Up and Running with ArcGIS
Illustration by John Hersey

Getting to know the ArcMap interface


Up and Running with ArcGIS

with Adam Wilbert

Video: Getting to know the ArcMap interface

The primary tool that we will use to assemble After this flash screen disappears, we'll see that Down below that, I have some ISO page sizes, But instead of loading up a template, what I And I'm going to go into the exercise files folder, into When the file is loaded, we'll see the standard ArcMap interface here, In the middle part of the screen, I have what's called a Now the Table of Contents, the Catalog and the Just like that.

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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

Getting to know the ArcMap interface

The primary tool that we will use to assemble the geo spacial data into a map is called ArcMap. Let's go ahead and start ArcMap. If you're on Windows 7, you're going to go down to the start button, and in the ArcGIS program group, you're going to choose ArcMap. Me, I'm on Windows 8, so I'm going to press the Windows button here to jump back to the start screen And I can either press the ArcMap 10.2 tile here, or just typing ArcMap, and the search results will bring that up right here. So let me go ahead and click on that to open up ArcMap. After this flash screen disappears, we'll see that we get this new Getting Started screen here.

Over on the left, we have a file tree here that has a bunch of templates and traditional layouts that we can make a choice from. We have the option of starting a new blank map by just choosing that blank map template and pressing the OK button. Or we could take a look at these standard page sizes here to get started with something that's already pre setup for us. So for instance I have this architectural page sizes which has some standard page sizes like nine by 12 and 18 by 24 and so on. Down below that, I have some ISO page sizes, so these are kind of international sizes that I could choose from here, and if I scroll down a little bit more, I get some North American ANSI page sizes.

So 17 by 22, 34 by 44, and so on. Now below these standard page size layouts, I have what are called Traditional Layouts. I can click that here on the little tree over on the left hand side. And I'll see that I've got some traditional page layouts that fit different industries. So maybe one of these is appropriate for the work that I'm trying to do here. So I can scroll through here to see the different traditional layouts. If I scroll down enough, I can get to some pre-made map layouts, so this is underneath the USA or world traditional layout. If I switch to world, we'll see the world maps here.

And these maps are pretty popular with data that comes installed with Arc map. So if I find an area of interest here, I can just choose the map. And press OK. To get started using this template. But instead of loading up a template, what I want to do is open up one of the exercise files. So instead, I'm going to choose browse for more and either press it up here. Or down here the tree. And I'm going to go into the exercise files folder, into the Chapter one folder, and choose the 0103 interface file here. And go ahead and say OK. And that'll load it up here underneath new maps and finally I'll press OK to load up that map file.

When the file is loaded, we'll see the standard ArcMap interface here, so let's take a tour through this interface and see what's going on. In the middle part of the screen, I have what's called a data view and this is where our map is going to appear. On the left hand side I have a section called Table of Contents, and in the table of contents it describes all the different data files that I have, that make up my map here in the data view. So if for instance I have this bounding box, which is currently colored blue, and that's this background area here in the background. Then on top of that I've got some graticules, so this is this blue line here that shows up in the graticule area here.

And then on top of that, I've got this state and provinces layer that's currently colored green, so it's this green area here. So those are the different layers that make up my map. Over here on the right I've got two tabs. One called Catalog and one called Search. You'll notice that as I hover my mouse over that, they pop open. I can lock them open by pressing on the little pin icon here at the top of the screen. If I click on that, that'll lock the search open. And you will notice those tabs now move down to the bottom so I can switch between Catalog and search Panels here. I'll go ahead and click the pin here to unpin them and you'll notice that they disappear then off the screen.

So as I move around the map you'll notice that those hide again off the side. Now the Table of Contents, the Catalog and the Search panels can all be rearranged on the screen. So for instance if I take my Table of Contents I can click on it, and drag it to a different position. And as I started doing that I get these little drop zones, so I can attach it to the top of my screen, I can attach it to the bottom of my screen, and so on. I can move it around the different areas on the screen. I'm going to go ahead and put it back here on the left hand side, and we can do the same thing with the Catalog and the Search. So if I pin it and I can move it, and I can drag it into a different position.

