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Using geoprocessing tools
Managing tools and toolsets
There are settings you can make that control how geoprocessing tools behave. These settings can be accessed and changed in the Geoprocessing tab of the applications options. The options that directly affect tool behavior are the overwriting of output, the display of tool output, whether tool results are temporary, and the environment setting for the default workspace.
Accessing geoprocessing settings
Overwriting tool output
To access the geoprocessing settings, click the Tools menu on the Standard toolbar of the application you are working in and click Options, then click the Geoprocessing tab.
Display and temporary data
The first choice you should see is the Overwrite the outputs of geoprocessing operations check box. By checking this option, all tools will automatically overwrite any existing output when run. With this option off, the tool will generate error messages if the output exists.
In the Display / Temporary Data frame, you'll find two check boxes that control the display and permanence of results. The first check box, Add results of geoprocessing operations to the display, is only available if you are working in an ArcGIS Desktop application with a display, such as ArcMap. It is unavailable in ArcCatalog. By default, this option is checked so that tool results will automatically be added to the display.
The Results are temporary by default check box is only available when the Add results of geoprocessing operations to the displaycheck box is checked. By default, this option is unchecked so that all results are permanent. Check this on if you want all tool results to be temporary.
When results are temporary, the behavior is as follows:
- Tool output results are added to the display (since Add results of geoprocessing operations to the displaymust be checked to have temporary results).
- If you exit ArcMap without saving the map document, the result data is deleted from disk.
- If you save the map document, any tool results in the ArcMap table of contents will be saved to disk, regardless of what the temporary results setting is. This is because geoprocessing has to assume that by saving a map document, you want everything in the ArcMap table of contents saved—you don't want to open the map document and have missing data.
- If you don't want to save the map document, but you do want to save the data in an individual layer, right-click the layer and click Make Permanent.
New Layer Visibility
You can control whether newly added layers are visible or not with the New Layer Visibility option found in Tools > Options > General tab, as illustrated below.
Controlling where results go
By default, tools automatically generate an output pathname for tool results. The logic for generating the output name is as follows:
- If the scratch workspace environment is set, output will be written to the scratch workspace.
- If the scratch workspace environment is not set, the current workspace environment is checked. If current workspace is set, output will be written to the current workspace.
- If neither the scratch or current workspace is set, output will be written to the workspace of one of the inputs. In this case, certain restrictions apply. For example, if the workspace is a coverage workspace and the output is a new feature class, the output will be a shapefile to the directory above the coverage workspace. There are other restrictions as well, such as write access. In some cases, the output will be written to the system temp directory.
You should always be aware of where tool output is being written. Nothing is more frustrating than to run a tool and forget where the output was written.
If you don't want to use this automatically generated output pathname, you can always change it in the parameter control. But what if you're executing several tools in succession and you want all their results to go to one particular workspace? In this scenario, you'd have to change the output pathname in each tool, which is just a waste of your time. That's why geoprocessing provides you a way to declare a current and scratch workspace.
You change the current and scratch workspace with geoprocessing environments. There are many settings you can control with geoprocessing environments, and there are even different environments that apply to tools, models, and applications. This section just looks at the task of changing the current workspace for tool dialogs.
Open the geoprocessing environments dialog
You can either right-click in the ArcToolbox window and choose Environments. Alternatively, access the geoprocessing settings
and click on the Environments button in the settings window.
Change the current and scratch workspace
In the environments window, open General Settings by clicking the down arrows next to General Settings. The Current and Scratch workspaces should be the first settings.
Do not use an ArcSDE geodatabase for the scratch workspace since this could cause performance problems—you'll be writing temporary scratch data to an enterprise database.
It's suggested that you use a file geodatabase (rather than a personal geodatabase or a shapefile workspace) for the scratch workspace.
Learn more about geoprocessing environments