I have a question regarding selections in ArcGIS for Desktop. Assumed I have one layer in ArcMap and I have selected two of five features.

Is it possible to get a list of all selected features by using Python?

It would be fine if there is a way to get one special (or all) attribute(s) of the selected features stored in a list that can be written into a txt file.

Is it possible to do this in ArcGIS for Desktop?


Any time you have a selection on a layer a cursor object will only return the selected rows.

for row in arcpy.SearchCursor("name_of_layer_with_selection"):
    print row.field1, row.field2
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    But the problem though is that if you get all the features returned you don't know if ALL or NONE were selected. – Matej Apr 21 '14 at 14:01
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    Does this also apply to selected features in feature class ? – Jio Sep 4 '15 at 18:22

the Describe function will also return a list. I am not sure if this is faster than the cursor method but I have fond this to be a useful tool. The resulting list is the object id's for the selection set.

import arcpy

aa = arcpy.Describe("someFC")
ss = aa.FIDset
tt = ss.split("; ")
Print tt

[u'1363', u'1364', u'1365', u'1367', u'1369', u'1370']
  • Good solution too! Sadly I am not able to set two times the green heel. This solution makes the script also independent from different ArcGIS Versions, because in ArcGIS 10.1 the cursors are called in a different way than in ArcGIs 10.0 (ArcGIS 10.1 arcpy.da.SearchCursor, ArcGIS 10.0 arcpy.SearchCursor...). – Sven Dec 31 '12 at 20:38
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    Both cursor types are available at 10.1. You don't have to use the new arcpy.da cursors. – blah238 Dec 31 '12 at 20:53
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    This answer gives a way to check for empty selection, which would prevent inadvertently calling a tool on an entire feature class when in fact it was zero features that happened to fulfill your selection criteria. – nickbrick Oct 18 '17 at 16:28
  • Great tip @Sam Flarity, this is a nice (faster?) alternative to using arcpy.SearchCursor or arcpy.da.SearchCursor – grego Jun 14 '18 at 0:15

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