Category Archives: ArcGIS Step by Step

ModelBuilder 220: Add Flexibility

This is the second post in a three-part series on creating geoprocessing models in ArcGIS. 

ModelBuilder 101 covered five steps to create a basic model. One of the main advantages of building a model is the ability to quickly test multiple scenarios. This post shows how to support scenario testing when a model is run as a tool.

  • Confused about what running a model as a tool means? In the ModelBuilder application a model appears as a visual diagram. Outside of ModelBuilder you can run a model from a tool dialog box (double-click the model in the ArcMap Catalog window). 

In ModelBuilder, you can open any tool, change its settings, and quickly run the model again to explore alternative scenarios. That’s great, but convenience matters too. When running a model as a tool, you can explore alternative scenarios by changing model parameters—all at once, in one place. Let’s talk the P-word.  Continue reading

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ModelBuilder 101

This is the first installment in a three-part series on creating geoprocessing models in ArcGIS. In this post, learn the steps to build a simple model. Geoprocessing model built in ArcGIS ModelBuilder

ModelBuilder has been called a visual programming language or a tool to make “visual scripts.” I like to think of ModelBuilder as a tool to map a workflow, and a model as a workflow map. Like a map:

  • A model can be navigated (it has direction built in).
  • A model uses shape, color, text, and symbols to represent and communicate about its features.
  • A model reveals data relationships that can spark ideas and collaboration.

Invaluable for conducting sophisticated spatial analyses, models are everyday workhorses too. If built with reuse in mind, they can be your go-to shortcuts to get a lot of work done.

If you’ve never created a model in ArcGIS, here’s what you need to know to get started. Continue reading

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Top Three ArcGIS Geoprocessing Timesavers

ArcGIS 10.x features user-friendly tricks for shortcutting some of the clicks involved with typical geoprocessing tasks. Of course, if you know how to write scripts using the ArcPy site package (or have the time and inclination to learn Python scripting), you’ll find the integration of Python into ArcMap a powerful way to automate geoprocessing workflows (and save yourself and your colleagues a lot of time).

But not everyone is a scripter nor aspires to be. For the non-scripters among you, below are my favorite—simple—timesavers that are built into the default interface at version 10.  Continue reading

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10 ArcMap Productivity Tips You Can Use Now

ArcGIS for Desktop includes many productivity features to help you get your GIS work done faster. Here are some tips you can try out in ArcMap right away. The 10 shortcuts below can shave milliseconds off common tasks, and hey, milliseconds count when you’re trying to get stuff done. You just may be able to get to lunch five minutes earlier and beat the crowd. That alone is going to save you at least 10 minutes, more if you’re going to Old Ebbitt.

Continue reading

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Four-Step Process to Make a Simple Story Map

Story maps are popular. Their visual, interactive nature makes them a great medium to share interesting information about a place or topic and spark discussion on real-world issues. To make a story map, you start with a web map. There are lots of ways to make a web map and just as many ways to make a story map.

The KISS principle is my preferred approach whenever possible; overcomplicating things makes it hard to get stuff done. I found a simple way to make a web map. Here’s a simple four-step process to craft a story map. Continue reading

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Easy-Button Method to Create a Web Map

While I work at the motherland of GIS services and web maps, I don’t have ArcGIS for Server or even a web server installed on my local machine. Odds are, many of you don’t either. For me, getting set up with a virtual machine configured with all the right software is completely doable…but not done. Things came to a head recently when I wanted to visualize some Excel data on a web map.

Of course, I could bring the Excel data into ArcMap and visualize it there, but I wanted to make a web map so I could easily share it with coworkers who don’t use ArcGIS in their day to day. Continue reading

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Lose the Features, Keep the Annotation Properties

A previous post covered converting standard annotation to feature-linked annotation—to recap, it cannot be done directly. A recommended workflow when you have standard annotation that you wish were feature-linked is to create an empty feature-linked annotation class, then append the standard annotation features to it (using the Append Annotation Feature Classes tool).

Several readers have wondered, once you have feature-linked annotation in place, what happens when you need to replace the data linked to the annotation? No one wants to repeat the work of setting up annotation if they can avoid it. Can you change which feature class your feature-linked annotation is linked to?

The answer is no. Feature-linked annotation can be associated with only one feature class (the one specified when the feature-linked annotation was created). The feature-linked annotation and the feature class participate in a relationship class that you cannot alter.

Despite this, when you receive new data, there is a way to preserve the annotation. Continue reading

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GIS Analysis: Planning to Prepare Your Data Pays Off

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This old adage has wide applicability—when you want to lose 10 pounds, be picked for a leadership position, land the perfect job, and on and on. So just like everything else in life, when it comes to GIS analysis, planning pays off. To ensure reliable results, here’s the tried and true process we recommend:

  1. Frame the question.
  2. Explore and prepare data.
  3. Choose analysis methods and tools.
  4. Perform the analysis.
  5. Examine and refine results.

Step 2 is arguably the most critical as your final results are only as reliable as the data you start with. Read on for a closer look at exploring and preparing data for an analysis project. Continue reading

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ArcGIS Annotation: Woes and Woohoos

August 28, 2013: This post was updated for ArcGIS 10.2.

Labeling features can be a time-consuming part of creating a map. When you’re dealing with many features, it may seem downright onerous. But there are ways to make the job easier. Consider this illustrative tale.

Week 1: James—smart, ambitious, new on the job—is designated the department map maker. Sam, data technician by day, ink artist by night, tells James about a new dataset with a thousand or so point features that will be used as an operational layer in several high-profile maps produced by the department. The data will be updated weekly and the maps need to be in sync (Sam also suggests a warrior armband to command respect from Marc, the alpha analyst in the group).

In ArcMap, James adds the point layer and turns on dynamic labels, spends time creating label classes and setting scale ranges and formatting the labels in each class appropriately for the map products. He converts the labels to a standard annotation feature class stored in the same geodatabase as the point feature class so the annotation can be reused easily on multiple maps. He then spends several hours painstakingly positioning the annotation until he’s satisfied the map text looks perfect. Marc will be impressed, he thinks (and mulls whether to go for a drink after work to discuss those Aztec jaguar symbols Sam just texted). Continue reading

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Mailbox Matters: ArcGIS and Training FAQs

A lot of questions on a variety of topics are sent to this blog’s e-mail address (that is, to me). The wording varies, but many people are looking for the same information. A selection of popular questions and insightful answers is below. Maybe you’ve wondered about these same things. Read on and you may save yourself some typing and a Send click.

Finding Things in ArcGIS 10

Question: I keep seeing references to the ArcGIS tutorials, where are they? And where is the data needed for the tutorials?

Answer: The tutorials are part of the ArcGIS documentation and are a great (free) resource to get up to speed with the software tools and workflows for completing a wide variety of tasks. At version 10, the tutorials themselves (step-by-step instructions) are topics within the ArcGIS Desktop Help system; they appear as subfolders within the main subject categories. For example, the editing tutorial is located at Professional Library > Data Management > Editing data > Editing tutorial.

The tutorial data is an optional part of the ArcGIS Desktop installation. If selected, the tutorial data installs to C:ArcGISArcTutor (default location). Within the ArcTutor folder, the data is organized into topical subfolders. So the first thing to do is search your system for the ArcTutor folder.

If you don’t find the tutorial data, check with your system administrator or the person who manages ArcGIS installation at your organization to see if the data was installed to a network share. If it wasn’t installed at all, you (or they) can modify the installation from the media (DVD) or the download file to get the data.

Speaking of data… Continue reading

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