Monthly Archives: June 2008

Using Excel to Add Shapefile Attributes for Use in AEJEE

Folks have liked using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. But one frequent question is “Can I edit the data in AEJEE?” Not really; AEJEE is a tool for displaying and querying data. But if you need to do some “light editing” of attributes to a small shapefile, you can use Excel to do this. There was a previous blog post about using Excel to edit attributes; this one goes farther.

I had two extra files with state data that I wanted to add to the generic state data, and I wanted to get rid of most of the demographic data to reduce distraction. The process is doable if your spreadsheet or database tool can write “.dbf” files (Microsoft Excel 2003 does but 2007 does not). Here are the steps I used on a PC with Excel 2003:

1.Inside my file navigation, I copied the entire state shapefile (all “state.*” files) from the “datausa” folder into a “datalessonsatest” folder.

2.I opened “states.dbf” inside Excel2003. (This is a little tricky, so follow steps exactly. Notice the states are not in alphabetical order; do not change this yet!)

3.I highlighted the columns I wanted to eliminate.

4.Instead of deleting the columns, I chose “EDITClear”. (This retains the “nature of the file” as having additional fields.)

5.In the first newly empty column, I made a new field “ORIGINAL” and filled it from 1-51, according to the current positions of the rows.

6.I resorted the rows by “State FIPS” to get an alphabetical table. (Notice ORIGINAL is now scrambled.)

7.I added new data into some previously emptied fields. Since my external tables were in the same alpha sequence, I was able to just copy and paste.

8.When all done adding data, I deleted any remaining fields to the right, to eliminate them from the “nature of the file”.

9.I formatted each of the fields (number, with decimal places)

10.I resorted the rows back to their original position, using the “ORIGINAL” field. (This is a crucial step!)

11.I formatted the entire table as “CourierNew, 8pt” font, then formatted all columns’ field width to “Best Fit”

12.I saved the file as “states1.dbf”, and closed Excel.

13.Inside file navigation, I changed the original “states.dbf” to “states0.dbf” and copied the new “states1.dbf” to “states.dbf”.

Again, this process is nice for modest data sets, and is not meant for heavy editing. There are some gotchas with Excel and the .dbf file format, so, again, see the previous blog post noted above. But this can work for any shapefile.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Crossroads of the World

What world cities would you consider to be at the crossroads of commerce, culture, and language? This week, I am attending a GIS conference in a city has an excellent claim to be the crossroads of the world. The city has existed for 5,000 years, has undergone name changes, has been the capital of three great empires, but is even more important on the world stage now than ever before.

A strait runs through the middle of the city, meaning “Ford of the Cow” in one of the languages spoken just west of here. This came from the legend of Io, one of Zeus’ lovers, who swam across the sea here as a cow chased him. In the language now spoken at this location, this drowned river valley is known simply as “The Strait,” which connects two of the world’s largest seas. This is the world’s only city on not one but two continents.

During the 7th Century BC, King Byzas established a colony here for the Greeks, which became part of the Roman Empire 800 years later. In 306 AD, Emperor Constantine the Great made Byzantium the capital of the entire Roman Empire. Constantinople remained the capital of the eastern part of the empire, though subject to invasion due to its prime location. Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, when it became the third and last capital of the Ottoman Empire, all the way up to 1918.

Start ArcGIS Explorer (visit to download) to explore for yourself. Under Tools, select “Go To Location,” enter the following latitude and longitude, and press “Go To.”

By now you know that I am in Istanbul. Over 13 million people live here, with 700,000 immigrants arriving annually.

Add a historical map (below). What country names and boundaries are different between 1812 and today?

I am attending the GIS International Conference at Fatih University ( Is Fatih University is on the European side or the Asian side of the Bosphorus? Use ArcGIS Explorer to investigate, and use it to explore other world “crossroads” cities.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Mapping Climate Data in AEJEE

Watching the terrible weather events in Iowa and surrounding regions, I wondered if there was a way to map some “more typical” conditions using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. I found paydirt at the Geodata Portal of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), part of the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I engaged AEJEE, opened the Catalog tool, and chose to add an Internet resource, using the address of the portal (

At the portal, I scrolled thru some enticing data choices, passing the data for Alaska (“ak…”)and Hawaii (“hi…”), and heading to the 48 states “(us…”). I set the Catalog’s right-hand window to “Preview”. After playing with various temperature options, I double-clicked the thunderstorm layer to expose the icon for an image service, clicked it, and saw the map I expected.

