Converting MXD to Layer file in Arcpy

Working on doing some advanced ArcGIS server printing and had the need to batch convert many existing .mxd files to .lyr files. So instead of opening up X number of map documents, thought I would do it via code. All of my .mxds in this case had just one data frame so the process was pretty simple–I add an empty group layer (Thanks Petr Krebs for the idea), copy all the existing layers into it, and save it out as a layer file.

I created an ArcGIS toolbox with two options–one to convert a single .mxd and one to batch convert an entire folder. To use it, make sure to have the EmptyGroup.lyr in the same directory as the .py file.

Here is the raw code or git it:

import os
import arcpy
import inspect
import glob
import uuid
import inspect

codeDir = os.path.dirname(inspect.getfile(inspect.currentframe()))
EmptyGroupLayerFile = codeDir+"/EmptyGroup.lyr"
inArg1 = sys.argv[1]
inArg2 = sys.argv[2]

def printit(inMessage):

def makeLyrFromMXD(inMXD, outLyr):
    if not (os.path.exists(inMXD)):
        printit( "ERROR: {} does not exist".format(inMXD))
        return False
    if not (os.path.exists(EmptyGroupLayerFile)):
        printit( "ERROR: {} does not exist".format(EmptyGroupLayerFile))
        return False
    if  (os.path.exists(outLyr)):
        printit( "Skipping: {} already exists".format(outLyr))
        return True

    printit( "Making Layer file: {0}".format(outLyr))

    mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument(inMXD)
    ###Right now, just doing the first Dataframe, this could be modified
    df = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(mxd)[0]

    theUUID = str(uuid.uuid1())

    iGroupLayerRaw = arcpy.mapping.Layer(EmptyGroupLayerFile) = theUUID
    groupBaseName = os.path.basename(outLyr).split(".")[0]

    for lyr in arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(df):
        if not ( == theUUID):
            if (lyr.longName ==
                arcpy.mapping.AddLayerToGroup (df, iGroupLayer, lyr, "Bottom")
            iGroupLayer = lyr = groupBaseName
    arcpy.SaveToLayerFile_management(iGroupLayer, outLyr)
    return os.path.exists(outLyr)

def doMultiple(inDir,outDir):
    for iMxd in glob.glob(inDir+"/*.mxd"):
        lyrFile = outDir+"/"+os.path.basename(iMxd).lower().replace(".mxd",".lyr")
        makeLyrFromMXD(iMxd, lyrFile)

if(not os.path.exists(EmptyGroupLayerFile)):
    printit("Error: {} is missing, can not run.".format(EmptyGroupLayerFile))
    if (os.path.isdir(inArg1) and (os.path.isdir(inArg2))):
    elif (os.path.isfile(inArg1)):
        if (os.path.exists(inArg2)):
            printit("Error: {} already exists".format(inArg2))
        printit("Unable to understand input parameters")

Quick & Dirty ArcPy: Listing Data Sources

I just had the need to go through a directory containing many (100+) layer files (.lyr) and verify the data sources in each. I could have loaded each into ArcMap and checked the properties, but choose not to. Here’s the bare-bones script I used instead:

import arcpy, glob,os

theDir = r"L:\gdrs\data\org\us_mn_state_dnr\elev_minnesota_lidar\\"

for iFile in glob.glob("*.lyr"):
    print iFile
    lyr = arcpy.mapping.Layer(iFile)
    for i in arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(lyr):
            print "    {0}: {1}".format(i,i.dataSource)
            print "    {0}: Does not support dataSource".format(i)

print "Done!"

arcpy.ListFeatureClasses() Bug

I was recently re-evaluating our back-up procedures and discovered and found a nasty bug with the arcpy’s ListFeatureClasses request. If you have a feature class in a feature dataset with the same name, ListFeatureClasses may not find it or anything else in that feature dataset.

Unfortunately, we recently made our daily backup a python-based system that uses ListFeatureClasses and got bit by this bug.

