What is the arcgis equivalent to the Arcinfo Workstation CLEAN command? Or perhaps better rephrased as, how does one clean topology without installing arcinfo workstation? Assume an arcinfo license level is present, just not the Arc: command line environment.

Update: A key part of the question is "without installing arcinfo workstation". I blame the confusion on ESRI's decision to use the word "ArcInfo" for two distinct things, and then decouple them. In common usage ArcInfo can refer to a) arcinfo workstation, and b) arcinfo license level. You can't have workstation without an arcinfo license, but you can, and increasingly more and more people do, have an arcinfo license without workstation present -- which means the answers suggesting geoprocessing clean tool can't be used.

And Kirk is right, this question can also be thought of as "What is the modern equivalent to a polygon coverage (and how do you clean it)?"

  • are you working with coverages? – Kirk Kuykendall Nov 29 '10 at 20:15
  • No specific data store type. This a question more about general principles than a current pressing project. – matt wilkie Nov 29 '10 at 21:17
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    I'd say there are two parts to this question: What is modern equivalent to a polygon coverage? Most would say an ESRI topology class. What tools are missing for topology classes that were available for coverages? REGIONPOLYCOUNT comes to mind. Not sure but I think CLEAN would be handled by ITopology.ValidateTopology (I forget the way this is exposed in the UI). – Kirk Kuykendall Nov 29 '10 at 23:30
  • @kirk it seems most if not all of the the Region data model is missing from current offerings. Thanks for the better question phrasing. – matt wilkie Nov 30 '10 at 1:06
  • I haven't seen anything here that says it will automatically flatten polygons as in clean/build (sorry if I missed it). The only thing I know is to add topology then validate with the user having to click on each violation one-by-one. I overlay HUGE datasets with other datasets for modeling purposes. If I have overlapping polygons I will be double-accounting for irrigated lands. There is no way I can click on each polygon that has an overlap. Is there an automated way to get rid of all overlapping polygons? – Jen Dec 18 '17 at 16:27

Clean is a bunch of different things, there isn't 1 thing in the arcgis desktop / geodatabase feature class model that does all those things... but all of those bits of functionality are covered.

-if you want clean's "create polys from spagettli line work", you're looking for gp's "Data Management Tools\Features\Feature To Polygon" tool . This tool takes lines or polys and generates polygons from all closed areas.

-if you want clean's snap/cluster coincident vertices/lines together, use "Data Management Tools\Feature Class\Integrate", or you can go the create a topology and call validate on it route (it does the same thing). What this does is crack/cluster coincident lines and points.

-if you want clean's "make me feel better about the quality of my data" you run integrate AND gp's "Data Management Tools\Features\Check Geometry", which checks for polys being closed, segments being too short, polys self intersecting, etc, etc, etc.

none of the above tools require workstation. all of the above work with gdb fcs & shpfiles.

edit: reworded question: "What is the modern equivalent to a polygon coverage (and how do you clean it)?"
reworded answer: with the old cov data model you created lines (and labels) and BUILD/CLEAN'd polys from it. With the new gdb/shpfile data model you just create polygons. You don't need to BUILD/CLEAN them from other things (lines/points) you just have polys to start.

As far as "what about regions"... actually the simple feature model polygons fulfills the roles of both the poly & region data models in coverages. Cov polys were limited by strict rules (no overlap, no disconnected areas) which is why regions were created. GDB polygons are flexible, they can have many parts, overlap within a feature class, etc... then you can create a topology to add the spatial rules you desire.

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    Nice comprehensive answer, thanks. :) I disagree about all parts of regions being represented in the current GDB data model though: one missing and missed feature is the ability to re-use a single geometry set in multiple "layers". By defining topologies you can bolt them back together, but it's not as seamless as before and (the part I really dislike) more user-side work to create. I'm glad not to suffer the limitations of coverages, but some good things were left behind. – matt wilkie Nov 30 '10 at 12:51
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    For an example of a situation where the region model remains superior to current topology and line/polygon data models see How to hide “internal” polygon boundaries? – matt wilkie Mar 24 '16 at 15:39

The answers on this thread were all correct at the time (2010) but in the meanwhile Esri added the concept of geodatabase topology.

While not a one-to-one match, a geodatabase topology is arguably "the modern equivalent to ArcInfo CLEAN", since the geodatabase's topological rules replace the deprecated coverage rules.

The advantages of a geodatabase topology (when compared to coverages) include:

  • only the applicable rules need to be applied (eg, overlapping polygons are OK unless you specify otherwise)
  • rules can apply between featureclasses (not just within a single coverage)
  • rules can apply between multiple geometry types (eg, a point must fall on the end-point of a line)
  • coincident editing between featureclasses is possible (eg, when adjusting a road line, also adjust the adjacent national park polygon)
  • errors in the topology are not fatal (as with a broken coverage) but appear in a list for later fixing
  • some automated fixes exist for common topological errors

Strictly speaking a geodatabase topology isn't exactly the same as CLEAN, but is the modern strategy for maintaining a topologically-sound database, which was the purpose of CLEAN.


There's no Clean method on IFeatureConstruction, but a lot of the other methods do similar things.


CLEAN & BUILD - This still exists in ArcCatalog with Arc Coverages - right click properties and clean and build are present. http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//001400000018000000.htm

For Geodatabase - validate with topology will work.


  • the clean & build part is wrong, it still uses workstation in the background. The validate topology tool looks like the right beast though. – matt wilkie Nov 29 '10 at 21:14
  • Will we see what happens at 10.1 when workstation is deprecated. Yes still uses workstation but is accessible via ArcCat. – Mapperz Nov 29 '10 at 22:17
  • A key part of the question is "without installing arcinfo workstation". I blame the confusion on ESRI's decision to use the term "ArcInfo" for two very distinct things, and then decouple them. Arcinfo can refer to a) arcinfo workstation, and b) arcinfo license level. You can't have (a) without (b), but you can, and increasingly more and more people do, have (b) without (a). – matt wilkie Nov 30 '10 at 0:44
  • Also the 'regions' requires WORKSTATION: help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//… - yes Workstation ArcINFO (ArcEDIT, ArcPLOT) and ArcInfo are different beasts. Still use AML's though.... – Mapperz Nov 30 '10 at 15:52

These are the next generation tools from ArcGIS that create polygons from lines, which is what ArcInfo Clean accomplishes. The lines do not need to be closed rings.

ArcToolBox, Feature to Polygon - You can input lines or polygons to produce polygons. The lines can overlap each other. There is a "Label features" option for the attributes. Coverages use a label point to define each polygon attribute.

The ArcMap topology toolbar has a few useful tools too, Planarize (split lines) and Construct Features (construct polygons). This works with shapefiles, geodatabase, others. A tolerance is required just like ArcInfo clean.

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