11. Intro to ArcGIS Desktop

The instructions in this post are very abbreviated to remind you of the steps we took in class.  Each exercise includes links to online resources that step you through similar processes in much more detail.  The tutorial files are available in the COURSES shared drive in the Common > GIS folder.


Exercise: Orientation to ArcMap

Launch ArcMap and explore the interface.  It should look fairly familiar from ArcGIS online, with a map window to the right and table of contents to the left and button of tools across the top.  To get started, we’ll use web layers the same as we did with the online product.

  1. Create a new Map
  2. Add Basemap
    • Search or zoom to area of interest
  3. Add Data layers from ArcGIS Online
    • Explore layer properties to see all you can control
  4. Save Map to Project Folder

ArcMap for desktop also allows you to add your own data layers, create your own map layers and perform very intensive analyses of them. To get a basic sense of what different layers look like, we’ll download a series of layers from a project that has made their shapefiles available: Mapping Medieval Chester.

  1. Create a new Map
  2. Download all shapefiles from the Mapping Medieval Chester project, and extract the zipped folder to your desktop
    • Have a look in the folder and see the numerous files that makeup a shapefile
    • Launch ArcCatalog and compare the single view of the shapefiles to the file folder
  3. Add whichever files you want to your map
    • Open the attribute tables
    • Open the Properties for the layer
      • Change the symbology
      • Check out the other options
  4. Reorder the layers, choose different tools, and continue to explore the ArcMap interface

Tufts Tutorial: Creating a Map with ArcMap

ArcGIS 10 Help: Basemap Layers


Exercise: Georeferencing a Scanned Image

You can use ArcMap to georeference an image, just like we did online.  The process is not exactly intuitive, however, and takes some patience.

  1. Center the area you wish to align the image to in the map viewer (Carleton Campus)
  2. Add Image File (1902 Campus Map)
  3. Turn on Georeferencing Toolbar via Customize > Toolbars
    • Choose Georeferencing > Fit To Display to center the image over the area you wish to align it to
  4.  Set Control Points (at least four)
    • Launch the table to see residual errors, delete points if necessary, and save table for documentation
  5. Choose Georeferencing > Rectify to attach the location information to the image
    • Add Rectified Image back to map and remove the temporary layer you were working with
  6. Save your map document

Tufts Tutorial: Georeferencing Images in Arc

Georeferencing Tutorial from the fantastically detailed and helpful GIS Manual maintained by Paul Cote at the Harvard Graduate School of Design

ArcGIS 10 Georeferencing Video Tutorial

Exercise:  Digitize Features from Rectified Image

Now that you’ve got the referenced image you can digitize features from it to create new vector layers that you can transform, analyze and otherwise manipulate.  In our case, we’re going to create vector polygon shapes for some of the buildings on the 1902 campus map that no longer stand today.  We’ll also add start and end date fields for when the buildings were built and when they were demolished.  That way we can “enable time” on the layer we create and animate the map, making our buildings appear and disappear as you slide forward through time!

  1.  Create New Shapefile in ArcCatalog
    •  Choose Polygon
    •  Define Projection (e.g. NAD 1983 UTM Zone 15N)
    •  Add Fields (e.g. Name, Type, Start Date, End Date)
  2. In ArcMap, Add New Shapefile (if necessary)
    •  Turn on Editor Toolbar via Customize > Toolbars
    •  Start Editing
    •  Create Features (the Right Angle tool is best for buildings)
    •  Input Attributes
    •  Stop Editing and Save!
  3.  Enable Time
    • Layer Properties > Time tab
    • Check Enable Time box
    • Set start and end fields
    • Interval should be years
  4.  Open the Time Slider and animate the map!

Tufts Tutorial: Creating a New Shapefile

ArcGIS 10 Help: Right Angle Tool

ArcGIS 10 Help: Visualizing Temporal Data


Exercise:  Joining Tabular Data to Shapefiles

For the last two exercises, we are working with non-Carleton data.  It is very common to have some data that is not spatially referenced, but contains location information, like states or countries, that you would like to be able to display on a map.  To do that, you need to join the tabular data in your spreadsheet to the geodatabase table on a common field.

  1.  Create New Map
    •  Add EnglandandWalesBackground and SouthwestPeninsula shapefiles from the JoinExercise folder
  2.  Turn off background layer, and zoom to full extent
  3.  Add sw_eng_demographics.csv
    • Right click and open attribute tables for both
    • Find the common field
    • Right click on the shapefile and choose > Joins
    • Join matching fields
  4.  Export new layer as shapefile to save (otherwise it will only live in this map)
  5.  Double-click new layer to go to properties
    •  Experiment with symbolization choices

For a detailed walkthrough of this, and many other GIS processes, see the University of Minnesota’s U-Spatial Training Workshop files at

http://uspatial.umn.edu/  > Training > Workshops > GIS 101  > Download Workshop Materials


Exercise:  Make a Publishable Map in Layout View

We have been working entirely in data view, but ArcMap also has a layout view which lets you add legends, scale bars, north arrows and multiple maps to a nicely formatted page for publication purposes.  This is one of the key advantages of the desktop version over the online offering, which is great for interactive maps but less so for high-quality static ones.

  1. In the Layout folder, launch GIS_example.mxd map document
    1.  Switch to layout view
    2.  Insert and format a legend
    3.  Add an extent rectangle to the Context map
  2. Continue to tweak the formatting and save or print as desired

ArcGIS 10 Map Layout Demo

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