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Topology rules

Release 9.2
Last modified August 17, 2007
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NOTE: You can create simple, temporary topological relationships between features in ArcView. Creating or editing geodatabase topology requires an ArcEditor or ArcInfo license.


There are many topology rules you can implement in your geodatabase, depending on the spatial relationships that are most important for your organization to maintain. You should carefully plan the spatial relationships you will enforce on your features. Some topology rules govern the relationships of features within a given feature class, while others govern the relationships between features in two different feature classes. Topology rules can also be defined between subtypes of features in one or another feature class. This could be used, for example, to require street features to be connected to other street features at both ends, except in the case of streets belonging to the cul-de-sac or dead-end subtypes.

Many topology rules can be imposed on features in a geodatabase. A well-designed geodatabase will have only those topology rules that define key spatial relationships needed by an organization.

View a poster illustrating topology rules in ArcGIS

Learn more about topology error fixes


Polygon rules


Topology rule Rule description Potential fixes Examples
Must Be Larger Than Cluster Tolerance Requires that a feature does not collapse during a validate process. This rule is mandatory for a topology, and applies to all line and polygon feature classes. In instances where this rule is violated, the original geometry is left unchanged. Delete
Polygon must be larger than cluster tolerance
Any polygon feature, such as the one in red, that would collapse when validating the topology is an error.
Must Not Overlap Requires that the interior of polygons in the feature class not overlap. The polygons can share edges or vertices. This rule is used when an area cannot belong to two or more polygons. It is useful for modeling administrative boundaries, such as ZIP Codes or voting districts, and mutually exclusive area classifications, such as land cover or landform type. Subtract, Merge, Create Feature
Must Not Overlap

Must Not Have Gaps This rule requires that there are no voids within a single polygon or between adjacent polygons. All polygons must form a continuous surface. An error will always exist on the perimeter of the surface. You can either ignore this error or mark it as an exception. Use this rule on data that must completely cover an area. For example, soil polygons cannot include gaps or form voids—they must cover an entire area. Create Feature Must Not Have Gaps

You can use Create Feature to create a new polygon in the void in the center.
You can also use Create Feature or mark the error on the outside boundary as an exception.

Must Not Overlap With Requires that the interior of polygons in one feature class must not overlap with the interior of polygons in another feature class. Polygons of the two feature classes can share edges or vertices or be completely disjointed. This rule is used when an area cannot belong to two separate feature classes. It is useful for combining two mutually exclusive systems of area classification, such as zoning and water body type, where areas defined within the zoning class cannot also be defined in the water body class and vice versa. Subtract, Merge
Must Not Overlap With

Must Be Covered By Feature Class Of Requires that a polygon in one feature class must share all of its area with polygons in another feature class. An area in the first feature class that is not covered by polygons from the other feature class is an error. This rule is used when an area of one type, such as a state, should be completely covered by areas of another type, such as counties. Subtract, Create Feature
Must Be Covered By Feature Class Of


Must Cover Each Other Requires that the polygons of one feature class must share all of their area with the polygons of another feature class. Polygons may share edges or vertices. Any area defined in either feature class that is not shared with the other is an error. This rule is used when two systems of classification are used for the same geographic area, and any given point defined in one system must also be defined in the other. One such case occurs with nested hierarchical datasets, such as census blocks and block groups or small watersheds and large drainage basins. The rule can also be applied to nonhierarchically related polygon feature classes, such as soil type and slope class. Subtract, Create Feature

Must Cover Each Other

Must Be Covered By Requires that polygons of one feature class must be contained within polygons of another feature class. Polygons may share edges or vertices. Any area defined in the contained feature class must be covered by an area in the covering feature class. This rule is used when area features of a given type must be located within features of another type. This rule is useful when modeling areas that are subsets of a larger surrounding area, such as management units within forests or blocks within block groups. Create Feature

Must Be Covered By

Boundary Must Be Covered By Requires that boundaries of polygon features must be covered by lines in another feature class. This rule is used when area features need to have line features that mark the boundaries of the areas. This is usually when the areas have one set of attributes and their boundaries have other attributes. For example, parcels might be stored in the geodatabase along with their boundaries. Each parcel might be defined by one or more line features that store information about their length or the date surveyed, and every parcel should exactly match its boundaries. Create Feature

Boundary Must Be Covered By

Area Boundary Must Be Covered By Boundary Of Requires that boundaries of polygon features in one feature class be covered by boundaries of polygon features in another feature class. This is useful when polygon features in one feature class, such as subdivisions, are composed of multiple polygons in another class, such as parcels, and the shared boundaries must be aligned. None

Area Boundary Must Be Covered By Boundary Of

Contains Point Requires that a polygon in one feature class contain at least one point from another feature class. Points must be within the polygon, not on the boundary. This is useful when every polygon should have at least one associated point, such as when parcels must have an address point. Create Feature Contains Point
The top polygon is an error because it does not contain a point.


