Keep a GIS Project Running

OOPS! Fixing an ArcGIS Error

November 6, 2015 — Brian Higgins

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. 

– D.H. Lawrence

I once made a GIS mistake a few years ago.  Since it has been awhile, I have forgotten the specific details.  I do remember that it did inconvenience me for at least a couple of minutes.

In all seriousness, if one edits and works in the GIS business….one makes errors. One doesn’t feel self pity. One must act to deal with the situation and rectify the error, might as well call it the Law of Oops.  There are simple best management practices that can be implemented to minimize the impact of mistakes.

A few are as follows:

  1. Make sure staff are properly trained.  Errors are unavoidable, but a qualified/dedicated staff can certainly minimize them.
  2. Save and save often.  Heck, every time one does something good/correct, they should hit the save button.
  3. Edit in a versioned environment (not Default), and reconcile/post often.
  4. Have someone else (other than the editor) proof/verify work prior to posting.
  5. Have a daily, automated backup of the system stored offsite.  Periodically, verify that it is running by conducting a practice restoration!

Fortunately, editing in GIS is not dentistry.  If the dental hygienist stabs a patient with the pick, he/she doesn’t have an undo button, and the bleeding hole in the poor soul’s check goes away.  GIS has multiple undo tools.

When teaching ArcGIS editing, I usually discuss a “Five Degrees of Fixing Oops” (below).  These fixes are progressively worse (in terms of loss of productivity) the higher the number.

Figure 1.  Five Degrees of Fixing Oops

Number One – Right click and delete sketch

If the user makes a significant error while digitizing a line or polygon and wants to just restart the feature, this option is your ticket.  The only time lost is that time spent on the individual feature.  To exercise this option while digitizing a sketch, one only needs to right click (to get to the context menu) and choose Delete Sketch (Figure 2).Figure 2.  Delete Sketch

Number Two – Undo Button

This tool can be one’s best friend!  Simple instruction…When an editing mistake is made, click the Undo button (located on Esri’s Standard toolbar as shown in Figure 3), and all your troubles are alleviated.  This tool may be clicked multiple times to in essence “go back in time,” and remove consecutive edits.

Figure 3.  Undo Button

Number Three – Close the Edit Session and Don’t Save

Simple….Don’t save your edits (Figure 4).  This procedure may be painless with minimal loss of time, IF the user follows Best Management Practice Rule 1-Save Your Edits Often.  Time lost will be that time since the last save.  It is worth repeating-Save and save often!

Figure 4.  Don't Save

Number Four – Delete the Edit Version

This option is only available if one is editing in a versioned environment and not editing the default version directly.  If using ArcFM™’s Session Manager, delete the session.  If using OOTB Esri version management, click the Version Delete button on the Versioning toolbar.

Number Five – Restore from Backup

This option is never pleasant.  Assuming a backup is conducted nightly and the error is found quickly, this option may only produce mad mannerisms from a DBA.  If it has been days since the mistake was made and several edits have been made since, this option is severe pain inflicting.

In closing…..Errors are productivity killers.  The combination of the discussed management practices and correct error rectification methods can minimize their adverse impact.

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Brian Higgins

Brian Higgins is a Senior Consultant at the Utility & Telecommunications GIS consulting company SSP Innovations in Centennial, Colorado.  He is a certified Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) with 22 years of experience in the design and development of GIS systems for the management of municipal infrastructure.

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