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I was wondering the difference is between Make Feature Layer (Data Management) and using an in_memory workspace?

To me, one can use either to do some steps in memory, instead of writing data to a location on disk or a network location, and expedite the process.

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We may get more technical distinctions offered as answers, and I welcome them, but the way I think about this distinction is:

A layer (unless written to a layer file or saved as part of a map document) is only stored in memory, but it is not stored in an in_memory workspace.

Remember that when you are in ArcMap, what you see in the Catalog window are spatial datasets (i.e. not much more than x,y coordinates, coordinate system and attributes), and that they only obtain a myriad of other properties to configure such as symbology, MapTips, hyperlinks, etc after you have added them as layers (which appear in the Table of Contents). This is the same distinction as above.

  • Thanks, I thought Feature Layer speeds up the process too...see here: (gis.stackexchange.com/questions/31699/…). – Arash Sep 22 '13 at 23:34
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    @Arash That Q&A describes a coding pattern which includes Make Feature Layer and speeds up processing, but it is what Make Feature Layer enables, rather than the tool itself, that leads to the performance gain. – PolyGeo Sep 22 '13 at 23:42
  • Just tripped over a "known limitation": in_memory feature classes don't have geometry attribute columns, so you'll need to add and calculate those manually if they're needed. gis.stackexchange.com/questions/162610/… – matt wilkie Sep 11 '15 at 18:07

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