I dragged the icon from Catalog’s left-hand window into a new map window, and explored the Table of Contents. Since I also wanted to have a bit of context, I changed the projection to “Regional/Albers/US48″ to permit adding in decimal degree data. I added “ESRI_Relief” from the Geography Network (just like in Lesson 5 of the AEJEE tutorial), and set the NCDC layer as 60% transparent. Voila! (Playing with numerous image services, projections, and additional data sets overloaded AEJEE once, so I just killed it and restarted before tackling the above task.)

Understanding the complex mix of elements that feed into a 500-year flood takes more than just one map, but visualizing the patterns of climate, weather, land use, and terrain, as demonstrated here with AEJEE, can help clarify what might seem otherwise an inexplicable nightmare.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Mapping An Airline Route

After boarding an airplane after the National Science Teachers Association’s annual convention, I recorded the position of the aircraft as it flew along on my GPS receiver. I held the GPS at the window, and before we landed, I saved the positions it automatically gathered as a track. (Make sure that before trying this, you check the airline’s policy about GPS use and that, if allowed, you wait until after you hear the “electronic devices allowed” announcement.)

Back in the office, I connected the GPS to my laptop, uploaded the track, and saved it as a point shapefile using the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Garmin tool ( I then accessed ArcGIS Explorer (, changed to the streets globe, and added the GPS track shapefile. I gave each point the “air field” symbol. I collected 422 points during the 90 minutes that the GPS was on, but even so, I was able to quickly determine what my originating city and destination city, below. What were these two cities?

I frequently quiz myself about the names of the towns, reservoirs, rivers, mountains, and highways that I see out the window. Sometimes I take a road atlas with me to check my answers. I can also check my guesses in ArcGIS Explorer. For example, I noticed that the airplane flew directly over Manhattan, Kansas, home of Kansas State University. I could clearly see the Konza Prairie hills and the floodplain formed by the confluence of the Kansas River and the Big Blue River, below.

I accessed File and “Resource Center” to add the physical features on topographic maps as a layer to produce the above view. Next, I added a satellite image layer and “flew” west along the airline’s path. Despite the fact that I had to power down the GPS when I heard the “turn off all electronic devices” announcement on the airplane, using the satellite image, I could clearly visualize my approach to Denver, just north of Limon, Colorado, below.

What data would you like to map and analyze?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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GIS Educator from ESRI Wins Prestigious Academic Honor

Dr. Michael Phoenix Will Receive the 2008 University Consortium for Geographic Information Science Educator Award

Redlands, California—Dr. Michael Phoenix, who dedicated his career at ESRI to educating people about and evangelizing for geospatial science and technology, will be presented next week with the 2008 University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) Educator Award.

Phoenix will accept the award during a ceremony at the 2008 UCGIS Summer Assembly, June 23–24, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The nonprofit UCGIS promotes multidisciplinary research and education in geographic information science (GIScience). The consortium’s members include more than 60 universities, scholarly societies, and professional organizations such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Association of American Geographers.

“The UCGIS is pleased to honor Dr. Phoenix, whose unwavering commitment to GIScience education helped support the development of many academic programs around the world,” said Steve Prager, UCGIS Education Committee chairman. “Mike’s professional and personal contributions to geographic information science and technology education are highly regarded in academia and industry alike. His work has been crucial in advancing GIScience and technology education. With this in mind, we wish to recognize his important accomplishments and continuing contributions.”

Phoenix worked for 15 years on ESRI’s education industry solutions team, part of the Marketing Department. The education team’s main goal is facilitating spatial literacy, and for ESRI, he traveled the world, promoting GIScience education. This included trips to Asia and Africa. He worked with more than 3,000 institutions of higher learning, providing needed resources, support, and advice as the schools built their GIScience and geographic information system (GIS) programs.

Phoenix said he’s deeply honored to receive the award. He’s a strong advocate of geospatial education, having been inspired by ESRI president Jack Dangermond, whom he thanked for “allowing me to pursue my passion for geography and education in my work.”

“I believe the award is as much for ESRI as it is for me,” said Phoenix, who retired earlier this year but continues to work on special projects for the company on an occasional basis. “Everything that I was doing to promote GIScience was what Jack Dangermond wanted us to do. Our inspiration and direction all came from Jack. Jack was always clear that this was not about software training; it’s about learning to think spatially. Jack wants to change the way the world works. He wants decision making to include a spatial or geographic component. He has created a company that builds the tools for spatial decision making, but he has always understood that behavior change is brought about not by technology but by education.”

