Rename the "Define Projection" tool

04-02-2011 05:56 AM
Status: Under Consideration
Labels (1)
MVP Legendary Contributor

All too often, people use the Define Projection tool when they really want to use the Project tool, thinking that if they use it, their data will be projected into the coordinate system that they want.

I suggest that the Define Projection tool

  • be renamed to Initial Projection or Fix Projection something similar OR
  • checks to prevent projected data being defined as geographic should be implemented and persistent in the interface
  • Also, this tool should, or could be disabled, if a coordinate system already exists, allowing the user time to think about what they are really trying to do. 


The two proposals Initial and Fix projection could call the same code essentially, allowing one to define a coordinate system for which one doesn't exist or to fix one that is incorrect.

Thank you for posting the idea. We also see this question come through Technical Support quite often and one of the enhancements we did make as a result is when you add a feature class as an input into the Define Projection that already has a Spatial Reference defined it will display a warning icon next to the input. If you click that warning you will get more messaging as to why and when it is appropriate to use this tool. However, I do see where you are going with this idea and there may be more we can do to help users make the appropriate decision when using this tool.


After finishing two terms of teaching and warning students about the differences between these tools, the preference seems to use the Define Projection tool erroneously...some even thought the Project tool had to do with "projects" and not "projecting" even though it is appropriately located in the toolbox (grief!).  In any event, the warning icon needs to be huge and flashing...or perhaps a popup, or the tool fails if the input and output extents don't jive (ie going from DD data to UTM).

  Is the enhancement at 10.0?  We also see this all the time.  Not having seen the warning icon I agree with Dan that it has to be in your face to get the attension of the user.  Thank you Chris for doing timely feedback here in Ideas.
@kreuzrsk, I am not sure what release this was implemented at but it is at 9.3 from my test. When you specify an input that already has a spatial reference you will get a yellow warning icon next to the paramter and when you hover over it will say, "The dataset already has a projection defined. Click for more detailed information.". When you click it will give you a link to a help doc page for warning 000312 which describes the general purpose of this tool and a reference to the project tool if they actually want to change the projection.

The problem is still with us... Define projection is the go-to ... ruining a good many starts to projects, when the Project tool should be used.


Fix Coordinate System -  FCS


Use FCS if you defined a GCS as a PCS or vica versa

Six years on, and the grief still continues


I am speaking a bit out of school, as Esri should be left to make these UI decisions... but here's an idea.

Add a boolean parameter - overwrite existing coordinate system, defaulting to true (checked) so current scripts and models won't be broken. It's really difficult to make a case to rename tools or change behavior because this can terribly break existing tools and workflows.

However, this suggested implementation would give an opportunity for the tool dialog to warn users in two ways a) in the tool dialog help pane and b) The tool could raise the warning flag if the box is checked (again default) and there is a coordinate system defined already.

This still won't keep users from going into the dataset properties XY Coordinates tab and changing it there, but it seems the Define Projection tool continues to confuse our students!!!


add flashing neon lights, and I am with you.

Got any gems?

'...I don't want a new file, I just want to change the file I have into X...'   (Heard all too often.)

me '...does that file have a defined coordinate system?'

other ''

me '... why are you using it...?'

other '... it was in the zip file...'


I think Define Projection is a good name, it's the Project tool that should be renamed to something like Reproject.


except reproject assumes it has already been projected, which going from geographic coordinates to projected coordinates, hasn't been done