Faster Calculations in Arcmap

ricky ricardo
Somebody has some splaining to do.

I like to think of myself as a patient person, not in a hurry. However sometimes when I use the Field Calculator in Arcmap my patience is challenged.

I have a featureclass of sidewalks related to a street centerline network. 284000 sidewalks and 54000 street centerlines. When I calculate a field on the sidewalks, setting it equal to a field from the street network, it takes several hours. That’s in a file gdb with the key field indexed. Somebody has some explaining to do.

Last time I read ESRI’s EULA, I recall it prohibiting publication of benchmark statistics, so I have not included precise numbers. Looks like they are following Oracle’s policy.

Unlike Oracle, ArcGIS does not allow me to determine what execution plan it is using (see EXPLAIN PLAN). I’m quite certain it always uses the same plan, which in this case is a very poor one.

To make it faster, I cache the key/value pairs from the street attribute table into memory using a System.Collections.Hashtable. This takes about 1.4 seconds. I then open a cursor on the sidewalks table and loop through it, looking up the value from the hashtable using the key field value from the sidewalk featureclass. This takes less than a minute.

Interestingly an update cursor is slower than using a cursor created via IFeatureclass.Search. I think this is just with a file geodatabase though, on ArcSDE I believe an update cursor is generally faster, assuming proper rollback segment sizes are configured.

Maybe what ESRI should do is to beef up the MemoryRelationShipClass so that it allows the user to examine and/or specify an execution plan. That way I could tell it to use a hashtable when it does the join, alleviating me from having to roll my own.

For a good comparison of hashtables, sortedlists and dictionaries, see this post.

The shortcoming of this approach is that I can’t do field calculations, just simple assignment. Some day I’d like to try using CodeDOM to generate code from an expression the user has provided. It would need to substitute in the field values for field names. Since square brackets are used in C# I’d need different field name delimiters.

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4 comments so far

  1. Mapper99 on

    I feel your pain…Why does the same update through SQL PLUS take 2 minutes? That’s what kills me!

  2. pierre_k on

    Hi Kirk, where does it say in the EULA about the performance statistics? I cannot seem to find it.. thanks

  3. Kirk Kuykendall on

    Hmm, don’t see it now, but I know I saw it somewhere (a few years ago though). I will check … I’ve also signed other agreements, e.g. for being a beta site and another for being a reseller. Maybe in one of those … will check.

  4. Mr.Bic Phuong on

    The ESRI Field Calculator should be faster as it is. I tried to code some extention to do this, it does perfectly and faster than the built-in Field-Calculator many many times…

    The same as your feeling, I don’t know what make the ESRI to be slow in the function


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