Monthly Archives: December 2008

Mapping a Resolution

This is the week many of us close out the old year by compiling resolutions for the new one. You’re likely a GIS user, so why not make a geographic resolution? Use some of your free time to get out and explore your world. Thanks to ArcMap and ArcGIS Online, this is a resolution you won’t have to quietly drop come February.

ArcGIS Online provides high-quality map content. The World Street Map service is particularly useful—it provides a comprehensive street map including highways, major and minor roads, railways, water features, administrative boundaries, cities, parks, and landmarks, all overlaid on shaded relief imagery for context. The beauty of working with ArcGIS Online content is convenience—someone else has done all the cartography and data cleaning for you.   Continue reading

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Using Access Tables in ArcGIS Desktop


Like Excel, Microsoft Access is a common tabular format used to store and manage nonspatial attribute data associated with GIS features. While Excel worksheets can be accessed directly in ArcGIS, to view an Access table in ArcGIS you must connect to it using an OLE DB (Object Linking and Embedding DataBase provider) connection. Tables accessed using an OLE DB connection are read-only in ArcGIS, but can be queried, joined to layer attribute tables, and used in geoprocessing operations like other tables.

Note: A personal geodatabase (.mdb) is stored in a version of Microsoft Access. This post does not relate to personal geodatabase tables. Personal geodatabase tables should be managed and edited only in ArcGIS. If you edit a personal geodatabase table in Access, the geodatabase may become corrupt. Continue reading

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A Fast Way to Symbolize Features of Interest

New ArcGIS users often want to symbolize certain features in a layer so that those features stand out on the map, but they aren’t sure how best to go about it, especially if they don’t want to make a copy of their data. There’s an easy way to accomplish this, and this post describes how.

A fast way to get the desired result is to create a unique values legend. When you use a unique values legend, features with the same specified attribute value are given the same symbol. However, with unique values it’s easy to assign all the features in a layer the same symbol, then interactively select features of interest and symbolize them differently. Continue reading

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Communicate More Using Label Classes

If you work with ArcMap, you know how to turn on dynamic labels for a layer and display the value from a specified attribute field for each feature in the layer. What if you want to label each feature with more than one attribute? You can easily do this by creating a label class.

Suppose you want to label a group of counties with their name and population. You have a counties layer that includes both attributes. Continue reading

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Training ROI: Skinny, No Foam, Please

When the economy seems down, many organizations cut non-essential spending. Often, one of the first items crossed off the budget is staff training. The reasoning is that training is a luxury, like a store-bought latte, that can be done without in lean times.

While no doubt a little belt-tightening is in order from time to time, we think of training as an investment, not a luxury. Sort of like a flu shot, training can reduce the likelihood of a high-impact illness (i.e., operational breakdown) down the road, when you least need or expect it. Trained staff are not a guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong with your GIS program or the business operations that rely on the GIS, but training does instill a measure of confidence that your program is healthy.

So what is the training return on investment (ROI)? Or, perhaps we should think in terms of return on instruction. These are not findings from a rigorous scientific study, but below are some benefits I thought of while sipping this morning’s latte: Continue reading

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