So for instance if I attach it over here, the Catalog and the Search tabs appear over here on the left. Let's go ahead and drag it and put it back. And I'll un-pin it, so they hide again. Now, all of these panels can be resized to fit the data. So for instance over here on this Table of Contents, I've got this gray bar between it and my data view. And if I hover my mouse here, I can click and drag this open and closed to resize the area allotted to this Table of Contents area, so I can resize things to fit my screen. I'll go ahead and open it up so I can see all the title here for this bounding box layer.

Just like with most other Windows programs, we have a selection of menus here across the top, and then a couple of toolbars that I want to explore. This first toolbar up here is called the Standard toolbar. And you can see it has a little grabber handle over here on the left. These four dots. And if I click on that, I can drag it. And I can reposition it, just like those other panels here. So I can move the Standard toolbar around to a place that is, makes sense for my particular screen. If I want to move it back, it gets a little bit difficult with the standard toolbar, but I can move back up here. If I try and move it back on top sometimes it doesn't snap into position very well.

So what we can do is move it up here under the second row and then drag the second toolbar down, and then move the standard toolbar back into position here. Just like that. So I can move these toolbars around again to position them on the screen no matter where I want them, and this really comes into play if you have multiple screens. So if I have multiple monitors, what I can do is take my Table of Contents, and I can drag it off to a different screen. I can take my Catalog and Search panels and move them to a different screen, and I can also move my toolbars to a different screen if I want to. I'm going to click this and move it right back to where it was. Now on the standard toolbar we have the normal tools that you might be used to.

So, we have the New icon. Here we can open up a new file here. I can save, I can print. I also have Cut, Copy and Paste, and so on. So, those tools you might be familiar with from other Office programs here. The next tool over here is called Add Data. And this is the button that we're going to come to, whenever we want to add a new feature to our map. So if I wanted to add another layer. For instance, say cities. Press this Add Data button and add in a Cities data layer. This next box is called Map Scale. And it currently shows me the scale that this map is currently at. So I can see that this scale is at one, two, 151 million approximately.

The next button over here is called the editor toolbar. And if I click it, the editor toolbar will turn on a new toolbar that I could add up onto my screen here or I can move it down and turn it off. And we'll go ahead and talk about the editor toolbar in chapter four. Let me go ahead and just click this X button to turn it off. And finally, I have a couple of buttons over here that will turn on the different panels or panes around my screen. So for instance, this one here is called Table of Contents and if I close my table of contents, you'll see that this button brings it right back. So this button, I can use it to turn on or off my Table of Contents.

This button over here, I can do the same thing with the Catalog. So I can expand the Catalog or expand the Search panels. Then I have a couple of additional ones that we haven't seen. So I've got one for Arc toolbox, which will open up yet another panel, containing a bunch of geoprocessing tools that we can use. I can go ahead and close that. And we also have a panel here called Python and this will open up a little scripting environment that we might be able to use. So those are the different panels that we can open up and reposition around our screen. And then finally this button here is called ModelBuilder, the ModelBuilder will help us build some customized tools using some of those geo processing tools we saw in the toolbox here.

So this is the tools on the standard toolbar. The next toolbar down is called the Tools toolbar. And again, we can grab this little handle here on the left and move it into a new position to see this called the Tools' toolbar. I'll drag that and put that back to where it was. Now the first couple of tools here, in this Tools' toolbar are all about navigating around your map document. So we've got a little magnifying glass here with a plus in it, so that'll zoom us in and zoom out. So for instance, if I wanted to zoom in say to the United States. I can just click on the United States and my zoom will zoom into that area.

I can also draw a bounding box. So if I click and drag a box, I can zoom into the United States this way as well. If I wanted to zoom into Florida, just click and drag a box around Florida and it will zoom into the state of Florida. Now the Zoom out button does exactly the same thing. I can either click on it to zoom out incrementally or I can drag a box, in which case it'll zoom out using that bounding box as well. This button over here with the globe icon on it will zoom to the full extent and what that does is it takes your data and it fits it all to the screen.

