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Buffers With Points - A Tool for Creating Rectangular Buffers

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 10:00

Script ToolOne of the most commonly used geoprocessing tools is the Buffer tool.  I find myself demoing this tool in almost every GIS class that I teach.  After running the tool, I am often asked how one can create square buffers around points instead of the circles that are created by the Buffer tool.  This is pretty easy to do, but I find that most people are completely unaware of the ArcView level tool that can do this.  It is the Minimum Bounding Geometry tool in the Data Management Toolbox.  This is a very useful tool, and if you have not used it before, I suggest trying it out. Here is an illustration.  First, run the Buffer tool and buffer a set of point features.


Circular Buffers Around Points

The circular polygons outputed from the buffer tool are not pointless.  They become the input features to the Minimum Bounding Geometry tool.  Choose the RECTANGLE_BY_AREA option as the Geometry Type.

Esri's Minimum Bounding Geometry Tool

Run the tool, and voila! It's hip to be square.

Square Buffers Around Points

This usually elicits a round of oohs and aahs, and everyone is satisfied. On occasion though, someone says, "That's great, but what if I want rectangles?" At which point, I have to hesitantly say, "Well, one would have to write a script for that." This is then usually followed by a deflated "Oh . . ."

I don't like to have unhappy customers, so I wrote a Python script tool. I can now confidently say, "I have a tool for that!"

The Rectangular Buffer tool creates a rectangular polygon buffer around each point from an input point feature class. The input point feature class can be of type point or mulitpoint. The input point feature class must be in a projected coordinate system, and the polygon feature class will be created with the same spatial reference. Each new polygon will have a RefID attribute with the ObjectID of the point that it was created from. Here is a screen shot of the tool:

Rectangular Buffer Tool Screenshot

And here is a screen shot of the tool's results:

Rectangular Buffers Around Points

If you too would like a tool for this, and your favorite price is free, the download link is below. I have also included the AutoNumber tool in the toolbox, so that you may have two cool tools for the price of one. Laughing


Tool Download Page


Happy New Year from GISNuts.com!!!



I have had a need for something like this for a couple of years.  Thank so much for taking the time to develop the tool and place it here.

Leslie's picture

I had someone ask me to include an optional rotation angle for the rectangular buffers, so stay tuned!



GREAT tool.  Perfect for making indexes to my aeiral photo collection.

What are the units of the height & width?



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Map Librarian
Colorado School of Mines

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