Line rules



Topology rule Rule description Potential fixes Examples
Must Be Larger Than Cluster Tolerance Requires that a feature does not collapse during a validate process. This rule is mandatory for a topology, and applies to all line and polygon feature classes. In instances where this rule is violated, the original geometry is left unchanged. Delete
Line must be larger than cluster toleranceAny line feature, such as these lines in red, that would collapse when validating the topology is an error.
Must Not Overlap Requires that lines not overlap with lines in the same feature class. This rule is used where line segments should not be duplicated; for example, in a stream feature class. Lines can cross or intersect but cannot share segments. Subtract
Must Not Overlap

Must Not Intersect Requires that line features from the same feature class not cross or overlap each other. Lines can share endpoints. This rule is used for contour lines that should never cross each other or in cases where the intersection of lines should only occur at endpoints, such as street segments and intersections. Split, Subtract

Must Not Intersect

Must Not Have Dangles Requires that a line feature must touch lines from the same feature class at both endpoints. An endpoint that is not connected to another line is called a dangle. This rule is used when line features must form closed loops, such as when they are defining the boundaries of polygon features. It may also be used in cases where lines typically connect to other lines, as with streets. In this case, exceptions can be used where the rule is occasionally violated, as with cul-de-sac or dead end street segments. Extend, Trim, Snap

Must Not Have Dangles

Must Not Have Pseudonodes Requires that a line connect to at least two other lines at each endpoint. Lines that connect to one other line (or to themselves) are said to have pseudonodes. This rule is used where line features must form closed loops, such as when they define the boundaries of polygons or when line features logically must connect to two other line features at each end, as with segments in a stream network, with exceptions being marked for the originating ends of first-order streams. Merge to Largest, Merge

Must Not Have Pseudonodes

Must Not Intersect Or Touch Interior Requires that a line in one feature class must only touch other lines of the same feature class at endpoints. Any line segment in which features overlap or any intersection not at an endpoint is an error. This rule is useful where lines must only be connected at endpoints, such as in the case of lot lines, which must split (only connect to the endpoints of) back lot lines and which cannot overlap each other. Subtract, Split

Must Not Intersect Or Touch Interior

Must Not Overlap With Requires that a line from one feature class not overlap with line features in another feature class. This rule is used when line features cannot share the same space. For example, roads must not overlap with railroads or depression subtypes of contour lines cannot overlap with other contour lines. Subtract Must Not Overlap With
Where the purple lines overlap is an error.
Must Be Covered By Feature Class Of Requires that lines from one feature class must be covered by the lines in another feature class. This is useful for modeling logically different but spatially coincident lines, such as routes and streets. A bus route feature class must not depart from the streets defined in the street feature class. None Must Be Covered By Feature Class Of
Where the purple lines don't overlap is an error.
Must Be Covered By Boundary Of Requires that lines be covered by the boundaries of area features. This is useful for modeling lines, such as lot lines, that must coincide with the edge of polygon features, such as lots. Subtract
Must Be Covered By Boundary Of

Endpoint Must Be Covered By Requires that the endpoints of line features must be covered by point features in another feature class. This is useful for modeling cases where a fitting must connect two pipes, or a street intersection must be found at the junction of two streets. Create Feature Endpoint Must Be Covered By
The square at the bottom indicates an error, because there is no point covering the endpoint of the line.
Must Not Self Overlap Requires that line features not overlap themselves. They can cross or touch themselves, but must not have coincident segments. This rule is useful for features such as streets, where segments might touch in a loop, but where the same street should not follow the same course twice. Simplify Must Not Self Overlap
The individual line feature overlaps itself, with the error indicated by the coral line.
Must Not Self Intersect Requires that line features not cross or overlap themselves. This rule is useful for lines, such as contour lines, that cannot cross themselves. Simplify

Must Not Self Intersect

Must Be Single Part Requires that lines have only one part. This rule is useful where line features, such as highways, may not have multiple parts. Explode Must Be Single Part
Multipart lines are created from a single sketch.


Point rules


Topology rule Rule description Potential fixes Examples
Must Be Covered By Boundary Of Requires that points fall on the boundaries of area features. This is useful when the point features help support the boundary system, such as boundary markers, which must be found on the edges of certain areas. None Must Be Covered By Boundary Of
The square on the right indicates an error because it is a point that is not on the boundary of the polygon.
Must Be Properly Inside Polygons Requires that points fall within area features. This is useful when the point features are related to polygons, such as wells and well pads or address points and parcels. Delete Must Be Properly Inside Polygons
The squares are errors where there are points that are not inside the polygon.
Must Be Covered By Endpoint Of

Requires that points in one feature class must be covered by the endpoints of lines in another feature class. This rule is similar to the line rule, "Endpoint Must Be Covered By", except that, in cases where the rule is violated, it is the point feature that is marked as an error, rather than the line. Boundary corner markers might be constrained to be covered by the endpoints of boundary lines. Delete
Must Be Covered By Endpoint Of
The square indicates an error where the point is not on an endpoint of a line.
Must Be Covered By Line Requires that points in one feature class be covered by lines in another feature class. It does not constrain the covering portion of the line to be an endpoint. This rule is useful for points that fall along a set of lines, such as highway signs along highways. None
Must Be Covered By Line
The squares are points that are not covered by the line.

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