So when I click on full extent, it zooms back out to the global view so I can see all of the data that's in my document. Over here, I've got some buttons here called fixed zoom in and fixed zoom out and basically this'll do the same thing as the plus and minus magnifying glasses but it'll zoom in to the center of the screen so I don't actually have to click on the map. I'll click fixed zoom in and it'll zoom in to the middle of my map. And fix zoom out and it will zoom out from the middle. I'm going to go ahead and use the plus icon here to zoom back into the United States and there's one other tool here called the Pan tool has a hand icon on it and if I select that I can click on the map and drag it to a new location so I'm not changing the zoom level at all.

I'm just panning around the map, left to right, up and down, and so on so I can use that to move without changing the scale. Now, there's a couple of shortcut keys that I want to introduce you to here. If you move your mouse over these individual tools, you'll see a little pop-up tool box. And this little tool says that the zoom in shortcut uses the Z key, the zoom out tool uses the X key and the pan key uses the C key. And so basically what we need to do is just hold down one of those keys and as I hold down the key you can see that I am currently on the hand tool here.

And as I hold down the Z key. It temporarily switches to the plus magnifying glass, and if I hold down the X key, it'll switch to the minus magnifying glass, and if I was on a different tool if I hold down the C key it would jump to the hand tool. But I'm already on the hand tool here. But what I can do is press the Z key to choose the plus magnifying glass, and I can zoom in this way. And as soon as I let go of Z, it returns me back to the tool that I was at just a moment ago. The same thing applies with the X key, so if I hold down the X key, it'll jump me to the zoom out magnifying glass in which case I can zoom out.

And as soon as I let it go, it returns me back to the tool I was last at. Now as I'm zooming in and out, you might have noticed that this other arrow up here suddenly turned from gray to active. So it's now blue. I can click on it. If I hover my mouse over, it says go back to previous extent and what this does is it'll move me back through my various views that I was just at. So if I press the back key, it'll move me back to the views. This is where I zoomed out and then I'm zooming back out again and I'm moving around the map here and eventually it'll get me back to the full-scale view that I was just at.

If I press on Full Extent here, it will zoom me out to that. I can maybe then zoom back into the United States and then pressing Previous Extent will move me back to that full view there. So Previous Extent and Next Extent will move me back and forth between two different views that I was just last at. Now those have shortcut keys as well if you hover your mouse over it the tool tip shows you that its the left bracket and the right bracket so I can use those keys to zoom in and out using my left bracket and the right bracket to go from previous extent to the next extent.

Now as I've been panning and zooming around the map you might have noticed this scale box up here changing to show me the new scale that I'm at. So right now, I've zoomed into the United States. I'm at a one to 28 million scale map right now, and basically what that means is that one inch on this map equals 28 million inches in real life. Now sometimes people want to read this as one to 28 million, meaning one inch to 28 million miles or something like that. The important thing to remember here is that on each side of this fraction is the same unit. So this could be one centimetre equals 28 million centimetres or one foot equals 28 million feet, it all reads the same thing.

As long as the units are the same on the left and the right, then that's what that scale is referring to. Now I can use this drop down list here to choose from some standard scales I can jump to, so it may be a one to ten million scale would look like that, a one to three million scale would be zoomed in even further, and so on. And I can type in my own scales as I want. So maybe this doesn't make much sense, maybe I want to see a map that is one inch equals 100 miles. Well in order to do that, we need to do a little bit of math. So what I want to do here is jump back out to the start screen, I'm going to press the Windows key, and I'm going to type in calculator.

That'll give me my calculator app, I'll pull that up here on the screen. Now the math that I need to do is to figure out how many inches there are in 100 miles. So let's start with 100 miles, going to multiply that by 5,280, that's the number of feet in a mile. That gives me 528,000 feet in 100 miles, then I just multiply that by 12, the number of inches in a foot and that gives me 6,336,000. So if I go up here, I can close my calculator now. If I go up here to my scale bar area, I can type in one: and then I could type in 6,336,000.

Go ahead and press Enter, and the map will zoom out to a scale of one inch equals a 100 miles. If this is a scale that I want to use often. What I can do is click on this drop down arrow, and go to Customize this List. And when I do that, I get the Scale Settings box up here. And what I can do is say add current, it will add the current scale on to my list of customized scales here. And now when I say OK, it'll show up in this list. So I can jump between a one to 10 million scale and I can jump between a one inch equals 100 miles scale here.

