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Technical Article   FAQ:  What characters should not be used in ArcGIS for field names and table names?

Article ID: 23087
Software:  ArcGIS - ArcEditor 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10 ArcGIS - ArcInfo 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10 ArcGIS - ArcView 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10
Platforms:  Windows XP, 2003Server, Vista, 2008Server, Win 7


What characters should not be used in ArcGIS for field names and table names?


For ArcGIS to work with multiple data types, certain characters in field or table names are not supported. These characters include spaces, hyphens, such as in the term 'x-coord', brackets, and other special characters. These limits are imposed so that ArcGIS is able to function with the maximum amount of data types.

• Eliminate any characters that are not alphanumeric character or an underscore.
• Do not start field or table names with an underscore or a number.
• It is necessary to edit the field names in delimited text files to remove unsupported characters before using them.

The limit for the length of field and table names depends on the underlying database management system (DBMS). Consult the DBMS documentation for information on naming limits for a particular DBMS. A dBASE field name can be up to 10 characters long, and there is no limit on the length of the table name.

• For coverages, use up to 16 letters or numbers. Coverage items or field names must begin with a letter, and cannot contain spaces.

Related Information

Created: 8/14/2002
Last Modified: 1/5/2011

Article Rating: (5)
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By mhammettICS - 02/12/2015 2:36 PM

Other - See details below.

*bangs firsts on desk* I can't believe that a program that costs as much as ArcMap does doesn't have basic input sanitation. That's like a CIS101 class (okay, not really that simple, but any coder should be doing that). I don't have it yet, but I'm working my way through Excel's replace function.

By Anonymous - 11/23/2010 11:43 PM

I would like to see a new article that discusses the topic outlined below.

See Nimbus #872403. This is also applicable to ArcGIS 10


By Anonymous - 02/12/2009 3:04 PM

The article needs to be updated.

Do the same restrictions which apply to table and field names also apply to filenames?

By Anonymous - 08/05/2008 5:15 PM

I would like to see a new article that discusses the topic outlined below.

I had a hard time finding info on the simple reasons of why do we have to convert excel to .dbf for XY data in excel. Why .csv? I can suggest that you need to title your articles as 'What people should do' . I don't want to know anything about all the things I 'shouldn't do'. Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life. He never said don't follow the romans and greeks! Tell people what to do, this becomes more helpful to me. Can you send me an article on this topic of excel to .dbf , .csv and I have to do it in simple terms


By Anonymous - 11/08/2005 1:00 PM

I believe this article still applies to ArcGIS 9.0 and ArcGIS 9.1. I couldn't join a table properly because it had a hyphen in the fieldname but when I removed this it worked. Ray.


By Anonymous - 06/16/2005 3:32 AM

I think that this article should still apply to ArcGIS 9.0 and ArcGIS 9.1 I had a table with ALL as a field name and although I could add the table to ArcMap, any attempt to join the table with a layer failed - giving NULL values in all of the joined fields. Once I renamed the field from ALL to BLL then the join worked.


By Anonymous - 03/31/2003 9:22 AM

What do I do if I can;'t change the name?

By Anonymous - 02/14/2003 10:19 AM

That was the problem!