Tag: ArcMap

Announcing the Map Templates Resource Center

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

This post is to announce the Map Templates Resource Center. Map templates are useful examples. Each map template is a kit that contains a collection of resources needed to transfer a specific map’s design and ArcGIS implementation to you.

These templates are not the template map documents that you might have saved as an .MXT file. Instead these templates are .ZIP files that typically include: Continue reading

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Specifying multiple transformations for your data frame's coordinate system

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

WGS84 Figure 1

Not long ago we received a question via Ask a Cartographer that our map projection experts frequently get; it goes something like this: “When projecting data to WGS84, for example, which transformation is the best to use?” Continue reading

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Cartographic settings in the ArcMap Advanced Settings utility

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

Image of ArcMap Advanced Setting Utility

A lot of people don’t know about the ArcMap Advanced Settings utility – it can help you customize some of ArcMap’s default options and as a result make your experience with ArcMap a bit more efficient and personalized.  The executable file that starts the utility is located in your ArcGISUtilities folder.  On my computer, the path is C:Program FilesArcGISUtilities.  Double-click the AdvancedArcMapSettings.exe filename to start the utility.  Here are some options you may find useful on the various tabs: Continue reading

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Designing a map to overlay ArcGIS Online in a Web application

In November 2006, ESRI announced the public beta release of ArcGIS Online, a set of base map and reference services available for ArcGIS users. These services include imagery, street maps, elevation data, and more. For ArcGIS Desktop users, overlaying your own data on top of ArcGIS Online is as easy as clicking the Add Data button.

But how do ArcGIS Server users overlay their data with ArcGIS Online in a Web application? It’s straightforward to add multiple services to a Web application in Manager or Visual Studio. Remember, though, that ArcGIS Online services are cached, so when using them with your map services, you’ll need to make considerations on how your map services are prepared and cached.

In this post, we’ll talk about some of the steps required for building a cached map service that you can overlay with ArcGIS Online. Note that Version 9.2, Service Pack 2 of the Web ADF included enhancements for overlaying multiple cached maps in a Web application, so before attempting these steps, you’ll need to get Service Pack 2 or greater.

Overlaying map caches in the Web ADF is all about choice of scales. For best performance, the scales from all of your map caches should match so that the original tiles can be used for each layer. Suppose you’re overlaying Cache A, which has 14 scales, with cache B, which covers a smaller area. You don’t have to build Cache B at all 14 scales, but you should make sure that the scales you do use for Cache B match a sequential subset of the scales used in Cache A.

What scales are used in ArcGIS Online?

The ArcGIS Online caches use a set of precise scales that have been carefully devised for two purposes:

  • Match the scale-change thresholds built into ESRI globe clients The globe caches on ArcGIS Online were originally made from the 2D caches draped over the globe (To learn how you can use this technique, see the previous post Creating a 3D globe cache from a 2D map cache.). Unlike 2D caches for which you can pick your scales, ESRI 3D clients have built-in levels at which globe cache tiles take effect. If you use the scales in ArcGIS Online for your 2D caches, you can depend on your original rendering for each scale level appearing in ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGlobe if you ever use your service to create a 3D cache.
  • Match edges at 180 degrees longitude when used on a globe Because the 2D caches are used to make the 3D caches, the scale levels used must be engineered to avoid overlap at the “edge” of the globe at 180 degrees longitude.

The scales (or technically, “scale factors”) used by ArcGIS Online are as follows:

  • 147748799.285417
  • 73874399.6427087
  • 36937199.8213544
  • 18468599.9106772
  • 9234299.95533859
  • 4617149.97766929
  • 2308574.98883465
  • 1154287.49441732
  • 577143.747208662
  • 288571.873604331
  • 144285.936802165
  • 72142.9684010827
  • 36071.4842005414
  • 18035.7421002707
  • 9017.87105013534
  • 4508.93552506767

Remember, you only need to use these precise values when building the cache in ArcGIS Server. When designing your map in ArcMap, you can use these scales without worrying about the values beyond the decimal point. To learn how to load this list of scales into ArcMap’s dropdown list, see the post Viewing cached map services (such as ArcGIS Online) in ArcMap.

Designing your map

How did ESRI design the maps that are available in ArcGIS Online, for example, the World Street Map? The cartographers in charge of this project first determined the scales at which the map would be cached, then chose layers and symbology appropriate for each of those scales. You’ll do a similar thing when building your map service that will overlay ArcGIS Online.

This is an easier process when working with raster imagery. You’ll notice that the ArcGIS Online satellite and aerial imagery services only include two or three different resolution raster images, and no extra symbology changes are needed before caching these at numerous scale levels. However, when using vector features, you may need to make subtle symbology changes at each scale in order to keep your layers from cluttering the map, or to keep the map from looking too sparse. Since you’re more likely to be putting your vector data on top of ArcGIS Online raster layers, instead of vice versa, we’ll focus on what it takes to prepare vector data for caching and overlay.

Here’s a suggested workflow for preparing vector layers for a map service that will overlay ArcGIS Online:

  1. First, do some planning by making a list all of the layers that will be visible in your map. Include all layers, whether they will be visible at all scales or not. Leave some space in between each layer name.

  2. For each layer, list the ArcGIS Online scales at which the layer will be visible. For example:


    Fire stations


  3. Create a new map document and set the data frame coordinate system to GCS_WGS_84. Currently, you must use this coordinate system for any map that you intend to overlay with ArcGIS Online. In the future, ArcGIS Online intends to provide maps in additional coordinate systems.

