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Learn how to add layers and conduct simple manipulations in ArcMap (ArcGIS Desktop) and ArcGIS Online

How to snip shapefiles

The amount of data on your map is enormous, but you only need a small part of i. You are focusing on a small geographic area - just the Charleston campus of CSN - not entire Las Vegas!

To make the data easier to manage, as well as to reduce the size of your file and make the final map more comprehensible, we will snip the data to include only what we need for our project. 

In ArcMap, go to Customize --> Toolbars --> Draw to open the drawing menu

Click on the rectangle.

Please note that your menu may look slightly different - instead of a rectangle, you may have a circle or a polygon. 

You can switch between the shapes by clicking on the inverted triangle, which will reveal a drop-down menu with additional shapes. 

Draw a rectangle on the map. The rectangle should cover the entire campus.

Click on the Drawing button in the drawing menu, and select Convert Graphics to Features

In the new window:

  • Convert: Polygon graphics
  • Use the same coordinate system as: the data frame
  • Navigate to the correct folder in which the output shapefile will be saved
  • Check the checkbox next to  Automatically delete graphics after conversion

Click OK

Click YES to add the shapefile as a layer

Click on the small square under the rectangle layer to open the Symbol Selector window.


  • Fill Color to No Color
  • Outline width to 4
  • Outline color: select a bright green 

Click OK.

Now you have a shapefile you can use to clip the layers!

Clipping layers

Go to Geoprocessing --> Clip

In the new window:

  • Input Feature: Choose the layer the needs to be clipped, like Fire Hydrants or Streetlights
  • Clip Features:  This is the layer you are using the set the area to be clipped, meaning the rectangle you drew.
  • Output Feature Class: Navigate to the correct folder and give the new layer a name. I usually just keep the same name and add "_C" in the end to mark that it's a clipped feature.

Press OK.  

It'll take a few moments for the program to process the request. In the meanwhile, you will see a blue "clip...clip... clip" running on the bottom of the page. When it's done, a small window will pop up on the bottom of the page with a green checkmark, and the new layer will be added to the Table of Content. 

Remove the original Fire Hydrants layer by right-clicking on the layer and selecting Remove.

Repeat the process with the other layers. In the end, your map will look like the map below. Note that there are no features outside of the project area.


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