After discovering missing data in our backups, I reconstructed what happened and found this bug. Below is arcpy code that iterates through the feature datasets in a geodatabase and lists the feature classes:

import arcpy

def copyAll():
    for iFeatureClass in arcpy.ListFeatureClasses():
        print(" Feature Class: {0}".format(iFeatureClass))
    iFeatureClassFull = None

testGDBname = "mgs_sandbox.sde"
arcpy.env.workspace = testGDBname

for iFD in arcpy.ListDatasets("","Feature"):
    print("Feature Dataset {0}:".format(iFD))
    arcpy.env.workspace = testGDBname+"/"+str(iFD)

And here is a screen shot of the contents of a test enterprise geodatabase, you’ll see it has a feature data set named “outcrops” that has a feature class also named “outcrops” within it:

And the results list only the feature dataset:


But if I rename the feature dataset (e.g. outcrop_fd), the results are what I would hope for:

results results2

I found that the feature class does not even need to be within the feature dataset and also the problem does not always occur, I have had the code successfully run in some cases.

Once I confirmed the problem, I did find this thread from almost three years ago that mentions the bug. One poster indicated the same thing occurs in ArcObjects which leads me to think something may not be getting registered right in the sde tables.

I was not able to re-create this using either personal or file geodatabases.

So I adopting the policy of not using the same name for a feature dataset as for a feature class.


Quick & Dirty arcpy: Autopan ArcMap using arcpy

Question: How do I get ArcMap to automatically pan through an area.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently had the need to have ArcMap automatically pan through a project area. My first attempt was to print a series of data-driven pages (using a fishnet polygon layer as the index) this but that did not accomplish what I needed so I switched to arcpy, which made the task simple enough. Nothing special or tricky about this code, but just did not find it anywhere else.

The one thing to note is that I have a 1 second pause between pans–this was to allow image tiles to download. You will need to adjust the delay to meet your needs. The toolbox and code can also be downloaded.

import sys,arcpy,datetime
inLayer = sys.argv[1]

def printit(inMessage):
    print inMessage

mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("CURRENT")

arcpy.MakeFeatureLayer_management(inLayer, "indexLayer")

df = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(mxd)[0]
newExtent = df.extent

iCount = 0
iTotal = (arcpy.GetCount_management("indexLayer").getOutput(0))

for row in cur:
    thisPoly = row.getValue("Shape")
    newExtent.XMin, newExtent.YMin = thisPoly.extent.XMin, thisPoly.extent.YMin
    newExtent.XMax, newExtent.YMax = thisPoly.extent.XMax, thisPoly.extent.YMax
    df.extent = newExtent
    printit("Panned to feature {0} of {1}".format(iCount,iTotal))

del row
del cur

ArcMap Field Calculator: Identifying Unique Cases, Single Field

Seems like a lot of people are finding the ArcMap Field Calculator examples that I have posted useful so I will make an effort to post more of them. Most posts are generated after I do something and think that others might want to know how to do it. (Or so I can go back and remember how I did something without re-inventing it).

Something I did today was create a field (!Case!) and then populated this with a unique identifier for each different value (case) that occurred in a different field (!Feature!).

Note: python’s index statement is a 0-based search so the first case will have the value 0, the second will have 1, and so on. If you want to start the results at 1, you can make the last line: “return caseList.index(inValue) + 1”.

The basic structure for this is shown:

caseList = [ ]

def returnCase(inValue):
   global caseList

   if not inValue in caseList:

   return caseList.index(inValue)

ArcMap Field Calculator: Identifying Unique Cases, Multiple Fields

You may have noticed that this post–ArcMap Field Calculator: Identifying Unique Cases, Single Field–specifies “Single Field”. Yes, that was my version of a cliff-hanger post.

The basic structure I listed in that post can be expanded on to satisfy your needs. The example in my earlier post was case sensitive for example, you could modify it so it treats “a” the same as “A”.

Today’s example groups records into different cases based off the values of two fields, !county_c! and !feature! and required only minor modifications.

The calling line was modified from:




to accommodate passing both values.

