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ArcGIS KML to Layer not retaining Descriptions

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    I recently noticed that when I run the KML to Layer tool in ArcGIS on KML files from Avenza, it does not retain the descriptions found under the points I created in Avenza. This used to work for me in the past, though it cut the descriptions off, but I recall it working. The descriptions show up in Google Earth under the KML’s, but once I run the KML to Layer tool in ArcGIS the Attribute table does not have the descriptions in a column.

    Is there a way to fix this? Do I have to have Pro license to export as a shape file to keep my descriptions?
    Is there another Tool I can use that will convert KML to shape file and keep the descriptions?

    Thank you!


    I just tried an online conversion tool and it maintained the descriptions. So it is most likely a problem with ArcGIS.

    I know I’m now using a newer version of ArcGIS 10.6.1, so maybe they changed something.

    Does anyone know of a way to get ArcGIS to maintain descriptions when using the KML to Layer tool?

    Thank you!


    Hello Arron,

    Thank you for your post.

    I did some testing and I was able to narrow down the issue. Here is what I did:
    – I exported some random KML data I had from Avenza Maps and saved it to DropBox
    – I made sure that there were descriptions in the description field
    – I then downloaded the KML to my computer and tested it on different GIS software

    I was able to replicate your issue. I opened ArcGIS and ran the conversion tool “KML to Layer”.
    – I inputted my KML file and it was added to the map
    – I opened the Attribute Table, in the Attribute Table I get name, timestamps, etc.
    – the description doesn’t appear

    I then tested using the same KML in MAPublisher 10.5 and QGIS 3.8.
    – I imported the KML to a document and then ran the Export Layer function. I selected ESRI Shapefile as the format and ensured that I selected “Export all attributes” and “Export all #Property attributes”.
    – I saved the new SHP file to a location on my computer and opened a new document. I opened the MAP Attributes table and the description info was still there. – I then tried to open the SHP file using ArcGIS
    – The description saved and I was able to view it in ArcGIS

    I ran a similar test using QGIS:
    – Imported the KML to QGIS
    – I used the Save Layer function and saved the format to SHP file.
    – I opened the document in ArcGIS and the description info appeared in the attribute table

    In conclusion, it appears that ArcGIS’s tool “KML to Layer” may be affecting the KML and altering the information and not keeping all of it. Personally, I’ve come to notice that ArcGIS will sometimes not work with file formats that aren’t shpfiles.

    Lastly, I exported the map features from the Avenza Maps app using the SHP format and then opened them in ArcGIS. They retain the description information. Therefore, if you were to upgrade to Avenza Maps Pro you would be given shp file support and you could export as a shp file and you wouldn’t need to find a workaround.

    I would recommend using QGIS since it is a free software and you can convert your KMLs to SHP files and retain your information.

    If you have any questions don’t hesitate to let me know.



    Hello Xavier,

    Thank you for the reply and putting in the time to test this problem, I appreciate it. Yeah, I swear it worked in ArcGIS in the past, but not currently, which is too bad. But like you mentioned there are alternatives, which is fine.
    Again, thank you for the help, much appreciated.

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