3Dimension 'Z' and 'M' Features

More detail on 3D Functions and take a look at 3D Solids Design

A class of shapefiles with features called pointZ, polylineZ, or polygonZ and a similar types with 'M' values can be read in ArcView 3.1 and above. These are often encountered with the CAD reader. theEngine provides you with a set of tools to take significant advantage of them.

All of theEngine functions will work with 'Z' and 'M' files either by operating on the features in 3D form, or in 2D form if appropriate. Graphics created from 3D features carry the Z or M values, and can be manipulated in the same way theEngine handles 2D graphics, plus some new tricks. Editing functions treat Z/M files as if they are normal 2D shapefiles.

With theEngine you may create your own, edit and digitize 3D features as you would with normal 2D features. That is, you may spaghetti digitize, copy from one file to another, change shapes from one to another, move, stretch, rotate, 3D view, extract, AutoExtract, connect attributes, convert to graphics, send to file, and much more. But in addition, you may edit the Z or M values for the feature itself or for each node in it. You may also flip 90 degrees right or left continuously to allow you to view, digitize or edit. These are very powerful CAD like tools.

Z Digitizing:

Click where a node is to be drawn and enter a Z or M value and the type of file you wish to send it to (Z or M). The points string will be automatically converted into the correct shape to suit your active file and written to it. Same with M files. If activated, all points would then write to an active pointZ or pointM file.

Typical Z digitizing is shown in the above plan view as red points. The 3D polyline created from them, shown blue. The pints are graphics, while the line is a feature written to a Z file.

Set Z value:

This is a multipurpose tool as follows: Clicking on a graphic allows you set or edit the Z/M values. Clicking on a feature will do the same. If you have one feature selected, and click it will take on the Z/M values. This is useful when features stack one on top of each other, and need to be edited.

Z Edit:

This is a multipurpose tool. It will allow vertex editing of Z, M or 2D files. But with this tool the graphic is tagged so that if you save it after editing it will return to the original record. Z and M vertices can be converted to points to set Z/M Values.

Fast Delete:

Select features with this tool, and they are permanently erased. This tool works on any editable file not just Z or M types.


There are two functions to flip a 3D features 90 degree to the left or right, continuously. A 2D feature is flipped 180 degrees, to a mirror image.

For example, you may 'erect' an object by designing it in on the flat, then flipping any side elements vertically.

3D View:

The 3D Extrude function will give you a 3D view of any Z or M file, as well as the normal extruded view of 2D files.

In the above 3D view, both a 3D polylineZ and 2D (extruded) nested contour polygons are drawn by the function. Three files were drawn simultaneously. Elevation values match throughout, and will if viewed from any angle.

Any number of files can be viewed in any direction (even in profile) and automatically saved to new files. If saved they will carry over attributes from the originating files.

And More:

The normal 'make shapefile and database' function in theEngine includes a list of pointZ, polylineZ, and polygonZ, (and similar M files), that can be made automatically. Thus not only can you work with imported files, you can make your own. theEngine treats these as if they were normal 2D files.

There is a function to list the Z or M values of a single Z or M feature, and a function to convert 3D to 2D files.