Phoenix also helped foster relationships between academia and private industry. ESRI has partnered with colleges and universities to support their efforts to obtain grants from the National Science Foundation and other government granting agencies. Many of these grants helped academic programs that turn out graduates trained in the latest geospatial technologies, who are crucial to the needs of businesses and government organizations.

“Mike pioneered an unprecedented partnership between private industry and many communities of researchers and educators,” Dangermond said. “That partnership proved to be the wellspring for GIS being used to benefit people in need, care for our planet, and create knowledge that will be passed down for generations to come.”

Past winners of the UCGIS Educator Award include Dr. Duane F. Marble, professor emeritus of geography at Ohio State University; Dr. Michael F. Goodchild, professor of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Dr. Karen K. Kemp, founding director of the International Masters Program in GIS at the University of Redlands in California and editor of the new Encyclopedia of Geographic Information Science.

The goals of the UCGIS include expanding and strengthening GIScience education at all levels, promoting the ethical use of and access to geographic information, and fostering GIScience and analysis in support of national needs.

For more information about the UCGIS, visit

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Where’s Geo? UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK.

See also Where’s Geo? Londinium!, Where’s Geo? London Map Fair and Beyond, and Where’s Geo? Canterbury, Dover, and…

Wandering around London and environs, one is quick to stumble into UNESCO World Heritage sites. What are these? Basically, they are historical locations of cultural and natural importance worth preserving and sharing with current and future generations of humanity. Given we were looking for these kinds of places in our travel, it’s not surprising we found several, however, it is wonderful to see such a concentration of them here as there are only 851 such entities currently on the UNESCO list for the entire planet!

Some time ago, our good friends at the National Geographic Society’s Maps Division provided us with a global lat/lon database they had produced as part of a custom cartographic map project for UNESCO World Heritage. From this database, I extracted the handful of locations that we had visited and saved them as a TXT file, but I wanted site content connections too.

Exploring the United Kingdom portion of the UNESCO World Heritage site, I obtained the Web page addresses for the locations we had visited and added this as a field for each record in the TXT. The summation of my work is available in the downloadable 1KB TXT file.

Going to the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center, I loaded the “World Streets Map” from the “Content” menu. This also launched ArcGIS Explorer. I then imported my UNESCO TXT file tagging each location with the “camera” symbol—an apropos icon.

Four of the five locations we visited are in the London area with the fifth about 50 miles east in Canterbury, site of an earlier blog entry. The map below highlights the London quartet: Each with a focus and panache all their own. Again the space of a screenshot makes it difficult to explore each—the two unidentified locations are Westminster Cathedral and Greenwich Maritime (more on the latter in a subsequent entry).

The UNESCO site also includes a KML file of the current heritage listing. ArcGIS Explorer can ably add the KML data. Each site also carries a Web link for more information, such as the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape site…which we will be visiting later in our trip.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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MapTEACH: AEJEE in Alaska

Last week, I visited educators in Alaska who have a nifty project underway engaging ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. They have built a program called “MapTEACH”, for “Mapping Technology Experiences with Alaska’s Cultural Heritage.” This was originally funded as an NSF ITEST project.

Macintosh computers are quite prominent in Alaskan schools, so AEJEE is a very appropriate technology. What the teachers have demonstrated is the capacity to integrate powerful content, including traditional stories from elders, imagery from the latest satellites, and data collected by students out in the field. At the MapTEACH web site (, click the link for “GIS Maps” and explore the many student and teacher products posted. Note especially the layouts, all built within AEJEE.

The MapTEACH group is preparing to distribute their lessons across the state, along with AEJEE. The University of Alaska is developing additional support materials to be engaged by teachers using AEJEE. At the same time, teachers with access to additional hardware and software are building on the AEJEE skills and moving up into more complex activities with ArcGIS.

As these projects demonstrate, students can meet educational standards, develop longterm technical skills, learn to collaborate and think creatively and critically, and build background knowledge using GIS, even “basic” GIS like AEJEE.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Where’s Geo? Canterbury, Dover and…

See also Where’s Geo? Londinium! and Where’s Geo? London Map Fair and Beyond.

Time for an overnighter. We headed from London to Canterbury and a visit with ESRI UK business partner, Digital Worlds, makers of the tailored ESRI-based classroom tool—Digital Worlds GIS.

Canterbury is historically many things—home to a great cathedral (both Catholic and Anglican), center of learning, and, once again, a key Roman city in Britannia that thrived into the 4th century AD.

