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The structure of vector datasets

Release 9.1
Last modified January 25, 2006
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When you edit data in ArcMap, you edit feature classes (collections of features) that the layers on your map represent. Editing the feature class lets you edit the actual data source, not just the representation on the map.

A feature class is a collection of features of the same type—for example, a collection of points or a collection of polygons. For each type of geographic dataset, the available types of features vary (see table).

A dataset is a collection of feature classes that share the same spatial reference. A dataset might be a collection of land base feature classes or a collection of utility feature classes. Shapefiles are an exception; they do not hold a collection of feature classes but have only one shapefile feature class.

A collection of feature datasets is stored in a geodatabase. Shapefiles are stored in a shapefile folder. Although you may add multiple collections of datasets to your map (geodatabases and shapefile folders), you can only edit feature classes within one collection at a time. In other words, you can edit all the shapefiles in one folder but not the shapefiles in two different folders at the same time. You can only edit data from one geodatabase at a time. Coverage feature classes can't be edited with ArcMap.

View a table comparing vector datasets

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