The function definition likewise was modified to accept two values, this:

def returnCase(inValue1):


def returnCase(inValue1, inValue2)

And this line was added, creating a list from the two values passed in:

inValue = [inValue1, inValue2]


(Note: The same results could have be achieved by using the original function by creating the list in the calling statement:  returnCase([!county_c!,!feature!] )


caseList = [ ]

def returnCase(inValue1, inValue2):
   inValue = [inValue1, inValue2]
   global caseList

   if not inValue in caseList:

   return caseList.index(inValue)

Debugging a Python Scheduled Task

I have been working on a python script that I want (NEED) to run as a scheduled task on a remote machine.  I got to the point that the script did exactly what I needed when I was interactively running it in a Windows session but had problems when running it as a scheduled task.  The debugging process was cumbersome–make a change, schedule a task to run it, log out of the machine, and wait.  The log back in and repeat the process.

That got old.

So I wrote a script  ( that calls any other python scripts in the same directory that (1) start with “test_” and (2) there is not a corresponding file with the same base name and “.start” extension.  It would launch “” as long as there is not a “test_BaBing.start” in the same directory. continued to run, looping every 60 seconds, until tester.stop exists.

This made the process easier because I could work on my local machine, editing the problematic script, saving changes and within 60 seconds it would be launched on the remote machine.  I could view the results, make additional edits, delete the .start file and it would launch again within 60 seconds.

Within a couple minutes I was able to determine the problem (path related) and fix it.

Happy programmer.

<disclaimer>I would recommend using this only while debugging a script–routinely running it could be a security risk since someone could copy a destructive python script into the directory and this would run it.</disclaimer>


import sys, string, os
import glob
import datetime, shutil
import time, inspect
import getpass

totalstarttime =

dateString ="%Y%m%d_")"%H%M%S")"%Y%m%d")
debugfile = inspect.getfile(inspect.currentframe()).replace(".py","_"+dateString+"_Debug.txt")
stopfile = inspect.getfile(inspect.currentframe()).replace(".py",".stop")
newdebugfile = False

codeDir = os.path.dirname(inspect.getfile(inspect.currentframe())).replace("\","/")

def printit(inText):
    global newdebugfile

    print inText

    if os.path.exists(debugfile):
        if (newdebugfile == False):
            tmpfile = open(debugfile,"w")
            newdebugfile = True
            tmpfile = open(debugfile,"a")
        tmpfile = open(debugfile,"w")

    newdebugfile = True

stopFileExists = False
printit("Code Directory: "+codeDir)
printit("Starting at: ""%Y-%m-%d_")"%H:%M:%S"))
printit("Stopfile : "+stopfile+"/n")
while (stopFileExists == False):
    for iFile in glob.glob(codeDir+"/test_*.py"):

        thisStartfile = iFile.replace(".py",".start")

        if not (os.path.exists(thisStartfile)):
            printit ("Launching: "+iFile)
            iTmpfile = open(thisStartfile,"w")
            os.system("Start "+iFile)

    if (os.path.exists(stopfile)):
        stopFileExists = True

    printit("nEnd of Loop: ""%Y-%m-%d_")"%H:%M:%S")+"n")    


Feature classes and Tables with names starting with “nd_”.

Random luck me to discovering a bug related to feature classes whose names start with “nd_”.  It appears that you are allowed to create feature classes starting with “nd_” but ArcCatalog will not display them.  Further research shows this behavior also occurs for table and for ArcSDE (PostGres) geodatabases,  personal geodatabase, and file geodatabases–I am using ArcCatalog 10.0.

I first noticed something odd was occurring while importing a series of shapefiles into a geodatabases.  After importing 15 shapefiles, I only had thirteen feature classes despite receiving no errors during the process.  The two shapefiles that failed to import were named ND_oil_and_gas.shp and ND_Bendix_Study.shp.  Subsequent attempts to import them individually returned an error “Invalid Target Name”.

I discovered in pgAdmin III (Postgres SDE Geodatabase) that the table existed and there was an entry in sde.sde_layers for the feature class but ArcCatalog refused to show it.

