2b. Starting ArcMap

1. Introduction


2a.  Setting up in ArcCatalog

2b.  Starting ArcMap

2c.  Adding background data

2d.  Georeferencing a field map

3. Creating data (first steps)

4. Creating and editing data

5. Creating polygons

6. Preparing a print-quality map

2b.  Starting ArcMap

Assigning a coordinate system

Before starting your project, you should be familiar with the geographic area you are working in and how to represent that on a map.  The globe can be represented by a large number of different coordinate systems (not covered here), you’ll need to determine which one is appropriate for your map.  For example, this tutorial will use an example map from the Mojave Desert in California, the coordinate system used for the Arc project will be UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) NAD83 (North American Datum 1983) Zone 11 North.  UTM is a projected coordinate system commonly used, along with geographic systems like the lat/long system you’re familiar with.

To set up the coordinate system of your project, follow these steps:

1.  Click on the ArcMap icon Print in ArcCatalog, or through the Windows Start menu to actually open ArcMap (Ha ha, we haven’t really done that yet).

2.  Create a new project.  Click on “New Maps”, and choose “Blank Map” from the “My Templates” menu.    Arc may ask if you would like to add data now- don’t worry about this.  We’ll add data to our map later once the coordinate system is defined.


3.  To help keep our files organized, and to help Arc always know where files and data are stored, go to the “File” menu and select “Map Document Properties” and then “Store Relative Pathnames to Data Sources”.  It’s a little check box at the bottom of the window, then click “OK”.

4.  Open up the “Data Frame Properties” window.  This is done through the View menu, and selecting “Data Frame Properties”.  (“View –> Data Frame Properties”.  I’ll be using this notation throughout this tutorial for steps that involve going to various menus.)

5.  In the “Data Frame Properties” window, choose the “Coordinate System” tab.  Here is where you will select a coordinate system from the “Predefined” list most of the time.  Again, the map being created in this tutorial is an area of the Mojave, so I’ve selected Projected Coordinate Systems –> UTM –> NAD 1983 –> NAD 1983 UTM Zone 11NNOTE:  Your coordinate system may differ from the one in this example; make sure to consult your base map or your own knowledge of the project for this information.

6.  If you click on the “General” tab you can also give your project a name.

7.  When finished, click on “Apply”, then “Okay” to exit the “Data Frame Properties” window.

Now would be a great time to save your project.  File –> Save As, make sure that you’re saving your project in the workspace that you set up in ArcCatalog, and that its name doesn’t violate the Rule of Names.

Brief tour of the ArcMap window

Now is the first time you’re seeing the full ArcMap window, in all its glory.  There are a lot of things going on here, so here’s a brief introduction.


Table of Contents– This displays all the layers of data that you add in to your map.  Here you’ll be able to order them (so some display on top of others), turn them on and off, and open up the “Properties” window for each layer.  If this ever disappears (which can happen mysteriously…), just go to Window –> Table of Contents to turn it back on.

Toolbars– Your basic tools for moving around your data- generally present at the top of the map window.  You can mouse over each of the small icons on the Toolbar to get a brief description of what each tool does.  Explore this a little- later steps will assume you are familiar with the tools on this toolbar and what they do.

The various toolbars or extensions you’ll use with ArcMap are located in the Customize menu.  To access these, go to Customize –> Toolbars or Customize –> Extensions.

To change which windows are open within the ArcMap general window, choose Windows –> (name of what you are looking for here, e.g. Table of Contents, Catalog, etc…)

Also present are shortcuts to ArcCatalog and ArcToolbox, when you should need to use those utilities.

NEXT:  Adding background data

Previous: Setting up in ArcCatalog


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