Up and Running with ArcGIS
Illustration by John Hersey

Up and Running with ArcGIS

with Adam Wilbert

Video: Understanding ArcGIS versions

ArcGIS is used by countless government agencies around the globe. ArcGIS is a product of a company called ESRI.

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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

Understanding ArcGIS versions

ArcGIS is used by countless government agencies around the globe. Aswell as companies private and public, large and small. Governments used the software to manage data about anything from defense and homeland security. To managing natural resources like water and forest reserves. Municipalities use ArcGIS to help locate new roads, neighborhoods, and schools. And efficiently track pothole repair or other maintenance tasks. Corporations use ArcGIS to track inventory and provide transit times and routing or locate spaces for additional retail stores in new and growing markets.

Needless to say ArcGIS is likely behind many of the decisions about how our world looks and functions today. But where did it come from. ArcGIS is a product of a company called ESRI. They were founded in 1969 in Redlands, California, as Environmental Systems Research Institute, or ESRI for short. In 2010 ESRI began a slow but deliberate transition to a now preferred ESRI pronunciation of their name. And since old habits die hard, many long time many employees and customers still refer to ESRI as ESRI. Which makes for some interesting arguments around the cartography circles.

Regardless how you pronounce it ESRI is a powerhouse company in the GIS industry. In fact their annual user conference takes place every July in San Diego and regularly hosts approximately 15,000 attendees from around the world. ESRI has an entire fleet of products that all use the Arc prefix. So they're offerings can get a little confusing at first. The main ones are listed here, but let me give you a quick overview of the use cases that each one is aimed at. ArcGIS Online allows geoprocessing and map construction using a standard web browser. Essentially allowing you to log in to the tools from any computer and get straight to work.

ArcGIS Online is a subscription service with multiple seat licenses available. It also uses a pool of pre-purchased service credits to pay for storage space and computing tasks. The advantage of this is that geospatial computations, or data manipulations, sometimes require very intense amounts of computer resources. And have been known to take hours or even days to complete on a standard work station. By leveraging the online resources of ESRI's server farm, these calculations can take a fraction of the time to be completed. ArcGIS for Mobile allows users to input data directly into the GIS from remote locations using commercially available mobile devices.

There are specialized versions of ArcGIS available for Windows Mobile. As well as versions for Andriod and Apple IOS tablets and phones. These versions are limited in scope and capability. But do allowed for field data collection using radios and antennas commonly built into these products. ArcGIS for mobile also includes a program called ArcPad. A more fully featured GIS solution that is intended to be installed on professional grade survey GPS data loggers. This allows for efficient data collection, and some limited analysis work to be completed right in the field during a survey expedition.

ArcGIS for Server is specifically designed to manage data in a multi-user environment, and serves as a platform for checking out data sets, and merging changes back in, so that everyone across an organization retains a current and complete copy of the data. It can bring in real-time data updates such as when tracking a fleet of vehicles or making service calls or deliveries. It also helps users outflow complex geoprocessing tasks from their local machines back to the server, so they complete more quickly. ArcGIS for server can also get organizations their own private ArcGIS Online portal for sharing private data over the internet.

But it is very common for people to refer to something just called ArcGIS, and when they do, they typically mean the software version that runs on a local workstation, or what's officially known as ArcGIS for Desktop. And that's the product that this course is concerned with, so throughout this course when I say ArcGIS without any modifiers after it, I really just mean the software package ArcGIS for desktop. The current version of ArcGIS for desktop that I'm using is 10.2, but new updates always seem to be right around the corner. ArcGIS for desktop spans three different license levels with increasing levels of functionality.

Basic provides the core set of mapping tools for importing and symbolizing data to create maps. Standard adds additional support for editing geospatial data and working with multiple user geodatabases. Finally, the advanced license grants access to some very powerful geoprocessing and modeling tools as well as the functionality to create multi-page atlases and map books. Now just like the transition that's being made from the old company pronunciation of ESRI to ESRI. These three license levels have also recently undergone a name change. As recently as version 10.0, the three levels were known as ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo.

It's likely that you'll run into these names in your studies. So rest assured, they're not three additional programs in the Arc family, they're just the old names for the various license levels. Regardless of which license level you're at, it's important to know that ArcGIS for Desktop is a suite of software. Similar to how Microsoft Office includes applications such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, ArcGIS includes several different applications that each have their own uses, but work together as a complete, mapped production package. The main two tools that we'll be looking at in this course are ArcMap and ArcCatalog. ArcMap is the main program used for assembling data and constructing map documents.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for some people to simply use the terms ArcMap and ArcGIS interchangeably when they're really different things. ArcGIS is the suite of tools. ArcMap is the individual program. The suite also includes additional programs for working with 3D environments. ArcScene is useful for creating animated flyovers, and our globe places data on a sphere, similar to something you might see in Google Earth. There are other tools that come with ArcGIS for Desktop, and there are also lots of extensions that serve the specific needs of industries such as the aviation industry Or civil defense, or fire management and so on.

Since the application of ArcGIS is so incredibly vast, and since information changes rapidly, I highly recommend that you spend some time with Esri's official product documentation at esri.com/products. To explore all of the available options, extensions, and packages that might relate to your specific industry.

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