I'm wondering if there is any method to preserve the original field names in ArcGIS when I join csv. tables to a Shapefile.

I ask, because sometimes I join tables with 10, 20 or even more columns and when exporting the joined data ArcGIS always renames them according to the name of the original table and the order of the column (e.g. table_xy_1,table_xy_2, etc.).

Since there is no easy way to rename the fields in the attribute table permanently (i.e. you have to create a new column and copy the old on into this new column AND delete the old column) this creates a bunch of work (despite from the fact that you have to orientate yourself in this mess of field names).

  • 1
    Could you put in a screenshot of what is happening? When I add a csv, it takes the first line as the field names and displays them when you open the table. What it sounds like is you either don't have valid names in your csv or you have duplicates field names between the original and the join table. Regardless, a graphic would help more clearly illustrate your problem. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:30
  • hey. this problem only occurs when you export the data to a new shapefile. Within the old one it is still okay. I edited the question so that it is fully understandable
    – Dspanes
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 10:31
  • Note that you can now use Alter Fields to "Rename fields and field aliases" in any geodatabase feature class or table.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 0:54

3 Answers 3


I think what you might be trying to do is NOT use "fully qualified table names".

To do so, in Environment Settings -> General Setting, uncheck "Maintain fully qualified name".

Take a look at this Esri support forum and this online help article.

Note this will work when joining DBF files but not when joining CSVs. (As a work-around you can convert CSVs to DBF and then join.)

  • thanks for your advive Ryan. i just checked the recommended information and in theory this should solve my problem yes. So I uncheked this option in ArcGIS and also saved this option uncheckd as default. But for some reason when I export my data it just won't work. ArcGIS still exports the data as: tableName.fieldName. In my case the output is something like this Rural_I_1, Rural_I_2, Rural_I_3 and so on...This may be a bug since I'm using ArcGIS 10.1...I dont know. A Workaround is to give the table a very short name like "1" so the outpust is "1_csv_su" and I know that su stands for sugercane
    – Dspanes
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 10:54
  • I think it al comes down to the basic problems of working with the shapefile format in ArcGIS. Some of this limitations envolve for example the 10 number limits for fieldnames (see gis.stackexchange.com/questions/15784/…) or the inability to export the field aliases (ideas.arcgis.com/ideaView?id=087300000008DwdAAE). It brings me down to the conclusion that it may better to work on tables outside of ArcGIS.
    – Dspanes
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 11:07
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    @Johannes, Before working on your data outside of ArcGIS, why not try converting your data to a more modern database format that ArcGIS supports like a file geodatabsae, or even a personal geodatabase. At least then you would know that it is a shapefile limitation, and not an Arc limitation/Issue/Bug. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 15:57

I solved this problem for a particular case. I had joined a .csv file to a .shp file and exported the data. I was getting the Rural_I_1 problem described above ... it was appending the file name of the .csv to the field names.

My work around was to first export the .csv file as a .dbf table (from arcgis). Then do the join on the .dbf rather than the .csv. When you export the data now, you will just get the original field names, without the file name appended.


Assuming you have coordinate (lat, long) in the attribute table (if not create them using calculate geometry)...

  • Open the attribute table of the shapefile which had a csv joined to it, and copy all the records (select all and right click on the little black arrow in the first column, first row (under the field names top left corner).
  • Open an excel book, paste the results.
  • Save as a new .csv.
  • Import this csv to ArcMap and the field names will be correct

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