How To: Export a feature class to a shapefile that contains domain descriptions instead of domain codes


When exporting a feature class that uses domains to a shapefile or coverage, ArcGIS by default exports domain codes as opposed to domain descriptions. There is no option to export domain descriptions.

It is possible to work around this by exporting the domains to a table using the Domain To Table tool, then joining the domain table back to the source feature class. Export the joined feature class and table to a shapefile.


  1. Add the feature class to be exported to a shapefile to ArcMap. Execute the Domain To Table from ArcToolBox by navigating to Data Management Tools > Domains > Domain to Table.
    [O-image] Domain To Table
  2. Fill in the first five parameters in the Domain To Table dialog; the last parameter is optional. Display the help for each parameter by hovering the mouse over the parameter box. The completed dialog will look something like this screen shot:
    [O-image] Completed Domain To Table dialog box
  3. Click OK on the Domain To Table dialog box. This creates an output table. The location of the table is specified in the Output Table parameter in the Domain To Table dialog in step 2.
  4. Join the output domain table to the feature class. In the ArcMap Table of Contents, right-click the feature class > Joins and Relates > Join. This opens the Join Data dialog box.
  5. For the first parameter, 'What do you want to join to this layer?', select 'Join attributes from a table' from the drop-down list.
  6. For the parameter '1. Choose the field in this layer that the join will be based on', select the field in the feature class that contains the domain code/description that corresponds to the domain specified in Step 2.
  7. For the parameter '2. Choose the table to join to this layer', select either the table created from Step 3 from the drop-down list, or navigate to it by clicking the yellow folder button.
  8. For the parameter '3. Choose the field in the table to base the join on', select the field in the table created in step 3 that contains the code field.
  9. Click OK in the Join Data dialog. This joins the domain table created in step 3 to the feature class. View the attributes of the feature class to ensure that the attributes from the domain table are joined to the feature class. The joined fields are on the far right-hand side of the table; scroll to see them.
  10. Right-click the feature class in the table of contents and click Data > Export Data. In the Export Data dialog, accept all the default values. For output shapefile or feature class, navigate to a folder and type in a shapefile name. The completed dialog box will look something like this:
    [O-image] Export Data dialog box
  11. Click OK on the Export Data dialog box. The exported shapefile will contain a field with the domain descriptions.