Introduction to Geographic Information
Systems in Forest Resources
Objective: Start to open the main ArcGIS tool: ArcMAP
- Perform drive
substitution to create drives L (CD) and M (removable drive). Note: ignore this drive substitution step if this is your first lesson.
- Identify the CD and removable drive letters
- Start ArcGIS
- Data frames and switch data frames
- Basic Tools: Zoom In/Out
- Basic Tools: Identify
- Basic Tools: Measure distances
- Get information about features
- Layout View and Map Export
- Close the project
Perform drive substitution
substitution to create the virtual drives L and M.
Identify the CD and removable drive letters
- Put the course CD in the CD drive.
- Plug your removable drive into the USB port on the PC.
- Click "Computer" from the Main Menu. The removable and CD drives should show up in the file manager like below but you will see Drive L (for CD) and M (for removable drive).
One of these removable disks should be your removable drive. The course CD
will show up with the name esrm_250 or similar names.
- Make a note of the drive letters. You should always be aware of which drive
letters are which as you move from machine to machine.
- The location of the ArcMap shortcut may vary from system to system. It should
be in a path similar to this:
During the first lab session, you will be shown where the ArcGIS shortcut
is on the computers in the lab.
- When ArcMap opens, a dialog may open with choices for what to do next. Click
the radio button for A new empty map or close the dialog.
The project will open with a single window containing a few menu choices, a few toolbars icons, and a few
buttons. In this windows, you can see the basic tools, several tool windows, and the side menu at the same page.
Open the Sample Project
Make sure that the data CD is in the CD drive, and your removable drive
- Important !!!!!!!! Follow the instructions
for substituting drive letters before attempting to open the map document.
Note that each time you work in this class, you should follow the drive substitution
- Download the arcgis_sampler.mxd file
and save it in the main directory of your removable drive. (Note:
make sure the file you downloaded has the name arcgis_sampler.mxd.
Web servers and browsers can arbitrarily rename files. If the file has a different
name, rename it to the correct name.)
- From the File menu, select Open and navigate to the location
where you downloaded the arcgis_sampler.mxd file. It will open and
automatically load datasets from the CD. You will see the table of contents
on the left. On the right side, you will see a data frame containing
several different features.
- Save the project with your initials so you will be able to start over if
necessary. From the File menu, select Save As and name the file
with your initials (my file will be called arcgis_sampler_pmh.mxd).
Switch active data frames
A single map document may have more than one data frame. A data frame contains
a number of layers with similar thematic properties and covering the same area
of ground. When the map document opens, you will notice that the Pack Forest
data frame is active (it is printed in bold text). It is possible to switch
between active data frames
- Right-click on the Stands data frame title
and select Activate.
- You will see how the display changes.
- Right-click back on the Pack Forest data frame title and select Activate.
Note how the display changes back to the way it was before.
Summary: You have just learned to switch active data frames. Typically,
a single map document will only contain references to data sources that have
some reason to be included as a group. Likewise, a single data frame should
only contain layers that have something to do with each other.
Alter drawing properties
- The project opens with a map of Pack Forest. Notice that there are several
layers (in this case, Streams, Roads, Stands,
Boundary, Culverts) in the view document. Also note that streams
do not display, since the layer is not checked "on."
- Click on checkbox to the left of the Streams layer in the Table
of Contents to display the layer.
- Now that all layers are turned on, notice that the points for the layer
Culverts is not displayed. This is because layers draw in order, from
bottom to top of the list of layers in the Table of Contents. Click on the
Culverts layer name and holding the mouse button down, drag it up the
list (above Stands). Now the points representing culverts should be
If you have layers loaded in a view and some do not appear visible as you
think they should, check the drawing order.
- Many of the Culverts are spaced so closely together that they are not discernible
from each other at this scale. In order increase the scale to see the individual
Culverts, click the Zoom In tool . The pointer will change to a magnifying
glass when placed
over the map display.
Note that the cursor will always change to match the type of tool used. When
you become familiar with ArcGIS, you will be able to tell which tool is active
by just looking at the cursor.