Stepping outside the city, it’s evident that history and wonder follows—the Kent countryside, Dover and its white cliffs, and other characteristics are on the list.

Driving south from Canterbury, a literal, nearly straight line feature becomes evident—a current-day road heading for the coast, which was designed by Romans centuries ago (from Durovernum to Portus Lemanis). We drive this road for a distance before breaking away toward Dover and the incredible coastal features for which the area is known—white cliffs. Additionally, these cliffs and their proximity to the French coast are the stuff of World War II history—Dover Castle and secret British tunnels.

Using ArcGIS Explorer, we can tag (and create some of) these features and more importantly contextualize these places and their contemporaneous and historical attributes. Below is a synopsis screenshot of using ArcGIS Explorer to present some of this content: Present and past cities, Roman road, World War II (and Roman) castle, and the chalk/flint cliffs of Dover.

The image is only a beginning of a much larger potential investigation. It’s difficult in a single screenshot to capture dynamic aspects of time and geography. Regardless, geographic tools are critical to organizing it.

More to come.
- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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Where’s Geo? London Map Fair…and beyond!

See also Where’s Geo? Londinium!

As collectors of historical maps, imagine the surprise when my wife and I discovered that the London Map Fair was “on” as we got to London. Site: A very apropos place—the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). This annual fair is one of the largest exhibitions of “antique atlases, maps, sea charts, town plans, globes, topographical views, panoramas & prints” in the world. Over 40 dealers were on hand and, for those who enjoy great cartography, history, and collecting, the site was amazing…and yes, after perusing the various antiquarian purveyors, we found several “must haves,” including an 1861 map of Greenwich shown here from the Philip Sharpe Gallery…and odd but true, Philip is from Greenwich. (More on this geographic “Holy Grail” site soon.)

As cool as the fair was, it was not what brought us to London and the UK. We were there to sightsee and learn about history, geography, nature, culture, etc. Since we were going to be at the RGS for the fair, we decided to investigate the surrounding area for things that fit into our above categories, would keep us close to the RGS, and hopefully near a London Underground “tube station.”

Using ArcGIS Explorer I decided to plan some aspects of the trip. The first thing needed was the location of the London Map Fair/RGS. From the Web site, I got: 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7. With the “Find Address” task, I pinpointed this location and marked it with a fitting symbol. Wanting to locate interesting sites near this and information about them, I chose to load the “Wikipedia Search” task from the AGX Resource Center.

This task in my thinking would harvest the type of content and locations I was seeking. By right clicking on the RGS symbol in the AGX map, I “sent” its location to the Wikipedia Search task. There, I set the distance to 10 miles (lowest present) and 20 results. Worst case, I needed to turn off some sites…not enough hours in a day.

Below is a summation of my work: Several places meeting our criteria within close proximity to the South Kensington Station.

They were all really fun! More to come.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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Where’s Geo? Londinium!

On holiday in the UK, and starting out in London. This amazing city is littered with history and a great place to put it all in perspective is the Museum of London. What’s immediately learned is that human history in London and environs spans millennia. There are numerous moments in time that may come to mind but one of keen interest to me was the Roman period—Britannia was Rome’s most forward realm and Londinium at its height reached an estimated 60,000 inhabitants. Like other Roman fortified places, Londinium was surrounded by a Roman wall. However, as the far flung empire was unraveling, Roman troops and Roman energy disappeared early in the 5th century AD. Londinium faded…but not entirely.

Using ArcGIS Explorer, we can put a geographic face on historic Roman London within a current day context. Launching ArcGIS Explorer I needed a London road network to begin. Loading the “Streets” map, I zoomed myself to London using the “Find Place” task. Next using my Web browser, I searched on the term—“Roman London map.” Pay dirt! I found several but the best was a map superimposing old Londinium on current day London geography and roads.

Using this map, and the heads-up digitizing capacity of the “Create Notes” task, I crafted a polygon outline to depict the Roman city…but I needed a starting point. The online map showed that the Roman wall split the geography of the current-day “Tower of London.” Using a forthcoming “GeoNames Search” task, I searched for and found the “Tower” placing it on my map. With this as foundation and the online map and current road network as guides, I traced a polygon boundary for Roman London. Since I was touring the Museum of London, I decided I should add a location for it too. Also, the source of this inspiration was right outside the museum—remnants of the ancient Roman wall. With camera in hand, I grabbed a picture and added it as a local attribute of another note. The shot below summarizes the process.

By the way, I’m really close to 0.00 longitude. More to come!

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Manager

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