Converting Between Coordinate Formats Without Using Code

Blog Post created by timothy_hales-esristaff Employee on Aug 24, 2012
It is always challenging when your coordinates are in Decimal Degrees (DD) format and you need them in Degrees, Minutes, Seconds (DMS).  Amidst this challenge is determining how to do the conversion.  Is it best to open the table in Microsoft Excel and build an advanced formula?  Is there a Python or VB code snippet that will work in the Field Calculator?  You know there has to be an easier way.

Within the Projections and Transformations toolset is a tool called Convert Coordinate Notation (Data Management > Projections and Transformations).  This tool will convert between the following coordinate formats:
  • DD—Decimal degrees
  • DDM —Decimal minutes
  • DMS—Degrees-minutes-seconds
  • GARS—Global Area Reference System
  • GEOREF—World Geographic Reference System
  • UTM —Universal Transverse Mercator
  • USNG—United States National Grid
  • MGRS—Military Grid Reference System

To convert between coordinate formats using the Convert Coordinate Notation tool, follow these steps:
  1. Open the tool and select the table or feature class that has the values for conversion.
  2. Set an output location for the converted values to be saved.
  3. Set the X/Y fields and the Input/Output coordinates.
  4. Optionally, set an ID as the output will not carry over existing attribute fields.

5. Set up a table join so that the new format can be accessed in the original table.


Be sure to check out the Convert Coordinate Notation tool help for more information and also to learn the format of each notation.
Timothy H. – Senior Support Analyst