Tag: ArcGIS Desktop

Blogs for ArcGIS 10

You have found the ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 blog but here are a few other blogs you’ll want to keep an eye on…

Here on the Desktop blog we’ll cover all things Desktop which includes all the Desktop extension, Desktop customizations and building custom desktop application with ArcGIS Engine.

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System Requirements

In preparation for the release of Beta 1, take a look at the Desktop system requirements.  The first thing that jumps out at me is that we now support Microsoft’s Windows 7.  You may not have seen much about Windows 7 yet as it was just released but early reviews are positive and I’m hearing some people are going to jump from XP to Windows 7, skipping the Vista release.  Either way, you are covered as Desktop 9.4 will support XP, Vista and Windows 7.


What are your Window plans?  Are you staying with XP, a Vista user, or moving to 7?

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Key improvements in the ArcMap interface at 10

A key goal for ArcGIS Desktop 10 was to improve usability for performing many common tasks. For example, we wanted to:

Click on the links in the bullets above to watch a short video of each new capability in ArcGIS 9.4. These will be a great way for you to get started with some of the new aspects of the ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 user interface. These videos and more to come are on the ArcGIS Desktop Resources Center Video page. 

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Save Time on Map Creation and Production with 10

One of the goals of 10 is to help make you more productive with the software.  We are all busy and under lots of demands at work but here are some new features at 10 that we think will help. Continue reading

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Tech Transfer

Last week, over 300 ESRI employees from around the world came to Redlands to learn about ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 from the Development Teams in preparation for beta 1.  We call it “Tech Transfer” and in addition to the staff in the room, many more employees took part via virtual meetings and video conferencing. We covered a lot of topics throughout the week and I’ll try and share some of that here in this blog and in other locations on the Desktop 9.4 Resource Center.

To start the week, we talked about the new plan for the 9.4 beta program… This will be like no other ESRI beta program.  The big change is that beta being supported fully by ESRI Tech Support.  Here’s the highlight slide from the presentations…

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What's Coming with ArcGIS 10

ArcGIS 10 is a major release of all aspects of ArcGIS and is designed to help you perform your GIS work faster. Some of the highlights include the following:

Perform Your ArcGIS Desktop Work More Efficiently

  • Faster, more responsive drawing performance including smooth, continuous panning of your data
  • Easier access to most commonly used geoprocessing tools
  • New Search window in ArcMap to let you quickly locate maps, data, and tools
  • Catalog window built into ArcMap for quick data access
  • Easier and faster ways to find and use symbols and tools
  • Auto hide and dockable windows (e.g., table of contents) so your focus remains on the map
  • Ability to execute geoprocessing in the background, allowing you to continue to interact with your map
  • Automation of additional workflows with Python (maps and layers)
  • Easy-to-use software developer kits (SDKs)
  • Single-line simplified geocoding

But there is more in 10 so stay tuned…

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Desktop Beta is coming

Welcome to the Desktop 9.4 blog… We the Desktop Team are really excited about 9.4 as it is a major release for Desktop.  And when I say Desktop, I mean ArcView, ArcEditor and ArcInfo. We’ll talk about all of those ArcGIS Desktop products on this blog plus some of the developer SDKs.

The 9.4 release for ArcGIS Desktop is about…

  • Getting your work done faster
  • Automating mapping workflows
  • Making it easier to manage and create data
  • New ways to share
  • Better Analysis and Modeling

There is much more in the 9.4 release and we’ll go into these topics and much more on this blog.

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Creating layer packages part 2 – using group layers

We covered some basics in an earlier tutorial post on creating layer packages. Here we’ll build on that and take a look at how group layers can be used to create a multi-layer package.

We visited the NPS Data Store and downloaded geologic data for the Old Faithful quadrangle in Yellowstone National Park. The data included multiple layers used to create a map of surficial geology, and when we opened the provided ArcMap document here’s what we saw:

Because we opened the ArcMap document (.mxd file) the layers were already symbolized as the author intended with scale dependencies applied. We tweaked some of the properties for each layer as described in our earlier tutorial, and made sure we enabled the HTML popup property for each.

The map organized the content as separate layers, and we could have created unique layer packages for each one of them. But the layers were cartographically designed to work together, with scale dependencies applied to show various geologic details. To preserve the cartography the approach we used was to create a group layer, collecting all the individual layers in the group and preserving all the intended cartography. We then used the group layer to create the layer package containing all the layers. Here’s how we did it.

First, using ArcMap we created a new group layer:

We named the group layer, selected all the individual layers, then dragged them into the group layer:

Next we right-clicked the group layer and chose Create Layer Package… This put all the sublayers into a single, easily portable package.

