Standalone Tables support for one-to-many/many-to-many Hyperlinks.

08-05-2010 11:18 PM
Status: Open
Labels (1)
MVP Honored Contributor

Standalone Tables should be able to store and enable hyperlinks apart from being joined to a feature layer.  By that I mean that the properties of both Feature Layers and Standalone Tables should have an option that would allow me to launch a hyperlink through a Relate Tree in the Identify tool and not just on feature class attributes or a joined (one-to-one/many-to-one) table's attributes.  Hyperlinks have no real need for a feature to exist in order to function as proven by the entire Internet and every application on the market today other than ESRI's applications.

The current hyperlink implementaion means that feature layer joins limit associated tables with hyperlinks to having one record per feature in many unnormalized fields in order to accesss the multiple hyperlinks (i.e., one-to-one and many-to-one relationship from feature(s) to table).  The Identify tool already supports a one-to-many and many-to-many display of table records related to a feature class, however the hyperlinks in the related tables cannot be triggered.

Just to show how painfully limiting this is, here are the work around options.  The first work around is to create a duplicate of the table data and pivot many records into a single record.  Pivoting data is no easy task to do in ArcGIS.  I've done it, but I have to use a minimum of 10 geoprocessing tools to get it to happen correctly, many of which only work with an ArcInfo licence.  The difficulties involved usually mean that most users who don't give up and need to do this relationship violating task will export their table data to Excel, pivot it there and import it back to ArcMap,  That is a lame way to (not) support one-to-many and many-to-many relationships.

The other (worse) alternative is to copy the feature many times simply to enable multiple hyperlinks to appear within the Identify tool just to maintain a single hyperlink field that contains related hyperlinks (an even more difficult work around that also impacts redraw times and overall ArcGIS performance).  Both work arounds violate the true one-to-many and many-to-many relationship that should be maintaned to represent reality and are entirely due to a needless limitation of enabling hyperlinks within a single row of a feature layer.

A related suggestion is for ESRI to provide an additional and separate option in the Layers and Standalone Table Property dialogs to enable hyperlinks to work from a Tableview field that is left-clicked outside of an edit session.  This additional suggested Tableview option would demonstrate that ESRI is able to recognize that hyperlinks do not require a feature in order to work.

The above is only one of many examples of the extremely limited support (actually lack of support) ESRI provides for data that is best maintained and normalized in a one-to-many and many-to-many relationship.  Getting ESRI's programmers to take on this task might actually lead them to finally get these invaluable reationships to have some real functionality in ArcGIS.


1 Comment
I will have to eat my words about hyperlinks at least as of Version 9.3.  There is a check box option I found after writing this idea/complaint called "When the Hyperlinks or HTML Popup tool is selected, highlight features containing clickable content:" that does what I described for the Identify tool when it is checked.  The check box setting is under the "Tools | Options" menu under the General Tab in the Tools section of the page.  I do not think it is a default setting, but perhaps it should be.

So my request is implemented for hyperlinks using the Identify tool at 9.3.  My workarounds may only apply to users of versions prior to Version 9.3.  So ESRI has given one-to-many and many-to-many relates some real funcionality, at least by 9.3.

However, as far as I know, my work arounds still apply to Labelling, Symbology and many other aspects of ArcMap when a user wants to use values that are stored in a table with a one-to-many or many-to-many relationship relative to a feature.  This may never completely change, but there is still a lot that potentailly can be done to simplify the process within ArcGIS.  At the very least, ESRI should document an explanation of best practices, including the required licence level and tools, that are involved in the process of transformating one-to-many and many-to-many relationships into the one-to-one and many-to-one relationships, since the latter relationships are still required for most Desktop functions like Labelling and Symbology.