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Definition Query Icon in Table of Contents

07-16-2014 02:11 PM
Status: Closed
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New Contributor III

When you set a definition query on a layer in ArcMap, it would be nice to have some cue to let you know that not all of the records in the layer is showing (due to the query).  Something akin to the exclamation point when the link to the data is broken. 


Thank you for the feedback. We are aware of the request to flag layers as having a definition query applied through the use of "charms" in the Contents pane.
However, the charm case doesn’t work for big maps with nested collapsed layers. Think about opening a map authored by someone else - you’d have to hunt and peck through it to find charms.
Also, definition queries are not the only type of data filter. Layers can be filtered by time or range as well. This would lead to multiple charms and when layers have non-uniform charm application (raster, vector, sublayers of subtype layers that are feature layers but don’t have their own def queries) this results in an overly complex UI pretty fast. This is why we implemented the Contents filters in ArcGIS Pro - to allow for different properties and to handle nesting. That’s the middle ground without making the app overly complex (which we already get complaints about).
A related note is that many people would find this to be a problem when using a layer in some sort of geoprocessing operation (Calculate Field, Select by Attributes, etc.) and they didn't realize that the layer had a definition query (or time or range filter) applied. To address this problem, in ArcGIS Pro 3.0 we will display an info tip in tools to make that clear to the user.


This will also work for selections:
We appreciate your participation in ideas for ArcGIS Pro and hope that this explanation helps in understanding the design decision.
Thank you.

@KoryKramer , thanks for the reply and explaining the considerations.

A single charm that indicates only a subset of the dataset is being represented on the map would not lead to the issues you suggested. For grouped layers, it could be the same charm, with perhaps the color adjusted to indicate that only some layers within the group have queries or filters applied. This is common in other, similar scenarios, where a condition is only present in a subset of a list. It also wouldn't be a problem on many, many maps out there.
Like so many other features, it could also be optional.

The filter in the Table of Contents is helpful in some cases, but not when we're working with maps in a fast-paced operational environment and we simply need to know at a glance if a def query is applied to a layer. This is especially important in multi-user environments.

There have been huge improvements surrounding definition queries in ArcGIS Pro; hopefully the product team will be receptive to continuing on that course in the future.


@KoryKramer , thanks for the reply and explaining the thought process behind implementing this or not. 

I have found a workaround where I add an * asterisk in layer layers headers in the TOC that have a filter or def query, as a marker. It's not an issue when I collapse groups or nested groups. I never have to "hunt" for these "markers", as I only need them to remind me or others that the layer has a def query or filter on it.


Adding a badge or icon in the TOC to indicate that the dataset has a filter, any filter, would be super useful, and not that complex...

I don't necessarily need a reminder when I am running a tool (although the new tooltip is really cool), rather, when looking at the data, I need to know if the whole dataset is being displayed, or if it's being filtered.

I am surprised (and slightly disappointed) at the fact that new ideas that are well supported/useful to users would not be implemented for fear of adding more complexity to the UI...I have been using ArcGIS for a long time, and have learned to ignore functionality that I don't need for my workflows. Adding subtle complexity is important for the tools to be more and more useful.



@PaulHoefflerGISSand @Marie_Ducharme  agreed. I know the idea originator made a statement about definition queries specifically, but one simple multipurpose icon would be fine, because I agree with you @KoryKramer , a bunch of different icons could get messy quick. Maybe on hover it tells you what kind of filter(s) are active? I wouldn't find that overly complex. Having to wonder whether a filter is on and then shuffling around with those filters (which only address definition queries), checking layer properties, or having to open a GP tool - that is overly complex. If the goal really is to reduce complexity in the user interface, then we should favor feature-rich and intuitive UI elements over those complicated workarounds. Pro has a lot of room for improvement in that department. Hopefully the commentary here outlines the need for that at-a-glance, no input required filter warning.

For the nesting issue, I think we're giving up too easy, and @PaulHoefflerGISS  is onto something. It is possible (and common) for UIs to differentiate between groups and contents intuitively. For example, in some areas, checkboxes turn into blocks when some but not all child components are checked.


In the case of charms, this probably wouldn't work as there are already checkboxes in the TOC that do something different, but a similar concept would. Several Adobe apps use size to differentiate between properties of groups and child content. Even if the group Vector were collapsed, you'd still see the small red square, which tells you something within that group is selected. Big red square means it's this exact object or group that is selected. It makes it pretty easy to drill down whether the nested object is visible or not - it literally lights up a trail for you to follow. Much less hunting and pecking thanks to the small red square.


In ArcGIS Pro, I could see 'small dot' to indicate something within this group has a filter, and 'big dot' to indicate the layer or group directly. That would keep things simple.

The flag on the GP tools is very, very much appreciated, but again - it does not provide the information at a glance, which is the core of the request.


Seriously, can we revive this idea? I think about this every day. I can't tell you the number of times that I quickly copy a layer over from another map not thinking about what query I used there and then find out much later that I was missing data. Expecting users to manually check their layers for def queries constantly is a ridiculous "solution." I have plenty of other things to worry about when making a map.


@wayfaringrob , I thought you made a great case and example in your April post.

Unfortunately, I find that there's little recourse with Esri. They implement certain things, and most others go by the wayside, regardless of how important or reasonable the request.

I have one or two that I need to bring over here, since Technical Support and the account management efforts yielded nothing, once the developers got a hold of them...

This Idea only has 35 "kudos," and I've see others with thousands of up-votes/kudos that haven't been implemented. 


@PaulHoefflerGISS  yeah. I've also seen ideas with single-digit kudos implemented, though. It's really just marking it as closed (and non-upvotable) that seems hasty and discounting.


I agree. It's not an open or inviting way to manage a forum.

I'd suggest we start a new Idea that lays out the finest points from the comments here and refers to ArcGIS Pro instead of ArcMap, but I expect they'd simply close that one out as Duplicate.


@PaulHoefflerGISS  Open and inviting? Hey now, not everyone can be QGIS. As a corporation, Esri's first priority is whatever will make them more money. This doesn't necessarily include listening to users and making usable software. (Not that QGIS has a filter indicator.) Esri Community is a great attempt, but you do have to work unreasonably hard to be heard.

If I don't see any activity on this in the near future I'll definitely do so.


Yes, I agree with the comments above about a hasty closing....hasty closing is discouraging.