The geocoding framework

Understanding the geocoding framework helps when defining the address locator and its interaction and function in the geocoding process.

User interface

Perhaps the most familiar of the geocoding components is the geocoding user interface. ArcGIS for Desktop consists of two major applications, ArcMap and ArcCatalog. Many of the modifications and functions of geocoding can be performed through dialog boxes or tools available in either application. The primary dialog boxes used in geocoding are those for creating, adjusting, and executing the geocoding process. Creation of and adjustments to an address locator are made in ArcCatalog or the Catalog window in ArcMap. Finding addresses can be done in either ArcMap or ArcCatalog through a variety of dialog boxes. The Geocoding toolbar in ArcMap is a good place to start. Some processes can also be performed using the geoprocessing toolboxes available in both ArcMap and ArcCatalog.

Address locator style and address locator

An address locator contains a combination of location-specific attributes and certain style-specific guidelines based on the address locator style selected. An address locator is created with the ArcGIS interface. This address locator is the entity that specifies the method to interpret a particular type of address input, relate it with the predefined address attributes, and deliver a certain type of output back to the user interface.

The address locator style is the skeleton of the address locator. It defines what reference data can be used in creating an address locator. It also specifies the properties and parsing grammar that guide the geocoding process and outputs.

Learn more about commonly used address locator styles

Reference data can have many different characteristics. Each address locator requires at least a primary reference dataset. The nature of this reference dataset can vary based on the addresses that you want to geocode. In addition to the primary reference data, ancillary data can also be applied. Tables containing place-names or aliases of particular features, such as schools, government buildings, or hospitals, can be added as reference data. This allows you to search for locations based on the name of the location rather than the street address. Alternate name tables can also be used. These tables contain lists of alternate names for the features in the primary reference dataset. For example, a road may be known by an older name as well as a new name or a highway number as well as a street name. When using an alternate name table, both names for the same feature can be searched.

After an address locator is built, addresses can be matched using the address locator. The reference data will be disconnected from the address locator. If the reference data is modified, you can rebuild the address locator to refresh the information.

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