Up and Running with ArcGIS
Illustration by John Hersey

Up and Running with ArcGIS

with Adam Wilbert

Video: Exploring ArcToolbox

One of the biggest features of Arc GIS is its powerful geoprocessing capabilities. Now inside the arctoolbox there are a series of other toolboxes.

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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

Exploring ArcToolbox

One of the biggest features of Arc GIS is its powerful geoprocessing capabilities. Geoprocessing is any operation or transformation that you apply to a set of input data. Once the geoprocessing task is complete an output file is saved with the resulting modified or created features. All of the geo processing tools that you'll have access to are found in an additional window called arctoolbox. You can find it both in our map and in our catalog. And you can use this button here on the toolbar to open it. Our toolbox opens up as yet another window that we can dock anywhere on our screen.

I'll go ahead and place it here on this side of my map. And I'm going to resize everything so it fits a little better. Now inside the arctoolbox there are a series of other toolboxes. They all have these labels here and we can drill in to find the actual tools represented by this hammer icon. Now not all tools are available all of the time. For instance if I go down here to geo statistical analyst tools and let me scroll down here. I can go into interpolation And then diffusion interpolation with barriers. If I double click on it, It'll say, the tool is not licensed. It's unable to execute the selected tool, because I don't have the necessary license.

This particular tool requires an activated add-on package called Geostatistical Analyst. Here and there you might run into similar messages depending on your particular setup. So I'm just going to go ahead and said okay to this. And I'll close up the geo statistical analyst tool box. Now let's go back to the top and we'll go through a couple of these tools so you can see how they work. Most of these tools function almost identically. The first one I want to run is in the cartography tools group. So I'm going to collapse this 3D analysts one, go down to cartography tools and I'm going into this generalization group.

And I'm going to run the Simplify Polygon tool. I double click on it, we get a new window here, that runs the tool, that includes all of the input fields that are needed in order for the tool to run. The first thing I need to do is supply some input features, so what I want to do is create a simplified boundary of the state of Washington. The one I have right now is highly detailed, particularly here in these island regions. So let's go ahead and use this tool to provide a simplified version of Washington states. I can go ahead and drag Washington out of my table of contents and drop it in the input features here. Or I can use the drop down list and select it to the list.

The output feature class is where I wanted the output file to go, by default it sets up this default GO database inside my documents folder for my user in Windows. I'm going to go ahead and choose a more specific location for this course. Let's go ahead and click this browse button over here, and that'll put us in our working folder that we've created previously in our catalog. Now inside of here I'm going to create a new geo-database file, to store all of the results of the, toolbox tools that we're about to run. So go ahead and press this new file geo-database button. That'll create a new file geo-database that I will name arc toolbox.

I'll double click to go inside of the arc toolbox geo database I just created, and now I'm going to create a feature class name here called simplified washington. I'll go ahead and press the save button over here. That'll create a new output feature class inside of the geo-database to save the results of the simplify polygon tool. Next, we need to specify some details about how this tool can run. For the simplification algorithm that is going to run, I'm going to choose Bend Simplify. For the simplify tolerance, I'm going to choose a tolerance of one mile by using the drop down list here. And the minimum area I'm going to set to one square mile.

This will mean that any features that are smaller than a square mile after the simplification process is run will get removed from the feature data set. Finally, I'm going to uncheck this box here that says, keep collapsed points. If there's any collapsed points as a result of this tool, it's going to remove them from the data set as well. Let's go ahead and say okay, and the tool will start running. After it's complete, you can see the results are added directly into your map document, now I can zoom in to see how the simplified Washington differs from the standard Washington input that we gave it. I'll use the zoom tool here, and I'll zoom into the cluster of islands over here in San Juan County.

And you can see the resulting simplified polygons are here in pink. And the original polygons are the green ones. So you can see that we've removed a lot of the smaller islands. We've also simplified the coastline quite a bit. Let me turn it off, so you can see what the original input was. And here's the result of the output. Okay, let's go back out to the world view. And we'll go ahead and try another tool. The next thing I want to run is called Thiessen polygons. You can find it underneath the analysis tools. Here, underneath proximity and then create this in polygons. First let me go ahead and turn off the Washington shape and the counties so we're just left with these dairy farm locations. We'll go ahead and run the polygon tools. This one has much fewer inputs that are required. First I need to tell it which points I want to run this polygon against. So I'll say dairy farms, and drag then drop that in there. For the output feature class, that's where it's going to go, and once again I'm going to click browse. I'm going to be inside of my arc toolbox geo-database that we just created. And I'm going to call this dairythesub. Go ahead and say save to that. And go ahead and press okay to run the tool. After the tool is run, we get a new polygon feature class that tells us which dairy is closest to any location in the map. Let me zoom in, so you can see what this looks like. Now, each polygon contains only one dairy farm. So if I'm on this position in the map, then I know that this dairy is closest to me. If I'm on this line here, then I know that I'm equal distance between these two farms. And if I'm on any vertex here in these polygon class, you'll see that I'm equal distance between up to three or more different dairy farms. Let me go ahead and zoom back out again. And I'll turn that feature class off. The last tool that I want to run is called a fishnet grid. And you can find it underneath data management tools, feature class. I'll go up to data management tools. I'll go into feature class. And it's called create fishnet here. I'll go ahead and double click on it to run the tool. Now, what this fishnet class is going to do is just create a gridded data file that covers a particular area. So I don't have any specific inputs to give it. It wants to know where to save the final feature class, so I'll click this browse button. I'm still inside of my art tool box, so I'm just going to call this Washington fish net. And go ahead and say save. Next it needs to know what is the extent of the fish net grid that we're about to create. I want to choose same as layer Washington so it covers the entire state. And it puts it in the top, bottom, left, and right coordinates. Let's scroll down to finish this out. The next thing you need to know is the cell size width and height. This is how big my fishnet grid is going to be. Now, this particular map is in units of feet. And I can see that on the very bottom down here. So the unit size for cell width and cell height need to be in terms of feet. So if I want a 10 mile by 10 mile grid, I'm going to type in 52,800. Which is the number of feet in ten miles. That'll be both the width and the height. I'll go ahead and scroll down just a little bit further, and finally it wants to know which type of geometry are we going to create. The default is polyline. I'm going to use this drop-down and choose polygon instead to create polygon features. We'll go ahead and say okay, and the fish net grid is created. A fish net grid creates equal are of polygons across a study area. That is useful for population studies. And we'll make use of this in the next movie. So as you can see, there's a ton of power in the geoprocessing tools within our toolbox. And we've barely scratched the surface of what's available. Depending on your particular arcgis license level, and what add-on extensions you have activated, there might even be more tools available to you. Since the arctoolbox tools are built right inside of both arcmap and arcctalog, they're always at your fingertips and able to help you out with your geospatial analyses.

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