I used some un-supported methods to try to resolve the problem and despite some sweating, I failed to find a way to get ArcCatalog to display these feature classes.  I did, however, at least found a way to delete them–arcpy can detect that the feature classes exists so it is able to delete them.

At least by deleting them, I can prevent leaving “invisible” feature classes from hanging out in my geodatabase.

I suspect the problems stems from how ESRI has implemented the Network dataset table-naming structure –dirty areas are stored in tables named nd_<itemid>_dirtyareas  and nd_<itemid>_dirtyobjects.  Possibly the developer  working on the ArcCatalog GUI ended up suppressing showing feature classes and tables whose names start with “nd_”.

And, just for posterity’s sake, here is a python code snippet listing the feature classes in a workspace:

import arcpy

arcpy.env.workspace = “c:/temp/_nd/F.gdb”

print arcpy.env.workspace
for fc in arcpy.ListFeatureClasses():
print fc

print “Done!”

Renaming Raster Dataset and arcpy.Exists()

Discovered something today. I was working on an arcpy script that copies a raster dataset from a file geodatabase into a Postgres SDE geodatabase and then does some boring routine tasks–building stats, creating a mosaic dataset, adding the raster to the mosaic dataset and making a couple referenced mosaic datasets.

It sometimes has trouble with the initial step of uploading the raster because of the sheer size of if (1m elevation raster for counties) and it failed today on one. It failed today so I used the ArcCatalog GUI to copy the raster and renamed it.

I then proceeded to run launch my script. Before each step, I use arcpy.Exists() extensively to check to see if various items exist before I attempt to create them. It was continuously reporting that my raster set did not exist even though I could see it in ArcCatalog.

Finally, I realized that I needed to close ArcCatalog before arcpy recognized the fact I had renamed something. To note, I was running arcpy from a separate PythonWin window, not from the ArcCatalog session I had renamed the raster dataset with.

Once I closed ArcCatalog, arcpy recognized the renaming and life was good.

I’m also suspicious now about a problem I often have running statistics on my rasters.  The ArcTool reports no errors when I create them but for some reason the raster does not show that it has statistics afterwards.  I normally have multiple ArcApplication sessions open and now suspect that perhaps this problem is due to sessions not letting go of the connection.  Stay tuned for further developments on this.

Sorting a Coded-Value Domain Add-In (ArcGIS 10)

I am working on an data-entry application to edit feature classes that contain several coded-value-domains. The problem with some of the domains, however, is that some entries have been added after the initial creation.  So the first 25 entries are in alphabetical order and there are some stragglers at the end that are in the order they were appended.

This can be confusing for users–they go to select “Milli Vanilli” and look between “Madonna” and “Motley Crue” but can not find their favorite band there–they have to go to the end of the list to find their selection.

In the past, I have gone through the tedious process of exporting the domain to a table, sorting the table, removing the domain from the necessary field(s), deleting the domain, re-importing the table back in a new domain and finally re-applying the domain to the necessary field(s). Let’s just say I didn’t do this until someone asked a few times and I didn’t have anything more exciting–like a root canal–I could busy myself with.

But this new application contains more domains than any of other datasets so it was time to find a better solution. ESRI does have a Domain Sort Developer Sample.  It, however, did not play nice with ArcGIS 10.

So I went ahead and update it from VB 6 to VB.Net/ArcObjects 10.  I made an Add-In that can be installed by downloading the .esriaddin file and double-clicking on it.  The source code is also available.

This will add an ArcCatalog Toolbar that can be added by going to Customize-Toolbars-Domain Sorter Toolbar.

This will add a toolbar with one button.  The button enables whenever you select a geodatabase with at least one coded-value domain.

This brings up a Windows form that lets you sort any domain by either the code or description, ascending or descending.  Once you hit “OK” it re-sorts your domain.

The only problem I have had is that only the owner of a domain is allowed to edit it on an SDE geodatabase.

But other than that, the button allows you to easily keep your domains sorted.