Up and Running with ArcGIS
Illustration by John Hersey

Up and Running with ArcGIS

with Adam Wilbert

Video: Adding scale bars, north arrows, and titles

Before we can call our map complete, there are The next option I want to take a look at is under the Insert menu, Scale Text.

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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with ArcGIS
3h 13m Beginner Mar 11, 2014

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Get up and running with ArcGIS, a true geographic information system (GIS) that allows you to dig into highly accurate geospatial data in a way other mapping applications can't compete with. It's great creating maps, analyzing data for land use studies and other reports, and preparing data for use in an application or database. Let Adam Wilbert show you how to display, analyze, and illustrate geospatial data with ArcGIS. He explores how to import data from multiple sources, manage it with the ArcGIS catalog, and then start making maps. Learn how to lay out your data in the ArcMap component; add symbols, scale bars, and legends; and get your maps out of ArcGIS and into the real world, whether it's for printing or export to another application.

Topics include:
  • Understanding vector vs. raster data
  • Modifying metadata
  • Adding data to a map
  • Importing data from online providers
  • Labeling features
  • Joining data
  • Clipping data to a study area
  • Working with map layouts
  • Creating a legend
  • Printing and exporting the map to a file
Business Developer IT
Adam Wilbert

Adding scale bars, north arrows, and titles

Before we can call our map complete, there are some last minute additions that we need to consider making. They can all be found under the Insert menu here in the menu bar. The first one I'll talk about is the Scale bar. Scale bars tell the reader the size of the area being mapped and allows them to make measurements across the page. Scale bars are useful for when you are in control of the output medium. For instance, if this is going to be displayed on the computer screen, you'll have no idea if somebody's on a giant 30 inch monitor or a smaller 17 inch screen. The nice thing about a Scale Bar is that it is a graphical representation of scale.

It gets larger as the map gets larger and smaller as the map gets smaller. Let's go ahead and insert a Scale Bar into our map by selecting it from the Insert menu. Here we get a scale bar selector. And there's a whole variety of scale bars that are already designed for us. We go through and pick one out that we like. I'm going to choose this Alternating Scale Bar One. Go ahead and say OK, and ArcMap adds it into the map document. Now we can drag and drop it wherever we want on our layout. If I want to make additional edits to it, I could just double-click on it and it will bring up the Alternating Scale Bar Properties here.

We can set the number of divisions, which is where it alternates from black to white, and the number of subdivisions down here at the bottom end of the bar. We can also adjust what units we're displaying in. So, for instance, if I wanted to display this in kilometers, for instance, I just switch the menu here. Press Apply and it updates my scale bar over here. We have some other tabs up here where we can go through and adjust the numbers or the markers, the formatting of the text, whether there is a data frame around it and it's size and position as well. Let me go ahead and go back to Scale and Units. I'm going to change this back to miles. And we'll go ahead and say Apply and OK to get it back to miles.

You'll also notice as you resize the Scale bar, that it updates. So now it's showing divisions of 50 miles and it goes up to 200 miles. And if I make it smaller, the scale bar updates to divisions of 25 miles and it ends at 100 miles. So I can make it whatever size I want. So, let me go ahead and place that right there on the map. The next option I want to take a look at is under the Insert menu, Scale Text. The Scale Text option is great when you know exactly what the output size will be. For instance, if you know absolutely that this map will be printed at a 24 by 36 poster, or some other fixed size.

Since the finished size is fixed, you can accurately say that this map is at a scale of 5 miles to an inch, for instance. Or 1 inch equals 200 kilometers. Obviously, if this map were printed smaller than intended though, then the statement would no longer be valid. Let's go ahead and add some scale text to our map, and I'll select it from the Insert menu here. Again, I have a bunch of varieties of how I want that to display, for instance, I can do down and say, okay, I wanted to say, 1 inch equals some number of miles, go ahead and say OK, and that will place it on my map. I can go ahead and place this wherever I'd like as well. Next up is a north arrow.

Let's go back to the Insert menu and take a look at our north arrow options. North arrows help orient the reader and they come in a wide range of styles to choose from. Now, not all maps require a north arrow, since the vast majority of maps follow a north is up convention, and it's often just assumed that north is up even without an arrow on the page. In fact, some projections can't have a north arrow, since north isn't the same direction across the page due to the distortions of the earth's surface. That said, if you do want to include a north arrow, all we need to do is go through this North Arrow Selector and pick a style that matches the style of our map, and you can see that some of them are pretty ornate.

I'm going to go through here, and let's find one that I like. How about this just ESRI North 70. It's a pretty basic looking one. We'll go ahead and say OK, and it'll add that onto the map here. Now it comes in pretty small, so I can use my drag handles on the edges, to make it larger if I'd like. And so, I can add a North there onto my map, and maybe I'll place it down here next to the legend. We'll readjust its size and move it up into position. There. Unlike the north era though, every map absolutely needs a title. So I'm going to go into the Insert menu and choose Title from here. We'll get a dialog box asking me what I want the title to say. I'm going to call this Washington Dairy Farms. Go ahead and say OK. And ArcMap adds that title onto our map. If we want to make additional edits to it, just double click on it to bring up its properties. We can change its text in here. And you can see that storing the property inside of our document title property. We can just edit that text if we want to, but that's basically being stored in the map document as its title. We can also change its font size and position and we can go into this other size and position to accurately locate in our layout. Go ahead and just say OK, and I'm going to move this into position. I'm going to leave it here at the top of the page actually, and maybe I'll link that a little larger. So I'll just double-click on it, go into Text, and change its font size by going to Change Symbol, and then changing the size box here to maybe 24. Go ahead and say OK, Apply. Okay. And there's a much larger title here and I'll place that at the top of the page. So now we can call this map complete. It's important to remember all these little finishing touches. The scale indicators. The north arrows. The titles and so on. That really round out the layout.

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