Below is the layer package shown in ArcGIS Explorer 900. We’ve opened the group layer to show all the original sublayers. Cartography, including scale-dependencies, has been preserved in the layer package. We can now view the data in ArcGIS Explorer the same way we viewed it using ArcGIS Desktop, including the popup window contents.

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A tutorial for creating good layer packages

With the release of ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1 the ability to create layer packages was introduced. Layer packages encapsulate the data, cartography, and other properties of the layer as it’s authored in ArcMap (or ArcGlobe) into one easily shareable package.

Layer packages can be shared with other ArcGIS Desktop users, shared on ArcGIS Online (public beta soon), and are also supported in ArcGIS Explorer 900 along with layer files. What’s significant for Explorer users is that now the cartographic capabilities of ArcGIS Desktop can be seen using Explorer. In the past only simple rendering options were available in Explorer for local data sources, now these are expanded to include ArcGIS Desktop cartography via layer files and layer packages.

ArcGIS 9.3.1 was released not long ago, and ArcGIS Explorer 900 is currently in Beta. But since you may want to begin to create layer packages now for use in Explorer 900 when it becomes available we thought we’d cover a few basic pointers on how to create good layer packages.

We began by downloading some data and an ArcMap document (.mxd file) from the USGS. The data we downloaded was from an open file report with data from the Engineering aspects of karst map.

We downloaded the data, started ArcMap, opened the provided map document, and this is where we started. Our goal for this post was to take the karst_polys_polygon layer in the map and share it as a layer package with ArcGIS Explorer 900 users.

You can see the data (from a personal geodatabase) is already symbolized so we have a good start. But there’s a few things we want to do during the process of authoring the layer package that will ensure those we share the layer package with have the best possible experience and that we present the data in the best possible way. We think authoring is a good way to think about this process, and we’ll step you through the basics of what to consider.

Step 1: We opened the layer properties and began with the General tab.


The default name for a layer is the same as the layer source. In this case the layer was named karst_polys_polygon which isn’t particularly user friendly. So we changed the name and added a brief description and credits. We gave the layer the same name as the title of the map, and added the description from information we found on the USGS Web site.

Step 2: Symbology tab


In this tab we checked off the all other values option since it’s not needed and will appear in the final legend. We also changed the label for the heading of the field that was used for the unique value rendering. The original label was the same as the field name – K_TYPE – and doesn’t provide a lot of meaning. So we changed that to Karst Type to make it more user friendly and understandable.

We also noticed in the original map document that some polygons were outlined and some were not. So we changed the symbol properties so that all polygons were represented in a similar way (not outlined).

Step 3: Fields tab


All of the fields were checked on for display, the default for a layer. But most of these fields offered little valuable information. We didn’t want the recipient of our layer package to see irrelevant fields like OJBECTID, SHAPE, and others. So here we checked them off except for the two that provided the essential information.


We also changed the not-so-friendly K_TYPE and DESCRIPT to the more user friendly Karst Type and Description by entering aliases for the field names.

Step 4: HTML Popup tab


The HTML popup tool is new at ArcGIS 9.3.1, and this tab controls its properties. For Explorer users this is important because it also controls how the popup looks when the feature is clicked. By default the HTML popup tool is disabled, so first we check it on. We leave the default option on for displaying a table of the visible fields. The Verify… button allows us to preview how the popup looks in ArcMap, and how it will look in Explorer.

Here you can see the two remaining fields we’ve left checked on (remember we turned off all the ones that didn’t make sense in Step 3 and also created field aliases). This is a preview of what the popup will look like, and it has all the essential information we want. At this point we make sure we save all of our changes.

Taking a look at this in ArcMap we see the new HTML Popup tool on our toolbar, highlighted with the red arrow below. The green arrow points to the Identify tool.


And we can compare Identify and the HTML Popup tools below. First we use Identify:

And below is what things look like using the HTML Popup tool:

Note the leader tail to the clicked location, the shadow effect around the popup, and the styled view of our attributes - a much nicer way to view the information.

Step 5: Create the layer package

Now that we’ve finished making changes we can create the layer package. This will encapsulate the data and capture our cartography and other changes we’ve made to our layer in one easily shareable package. To create the layer package we right-click the layer and choose Create Layer Package….

It takes just a few seconds, and when finished we see the following message. Note that the layer package has an extension of .lpk.

Now we’ll open the layer package in Explorer 900. You can drag and drop the LPK file directly onto Explorer, or use the Add Content and choose ArcGIS Layers…

Below we see the layer package added to ArcGIS Explorer 900.


