A feature class is a collection of geographic features that share the same geometry type (such as point, line, or polygon) and the same attribute fields for a common area. Streets, well points, parcels, soil types, and census tracts are examples of feature classes.
In geodatabases, related feature classes are often grouped together in a feature dataset. If you want to use topology to manage how features share geometry, build a geometric network for a utility layer, build a network dataset for routing and optimization, or build a terrain (a TIN data structure), you need to organize your feature classes in a feature dataset.
There are four primary ways to create a new feature class in your geodatabase or database:
- Using ArcCatalog or the Catalog window
- Using the Create Feature Class geoprocessing tool
- Saving the contents of a map layer in ArcMap
- Converting an external data source into a geodatabase feature class (for example, converting a shapefile or CAD file)
You create empty feature classes in the Catalog tree. New feature classes can be created as stand-alone feature classes or as part of a feature dataset in a geodatabase. They can also be contained within the following structures: shapefile, coverage, CAD, SDC, and VPF.
The following topic, Defining feature class properties, details the properties and options available when creating a new feature class.
If you feel you are comfortable with feature classes and their properties, skip directly to How to create feature classes.
Once you've created a feature class and populated it with features, you might be able to speed up attribute queries by creating attribute indexes. See Creating attribute indexes for more information.