  4. Add each layer to your map n number of times, n being the number of scale levels at which the layer will be visible. (You may find that copying and pasting the layers back into the table of contents is faster than using the Add Data button for this purpose.) You can keep the default symbology of all layers for now.

  5. In the table of contents, give each instance of the layer the name of one of the scales you chose and set a scale range on the layer that encompasses that scale. For example, name one of the layers Parks 1:72k and set a scale range of 1:50,000 to 1:100,000. Name another layer Parks 1:144k and set a scale range of 1:100,000 to 1:200,000. Be sure that the scale dependency thresholds you choose do not overlap the next highest or lowest ArcGIS Online scale (for example, you would probably not want to set a scale range of 1:100,000 to 1:300,000 because that encompasses two ArcGIS Online scales: 288571.873604331 and 144285.936802165).

  6. Now create a group layer that includes all scales for a layer. For example, take the layers Parks 1:72k, Parks 1:144k, Parks 1:288k, and Parks 1:577k and make a group layer out of those called Parks. The image below shows an ArcGIS Online source map document that has been organized in a similar way for roads and place names. Note the group layers in the table of contents.

    Group layers in an ArcGIS Online source map document table of contents

  7. Set the appropriate symbologies for all layers at all scales. A good strategy is to start at the smallest (farthest out) scale, set symbology for all layers, and then work inward by scale level, setting the symbology for all layers at that level before moving in to the next scale. This is where loading the custom scales into the ArcMap dropdown, as mentioned earlier, can be useful.

  8. When you are satisfied with the appearance of your map document at all scales, publish it as an ArcGIS Server map service.

  9. Create the map cache, using all or a sequential subset of the precise ArcGIS Online scales specified above. For the tile origin, use -180, 90. For the tile size, use 512 X 512. For image format, it’s recommended that you use PNG8. You should not use JPG if you will put the cache on top of any other layer, since JPG does not support transparency. Also, if you choose PNG24, Internet Explorer 6 users may not be able to see the transparency correctly due to a limitation in the browser.

    An example of the cache generation tool containing a subset of ArcGIS Online scales

    Additional help for creating the cache:

  10. Add the cached map service and an ArcGIS Online service to a Web Mapping Application.

    Note: Manager gives an option for you to select which service will provide the coordinate system and extent for the map. In this scenario, you can choose either the ArcGIS Online service, or the one you just cached, depending on the initial extent you want. Do not select any other services that your map may contain.


Here’s an example of a map that overlays ArcGIS Online. In this example, I created a map of USGS topographic map boundaries and names that is designed to overlay the NGS_Topo_US_2D service from ArcGIS Online. The boundaries are for three available series of USGS maps, including the 7.5 minute quadrangles. You’ll need to zoom in from the initial extent in order to see the boundaries.

Topographic map boundary viewer

The boundaries map is cached at the following scale levels:

  • 4617149.97766929
  • 2308574.98883465
  • 1154287.49441732
  • 577143.747208662
  • 288571.873604331
  • 144285.936802165

Notice how the symbology of the boxes and the annotation changes as you zoom between scale levels. This example requires some flexibility with the procedure listed above because some of the layers use the same symbology for multiple scale levels. Also, some of the layers are designed to overlap at certain scales. For example, the solid dark lines overlay the dashed green lines at a few scales.

It’s possible that your map projects will require similar adjustments. Detailed planning using drawings, tables, and other visual aids, if necessary, can help you set the proper scale dependencies and symbology for each layer. Careful testing, as well as some trial and error, will also help you ensure that your map looks appropriate at all scales. It’s worth the extra effort to make sure the map is correct before creating the cache, especially if the cache will include many scale levels.

-Sterling Quinn

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Viewing cached map services (such as ArcGIS Online) in ArcMap

ArcMap allows you to view cached map services at any scale and projection. When you zoom in to a cached map service, ArcMap generally fetches the tile from the next largest scale, then resamples it to fit the view. This works great for layers like satellite imagery and continuous surfaces; however, vector features such as roads and boundaries, as well as labels, become rasterized when you create the cache, and sometimes the resampling causes these features to display at less-than-expected quality. To minimize the amount of resampling and therefore get the best display quality, you may want to limit your work in ArcMap to the scales at which the map was cached.

If you decide you want to work only at the cached scales, consider loading these scales into ArcMap’s dropdown scale list. One of the options in the dropdown is “Customize this list”. Here you can manually enter the scales from your cache.

 Customizing the scale list in ArcMap

Alternatively, you can load in a text file containing a set of scales. This is useful if you have several ArcMap users in your organization that will be viewing the same caches; just distribute the text file and they can load it in instead of typing all of the scales.

Loading in a list of scales

If you’re viewing caches from ArcGIS Online, you can load in this text file of ArcGIS Online scales which contains all of the scales at which ArcGIS Online services have been cached. If you’re wondering why the scales are not round numbers, you’ll find an explanation in this previous post.

 ArcGIS Online scales loaded in to list 

These scales are especially useful when viewing the World Street Map as well as any map containing boundary and transportation overlays.

Update: In ArcMap 9.3, a new feature was added that allows you to right-click a cached map service layer in the table of contents and click “Zoom to Nearest Cache Resolution”. This can be an easy alternative to loading in a text file.

-Sterling Quinn

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