Things to note are:

  • the original data source was a personal geodatabase, which has been encapsulated in the LPK file and is now being used by Explorer 900
  • the layer name is the same as we saved from ArcMap
  • the data is displayed using the same cartography as authored in ArcMap
  • the legend is exactly the same as in ArcMap
  • the popup window is styled as we’ve defined in Step 4 and is the same style as we saw using ArcMap’s HTML Popup tool
  • the layer packages looks exactly the same in 2D mode and 3D mode

If we shared this on ArcGIS Online (beta to be announced soon) the description we entered would automatically appear with our shared content. Here’s a snapshot of the current development site after we shared our layer package. We’ve searched using the keywords USGS and Karst and can see the description we entered in the layer properties in ArcMap that have been read directly from the layer package when we shared it on ArcGIS Online.

You can now understand how layer packages open up a whole new world for sharing data not only with other ArcGIS users, but also with a much broader audience using ArcGIS Explorer. Using these basic steps you can confidently create layer packages now for use in ArcGIS Explorer 900 soon… And we’ll cover this in more detail as we get closer to Explorer 900′s public release.

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ArcGIS for AutoCAD Build 200

ArcGIS for AutoCAD Build 200 was released a few weeks ago. The free download introduces a new way for AutoCAD users to participate in ArcGIS workflows. In addition to accessing map services hosted on ArcGIS servers, AutoCAD users can now work with standard AutoCAD objects and attribute field values as feature classes.  Here is a brief overview of what’s new and what you can do with the product.


Map Services

Build 200 improves the performance of map services and extends support to include cached and password-protected maps. A new palette now functions as the main console for interacting with map services.  The map service palette includes a toolbar for toggling between multiple maps in the same AutoCAD drawing.

The toolbar includes new interpretations of commands from Build 100 as well as a few new ones. It is now possible to disconnect a map service and convert it on-the-fly to a static raster image for working off-line or archiving purposes.


Also included is the ability to save and edit a list of favorite map services.  The software ships with a preloaded list of ArcGIS Online maps available free to ArcGIS customers.


Projections and coordinate systems

The map service palette includes heads-up information about the coordinate systems you are working with. The coordinate system published with the map service and the coordinate system assigned to the AutoCAD drawing are displayed for easy reference.


AutoCAD users can also import coordinate systems from the library of ESRI .prj files that ship with the software. ArcGIS for AutoCAD will project map services on-the-fly. The only caveat is the hosting server must have a geometry service running and be accessible.  As a measure of redundancy ArcGIS for AutoCAD will also look on the user’s local machine for an ArcGIS Server geometry service in the event one is not found on the host server.

Layer Controls

Layer controls have also been added for maps services published with this capability.


Feature classes

Build 200 introduces a new way for AutoCAD users to author and exchange feature class information with ArcGIS. A dedicated palette functions as the main console for managing feature class definitions.  The palette uses a toolbar for working with feature classes individually. 


Also included is the ability to import entire feature class schema from another AutoCAD drawing. This can be useful for distributing standard schema to other users tasked with enabling feature classes in existing drawings. Another possible workflow is to use the Export-to-CAD tool in ArcGIS 9.3 (or higher) to export feature classes from an existing geodatabase to an AutoCAD drawing in order to save time and ensure fieldnames and data types conform to your GIS standards.

ArcGIS for AutoCAD feature classes are essentially standard AutoCAD objects and attributes.  The Feature class palette simply provides an interface to specify the object types and properties that qualify as members of a particular feature class. AutoCAD users may recognize them for what they are: AutoCAD selections sets. ArcMap users will recognize them as Definition Queries. Developers may be surprised to discover that no custom object data are used to accomplish this: it’s really that simple. 

The benefit to AutoCAD users is they can continue creating features as they always have using existing CAD standards. The objects will automatically participate in the feature layer as long as they reside on the layer, color or other combination of properties associated with the feature class. And this is completely configurable by the user.

The benefit to ArcGIS Desktop users is that ArcGIS 9.3 (or higher) reads them as named feature classes in the CAD dataset.  Simply drag and drop them into a Geoprocessing tool such as Feature-Class-to-Feature Class and you have just seamlessly converted CAD data, including feature attributes, to a geodatabase without building a complex definition query.

Feature Attributes

ArcGIS for AutoCAD and the geoprocessing tool Export to CAD now attach feature attributes directly to the AutoCAD entity; more on this in another blog.  This makes it possible for ArcGIS for AutoCAD to leverage the standard AutoCAD properties pane to view and edit these values.  A GIS workflow that requires AutoCAD users to view and edit feature attributes is now identical to working with standard AutoCAD entities. Simply select the AutoCAD entity and edit the values. You can also populate multiple entities belonging to the same feature class with a common value by selecting more than one feature.



ArcGIS for AutoCAD is aimed at improving interoperability between ArcGIS and AutoCAD.  Build 200 is an integrated toolset for referencing, authoring and exchanging GIS information between AutoCAD and ArcGIS.  It is a better alternative to less-efficient methods of sharing data that use feature-based translation or conversion to a shape (SHP) file as an interim format.

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