- Click and drag a rectangle (click the mouse button down at one corner of
a rectangle, and drag to the opposite corner, then release the mouse button)
near the center of Pack Forest. Now you will see the individual culverts when
the map redraws at the new scale.
Now you can see the individual culverts, roads, and streams.
- Click the the Pan tool . Place the cursor
on the map view, then click and drag in any direction. When you release the
mouse button, the view will redraw in its new position. You can use this to
move to a different area of interest without zooming out and back in. A lot
of time is wasted by zooming in and out unnecessarily, because after each
zoom, the view needs to completely redraw.
- There are several buttons and tools on the Tools toolbar for controlling
map extent. You have just used the Zoom in and Pan tools. Now
examine the zoom buttons:
In order from left to right, these perform
- zoom out (tool)
- zoom in (tool)
- fixed step zoom in (button)
- fixed step zoom out (button)
- pan (tool)
- go to previous extent (button)
- go to next extent (button)
- zoom to full extent of all layers (button)
- Right-click the layer name for Culverts and select Zoom to layer,
and you will zoom to the full extent of the Culverts layer.
All the culverts are visible, but the rest of the view is truncated.
- Now click the Zoom to full extent button
and the view will zoom to contain the full extent of all layers. If you have
several datasets that represent the same area of the earth, but not all the
datasets display as you think they should, zooming to full extent can show
you if the datasets were built with the same spatial referencing framework.
- Click the Zoom to previous extent button
a few times to see how you can return to a previous display extent. .
- Experiment with the Fixed zoom in
and Fixed zoom out
buttons to see how they are used.
Summary: You have learned to turn layers on and off, to alter drawing
order, and to navigate around the view by zooming and panning. The more layers
you have displayed, and the more complex those layers, the longer it will take
to draw your view. For this reason, you should get very familiar with these
zooming tools and buttons so that you can work efficiently.
- To find out some cursory information we will perform an identify.
- Click the Identify tool in the tool bar.
Move the cursor onto the map display of the view. You will see the cursor
change from the pointer to the Identify cursor . The active
area of the identify cursor is a 3-by-3 pixel window centered at the end of
- Click on one of the forest stand polygons. The Identify Results dialog
will appear, listing the attributes of the stand you just selected. Keep the
<CTRL> key pressed and click on a few more stands, and each successive
stand will be added to the identify results window. You can click up and down
in the Identify Results dialog to view attributes of already identified
Using the identify tool is a good way to get a brief look at the attribute
values for a selection of features in your spatial datasets.
- Note the dropdown list for Layers. There is some control over which
layers are identifiable. Use help to explain what these choices mean.
- Turn off a few layers and change the dropdown to <Visible layers>.
- Perform another Identify where several features overlap. What do
you see in the Identify Results dialog?
- Keep the dialog open for the next step.
Summary: You have use the Identify tool to browse attributes for individual
features. Use this whenever you are curious about the type of data you have,
and what those datasets represent. If you are interested in the attributes of
features at a particular location, Identify is the right tool for the job.
Note: the active area of the identify pointer is a 3-by-3 pixel window. Any
features that fall within this window will be identified. If you are zoomed
out to a very small scale, a single click of the identify tool will result in
many features being identified; in this case you may need to zoom in to a smaller
Measure distances and areas
Here we will cover how to measure distance and area in a view. We will start
by measuring the distance from one end of the forest to another.
- To go back to a smaller scale extent, right-click the Stands layer
select Zoom to layer.
- Click the Measure tool . The Measure
dialog will open.
- The pointer will change to an L-square ,
and when you click on a location, you will see a line between the place you
clicked and the pointer. You will also notice that the window above reports
the length of the line.
- To change the line's shape, single click again on the view. As you keep
clicking, the shape of the line will change, adding a vertex at each point
where you click. Segment means the length of current segment
of the line (if you click multiple times on the screen). And Length
means the total length for the line which you draw.
- To finish the line, double-click on the view, or hold the
<CTRL> key and single-click the mouse.
