I am trying to get the string associated with a spatial reference to print into an xml using arcpy and xml.cElementTree. Using the snippet:

spatial_ref = arcpy.GetParameterAsText(3)
Prj = et.SubElement(spaceref, "Prj")
space = arcpy.SpatialReference(spatial_ref)
Prj.text = arcpy.SpatialReference.exportToString(space)

Using essentially the same method, I am able to get the string to print with IDLE by pointing directly to a projection (.prj) file, e.g.:

u"GEOGCS['GCS_WGS_1984',DATUM['D_WGS_1984',SPHEROID['WGS_1984',6378137.0,298.257223563]],PRIMEM['Greenwich',0.0],UNIT['Degree',0.0174532925199433]];-400 -400 1000000000;-100000 10000;-100000 10000;8.98315284119522E-09;0.001;0.001;IsHighPrecision"

but Arc returns this error when I try to run my script:

Traceback (most recent call last): File "\DEFOE\Proc Storage\ORTHO\Arc Custom Tools\ImportUltracam.py", line 99, in space = arcpy.SpatialReference(spatial_ref) File "c:\program files (x86)\arcgis\desktop10.2\arcpy\arcpy\arcobjects\mixins.py", line 927, in init self._arc_object.createFromFile(item) RuntimeError: ERROR 999999: Error executing function.

Is there a way to input a spatial reference with Arc and return the string to be printed into the xml?

Update Playing with IDLE, I tried with an EPSG code and was able to do exactly what I wanted:

>>> epsg = arcpy.SpatialReference(32618)
>>> print epsg
<geoprocessing spatial reference object object at 0x000000000C7D0710>
>>> arcpy.SpatialReference.exportToString(epsg)
u"PROJCS['WGS_1984_UTM_Zone_18N',GEOGCS['GCS_WGS_1984',DATUM['D_WGS_1984',SPHEROID['WGS_1984',6378137.0,298.257223563]],PRIMEM['Greenwich',0.0],UNIT['Degree',0.0174532925199433]],PROJECTION['Transverse_Mercator'],PARAMETER['False_Easting',500000.0],PARAMETER['False_Northing',0.0],PARAMETER['Central_Meridian',-75.0],PARAMETER['Scale_Factor',0.9996],PARAMETER['Latitude_Of_Origin',0.0],UNIT['Meter',1.0]];-5120900 -9998100 10000;-100000 10000;-100000 10000;0.001;0.001;0.001;IsHighPrecision"

So I tried with an EPSG code in the script:

spatial_ref = "32618"
Prj = et.SubElement(spaceref, "Prj")
space = arcpy.SpatialReference(spatial_ref)
Prj.text = arcpy.SpatialReference.exportToString(space)

And I get the same error.

  • Here's a wild stab: Have you tried the getOutput method on your spatial reference string? help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//… ; resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#//… ; gis.stackexchange.com/questions/55246/… Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 15:03
  • 1
    I'm not sure calling a spatial reference is considered a tool with an output value. I got the error: AttributeError: 'SpatialReference' object has no attribute 'getOutput'
    – Wes
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 15:12
  • I wouldn't expect assigning a unicode string to an etree object to cause problems, but have you tried decoding to an ascii string? Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 15:47
  • 1
    I noticed that your EPSG code example is passing an integer in the IDLE repl but you're using a string in the actual script. Looking at the documentation for arcpy.SpatialReference, it looks like it expects an integer.
    – Evicatos
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 0:03
  • @Wes Done! I'm glad I could help.
    – Evicatos
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


I couldn't find anything that would indicate why the file path version isn't working but I noticed that the EPSG code in your second script is being created/passed as a string whereas the documentation seems to expect an integer.

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