I'm going to go back down to the drop down list, and say, Customize this List again. And I can also change the display of these fractions. So for instance, if I go over to scale format, I can specify how I want to view the current scale, so instead of a one, two and a number, I can say one inch equals 100 miles or view it in various different ways here. I'm going to say 1 inch equals 100 miles in this format, I'll say OK. And you'll see that my scale's now reading as I interpret it, so one inch equals 100 miles. If I click on the drop down list, you'll see all the other ones have changed as well.

So this one was one to ten million, but it really means one inch equals 158 miles, and so on. So that's some different ways that we can adjust the scale of our map. Now, if I want to save a current extent of my map, so for instance if I want to save this particular view of Oklahoma at a scale of one inch equals 100 miles, what we could do is take advantage of a tool called Bookmarks. I'm going to go up to this Bookmarks menu here and say Create Bookmark. And what that'll do is it'll save the current extent and scale into a location that I can return to.

So I'm going to call this Oklahoma, and go ahead and say OK. And now in my Booksmark list you'll see that I got a new bookmark called Oklahoma. Now previously I had saved one called the United States so if I click on that it will zoom out to a scale of one inch equals 544 miles and it's just a view of the United States. And I can switch back from Bookmarks, Oklahoma, it'll zoom right back to where I was just a moment ago. So that's a little bit about navigating around our map. Now one thing I do want to mention here is that occasionally when you pan and zoom around on your map documents, ArcMap won't fully render the new view.

So for instance if I pan and zoom fast enough occasionally it just won't render the whole screen. I might just get half a screen rendered and the rest will be blank. If that ever happens to you just come down here to the bottom of the screen and there's this little recycle button here called Refresh and the shortcut key for that is F5. If you press the Refresh button, it will redraw the screen. So if you have any weird arrows that show up, if you quickly pan around sometimes this doesn't draw properly, just come on down here to the Refresh button, give that a click and it will redraw the screen for you. And the last thing I want to mention is resetting the interface. So occasionally, what happens is we can move these items all over the screen here.

If I move the table of contents out, and maybe drag my catalog out, maybe rearrange my toolbars or I turn on the Editor toolbar, and dock that, I can make a real mess of my screen. Now unfortunately, there isn't one Go to button to reset the default layout of ArcMap for the interface and so in order to reset the layout of my layers and my catalog back to the default state, what we need to do is actually go out to Windows and reset the files there. So I'm going to go ahead and close ArcMap. And it's going to ask me if I want to save any changes, and I don't need to do that here, so I'm going to say No.

But you'll notice if I were to start ArcMap again, you just go to ArcMap and launch it again. You'll notice that my Table of Contents and my Catalog and all my menus are kind of messed up here. So what I want to do, is cancel out of this. Go ahead and close ArcMap, and what we need to do is delete the normal document. Basically, it's the template that ArcMap uses to start up. In order to do that, what I'm going to do is open up a Windows Explorer file. It doesn't matter where you go. I'm just going to go to this URL bar here and depending on your version of Windows, the path is going to be slightly different.

But we can always get to it by typing in, in the URL bar, a percent app data and then closing percent, and it'll take you to the app data location on your operating system. So in Windows 8 here, it's in my Users folder. On Windows 7, it might be somewhere else. But inside of this Roaming folder, I'm going to go into the ESR program group here. Inside of my current version of ArcMap, and inside of ArcMap, and you'll find a templates folder here and inside of that is a normal map document. So this is basically a map template, and if I rename or get rid of this file, just going to go ahead and drag it over to my recycle bin.

That'll reset the interface for ArcMap. So once I do that and I go ahead and close this window there and once again I'll pop out to my Start screen, I'll launch ArcMap once again and after it loads, you'll see that all the tabs and the panels are right back to where they started with originally. So getting your work space up to your liking is an important first step in becoming comfortable in the ArcMap environment, particularly if you can make use of multiple monitors. The ArcMap interface has a lot of moving parts, and sometimes being able to quickly find the tool that you need is the hardest part of the job.

As you become more familiar with the functions of the different windows, toolbars, and panels, you will be able to quickly move them into the most efficient location or selectively remove them from your screen in order to maintain a clear and clutter free view of your map.

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