart features". ArcGIS help also has a section on creating a multipart feature.

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  • Unfortunately, dissolve is not the tool that I am looking for as this creates dissolves features into multipart features. I have nothing to dissolve and thus it simply creates a copy of the input file...
    – GeoPy
    Sep 3, 2012 at 20:04
  • Instead of using the objectid field which is unique to each polygon you should be using a field that groups the polygons into the single multipart.
    – Hornbydd
    Sep 3, 2012 at 21:20
  • There are no other attributes besides shape area and shape length... I was hoping that there was someway to make a multipart feature based on spatial extent of the polygons.
    – GeoPy
    Sep 3, 2012 at 21:41
  • See my edited answer on how to use Arcgis to do what (I think) you need. Sep 3, 2012 at 23:57
  • Thanks the Multipart to singlepart did the trick and I must appologize for the ambiguity of my original question.
    – GeoPy
    Sep 4, 2012 at 7:51

Using QGIS, you can use "SingleParts to multipleparts" tool.

Vector > Geometry Tools > Singleparts to Multiplepart

Has you will notice, you can do the opposite in the same menu.

Since you have access to ArcGIS you can enter edit mode, select your feature and in the advanced editing toolbar use the explode tool.

  • I am not that familiar with Quantum GIS but when I use the singleparts to multiparts function I receive the error "At Least two features must contain the same attribute value. Please choose another field" I only have one feature in my featureclass...
    – GeoPy
    Sep 3, 2012 at 20:08
  • I had no problem using the single part to multipart tool with a single feature file. Sep 4, 2012 at 14:49

To convert singlepart polygons with one record to multipart polygons, Advanced Editing in ArcGIS can be used. Start Editing session, activate the Advanced Editing and then use Explode Multipart Feature (Note: all the polygons need to be selected).

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