GEOG 486
Cartography and Visualization

Part I: Getting Started


A. Download Lesson Data

Unlike Lesson 1, this lesson, and those that follow, is written in the context of completing a project. Here, you will find a data download link. Before you begin the project, create a local directory for geog486. Use this directory to store data and projects before uploading your final deliverables to Canvas. Here are steps to download and extract the data for this project.

  1. Click this link: (5.32 MB). This action may open a window asking what to do with the file. Choose Save to Disc. Save the zip archive to your desktop.
  2. Find the zip archive on your desktop. Double-click the icon to launch WinZip.
  3. In the WinZip window choose Actions > Select All and then click the Extract button.
  4. In the Extract dialog window, navigate to your geog486 directory and click Extract.
  5. To confirm that you were successful, use a Windows Explorer to navigate to your geog486 directory (Programs > Accessories > Windows Explorer). Inside, you should find a folder called Lesson2_data.

B. Review the Data Layers Provided

Before you jump in and start creating a map, take some time to familiarize yourself with the data provided. Explore the metadata, the features and attributes, and geographic extent. In reality, you (or your company) may be the originator of all the data used for mapping projects but it is equally likely that an outside vendor or local government compiled it for sale or public use. In either case, it is always smart to review your data.

  1. Start ArcCatalog
  2. Connect to your Lesson2 directory.
  3. For each shapefile provided, use the Preview tabs to explore the spatial and attribute information (by selecting Geography or Table in the Preview: dropdown box).
  4. Double click on each shapefile to access and explore its properties. Use the XY Coordinate System tab to see what coordinate systems the data are in. What is the coordinate system for the data? Are all of the datasets the same?
    • Name:
    • Projection:
    • Linear Unit:
    • Geographic Coordinate System:
    • Datum:

C. Create a New ArcMap Document

Now that you have a sense of the project scenario and the data provided, it's time to create a map.

  1. Start ArcMap.
  2. Resize and organize the ArcMap and ArcCatalog windows as you see fit.
  3. Before adding data to the map, let's change two default ArcMap settings.
    • Click File > Map Document Properties. We want to make relative path names the default for new map documents. Check the box to Store relative pathnames to data sources. Click OK to dismiss the window.
    • Click File > Page and Print Setup. In the window that opens, uncheck the box that reads "Use Printer Paper Settings."

    ArcMap documents (*.mxd) don't actually store the data that are displayed. Instead, they store links to where the data are located. Relative pathnames are stored in relation to the current location. In other words, the pathname is relative to the directory that houses the ArcMap document. This change allows you to move the map and data to another hard drive without having to relocate the data.

    The second change allows the map documents to be independent of page and margin settings associated with any specific printer. We will return to page setup and layout later in this lesson.

    ArcView Help

    Learn more about Absolute and Relative Paths in ArcGIS Desktop Help. From the Search tab, type relative paths. From the subentries in the list shown, click Paths explained: Absolute, relative, UNC and URL.

  4. From the polygon shapefiles provided, add those that you think are relevant to the map.
  5. Using the same logic, add line and point shapefiles to the map.
  6. Modify the drawing order in the Table of Contents, as necessary.
  7. Examine the attribute tables for each layer carefully. In Parts II and III, you will symbolize and label the map based on many of these fields.
  8. Make sure the Display Units are set to feet. Open the Data Frame Properties and click the General tab. Modify the Units fields as necessary. You may find that the Map Units has defaulted to feet and is unchangeable. This is OK. It is due to the projection the map is in that you looked at above in Section B, step #4.

D. Save the Map Document

You have just completed Part I of this project, which involved organizing the data frame. In Part II, you will create symbolization schemes for the data layers.