How would you go about searching the contents of features, the values in the attribute columns, in an Esri geodatabase? (preference for file-gdb, but SDE would be useful too.)

I can envisage workflow where one dumps the whole gdb using Export XML Workspace and searches the result for strings (yuk!), or loops through all the tables in a python version of Select by Attributes. While both of these would work, they are not appealing.

The goal is to be able to efficiently answer a question like: which of these 50 feature classes has something to do with "Keno"?

  • I think the Features tab of the Find tool will do this if you add every feature class in the File Geodatabase to a map.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 19:19
  • @PolyGeo, hah! chalk one up for icon habituation blindness. I don't use that part of that toolbar, so it became background noise, and when I was looking for search tools, I'm reading the menus, and icons can't be read of course. For those with a reading bias similar to mine, it's the binoculars on the Tools toolbar. Leaving the Q open in order to give a chance for other possible choices (Find tool works but is terribly slow). Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 19:41
  • I'd also point out that "Full text search", nowadays, is about doing semantic searches. This means that synonyms and the Levenshtein distance should be taken into account for the search... not just case-insensitive string matching. Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


The Features tab of the Find tool will do this if you add every feature class in the File Geodatabase to a map.

For example, if you are trying to find Afghanistan on a map of the world, you can enter Afghanistan or just Afgh in the Find tool, and you'll get a list of the features from layers in your map that contain that search string in any of their attributes.

  • I've accepted this answer as correct, because it works and got me to the end of my quest that day. However I'd like to note there is still room for someone to add a scriptable / programmable answer as well, as that would be very useful too. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 20:32
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    @MattWilkie If anyone wants to add an ArcGIS Idea to have the Search window (or equivalent) enhanced to support this type of search in ArcGIS Pro then I would vote for that too. We just need the Product Category for ArcGIS Pro added first:-)
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 21:26

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