An overview of the Overlay toolset


The Overlay toolset contains tools to overlay multiple feature classes to combine, erase, modify, or update spatial features in a new feature class. New information is created when overlaying one set of features with another. There are six types of overlay operations; all involve joining two existing sets of features into a single set of features to identify spatial relationships between the input features.

Learn more about comparison of overlay tools

At the 9.2 release of ArcGIS, the some overlay tools have been improved to subdivide large datasets in order to improve performance. This happens automatically and removes the need for the Large Overlay tools which were used before version 9.2. For more details see tiled processing of large datasets

The following table lists the tools available in the Overlay toolset and provides a brief description of each.

NOTE: Tool availability is determined by ArcGIS license. Licensing requirements for each tool are listed below.


Tool Description
Erase This tool creates a feature class from those features or portions of features outside the erase feature class. Requires an ArcInfo license.
Identity This tool combines the portions of features that overlap the identity features to create a new feature class. Requires an ArcInfo license.
Intersect This tool builds a new feature class from the intersecting features common in both feature classes. Available with any ArcGIS license.
Spatial Join Creates a type of table join in which fields from one layer's attribute table are appended to another layer's attribute table based on the relative locations of the features in the two layers. Requires an ArcInfo license.
Symmetrical Difference This tool creates a feature class from those features or portions of features that are not common to any of the other inputs. Requires an ArcInfo license.
Union This tool builds a new feature class by combining the features and attributes of each feature class. Available with any ArcGIS license.
Update This tool updates the attributes and geometry of an input feature class or layer by the Update feature class or layer that they overlap. Requires an ArcInfo license.

See Also