- You can also measure area of shapes by creating shapes using one of the
area measurement tools on the widow (see below)
click the trapezoid
shape at the top bar of this window. And like line measurement, you can click
on the screen multiple times to see how the measurement is updated by your
Summary: You have just measured lengths and areas on a view. This is
similar to using a measuring wheel or a dot grid or planimeter on a map, but
this method is faster, easier, and potentially more accurate. One of the biggest
differences between using this method and using a planimeter or other manual
tool is that the line or polygon you have used to measure length or area is
visible; after using a map wheel or planimeter, there is no traced outline on
the paper map. Making simple measurements is one of the basic functions of a
GIS. We will work later at getting more precise areas of polygonal features
such as vegetation patches.
Select records from Select Tool
- To make a selection for a specific polygon, you need to use the Select tool .
- You can make a single polygon selection, or drag a rectangle to select multiple polygons. Any features that are clicked or which fall partially or completely
within the rectangle will be added to the selected set. Your selection may
vary, but it should look basically like this:
When clicking features, the active area of the select pointer is a 3-by-3
pixel window. If you are zoomed to a very small scale, clicking on a single
feature may result in too large of a selection, and you may need to zoom in
- Once you have selected a group of features, let's take a look with the associated attributes. To open the attribute table, right click on the Stands layer, select "Attribute Table...".
- After opened the Stands layer's
attribute table. The layer's attribute table will
open, with several records selected (the selected records, shown in cyan,
represent the selected stands in the view). You may need to scroll down the
table to see selected records.
- To view only those records, click the Selected button.
- Now sort the table according to theAge_class_2003 item. Click on the field's name in the table to make
it the active field (the field contents will be shaded in cyan), right-click,
and then select Sort Ascending.
- As you scroll, note how the table is sorted. You will see that the table is
sorted by alphabetical value, rather than numeric value (e.g., 190 < 20
in ASCII/alphabetical order). This is because the age class field is
a character field, rather than a numeric field. Be aware that the field type
will affect what type of functions can be performed on the field. We will
look at fields in more detail later in the lesson on tables.
- The section of the course on tables will delve deeper into making selections
using tabular queries. For now, unselect the selected records by clicking
the All button and then Options > Clear Selection.
Summary: You have just searched for features containing specific values,
selected features and looked at their values, opened a attribute table, and
promoted records. This is the beginning of our exploration of the relationship
between the coordinate features of a layer, and the tabular records of the layer's
table. Nearly all of what we will do in GIS will take advantage of the relationship
between layer coordinate and tabular databases.
Layout View and Map Export
In a map layout, you can place graphical elements containing views, graphs,
tables, images, and graphical primitives on a page. The layout can then be sent
to a printer or plotter, or saved as a graphics file. This step in the exercise
will create a simple map from the site index view.
- Click the Layout View button at the lower left of the map display. This will change from data view to layout
- Change from portrait to landscape orientation (File > Page and Print
Setup, select Landscape). Also make sure that Scale Map Elements
proportionally... is checked.
- There are two data frames in the map. Click and drag the the Stands data frame
- Resize and move the
other data frame to fit the page better.
Summary: You have just created a simple map layout. As you know, one
of the main uses of GIS is to create maps. This simple layout results in a map
that is too generic for most purposes. We will spend one class session on creating
and modifying layouts later in the course.
You can use the method described for creating
PDF files to create PDF files of map compositions for distribution via e-mail
or the web. It is also possible to export layouts in a number of different graphical
Close the project
You have just experienced a cursory view of what ArcGIS has to offer. Each
of the topics covered in this first exercise will be covered in greater detail
later in the term.
For now, close ArcMap. When asked if you want to save the document, click Yes.
Open a Windows Explorer and view the contents of the removable drive. You should
see the project you just downloaded and modified (arcgis_sampler.mxd),
the dBASE file you downloaded (site_index.dbf).
Get used to looking at the file system and knowing what files represent what
REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR CD AND REMOVABLE DRIVE
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