Does anyone know why in ESRI help website (1, 2), it states that the field length if not specified will default to 255. However when I manually create a shapefile the max character is only 254. Why is there this difference of 1 character?

  • Perhaps you should consider that shapefile hasn't been the default data format since ArcView days, so it's quite possible that the default geodatabase field width doesn't really have any bearing on shapefile fields.
    – Vince
    Jan 20 at 4:13

The maximum length of a text field in a shapefile is 254 due to the underlying dBASE format limitations.

From ESRI - "Geoprocessing considerations for shapefile output ":

Attribute limitations

Geodatabase data type dBASE field type dBASE field width (number of characters)
Text Character 254

From dBASE:

DBASE Limits

Description Limit
Size of character fields 254

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