Basic map design essentials in ArcMap 10

Maybe you’re designing a map for the first time and your curious on what components you need.  In this video, I discussed with a few side commentaries:

In summary, you need your basic legend, scale, north area as well as optional neatline and title.  Neatline is only needed if you are not placing your map in your MS Word document, since you can generate an outline around an image.  The next optional component is a title, where you may not need it if you have a built in caption.

Other considerations include colour, where blue should only symbolize water.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Background and foreground processing

One of the new features in ArcMap and other ArcGIS applications is the ability to execute multiple tasks while something is processing in the background.  This is called background processing.  If enabled, you can have a process running while navigating throughout the ArcMap interface.  You might recall in the 9.3 version, if you were processing something, you were not able to do anything at the same time.  This wait time is typically felt when processing large complicated polygons or raster files.

If you are scared of this background processing and prefer the former “pop-up-window” you can disable this background processing function.  Simply go to Geoprocessing, Geoprocessing option and uncheck the background processing (indicated in the video).

Certainly, there is nothing to be afraid of, when it comes to the background processing.  With the new version 10 interface,  many functions are dynamic in addition to a locking feature for actively edited files.  In many of my videos, you will see that I will be running foreground processing since it is easier to monitor process status.

ArcMap 10 Layer properties, brief walk through

The ArcMap layer properties is my go-to window for many thing.  Throughout my videos, you’ll see that I check my projection under the Source Tab or pretty up my map using the Symbology Tab.  Have a look at my video: ArcMap 10 Layer properties, brief walk through.

Three take home messages:

  1. You can change the name of your dataset in Layer Properties General Tab (or click on the dataset once and then a second delayed click to manually edit)
  2. You can check your projection (very very important).  Simply go to the Source Tab.
  3. You can change your Symbology.  For polyline data (shapefiles that are lines), you can change the line colour, maybe add ticks for railway.  For polygon data (shapefiles that are polygons) you can change the fill with  a full colour or hatch it.  For a point data (shapefiles that are polygons) you can change the miniature point.  Maybe you want to signify airport with a plain or a dam structure with an upside down arrow (side note: is that the correct shape reference? feel free to correct me)

You’ll see in my video, I hover over some areas and skip others.  That’s personal preference.  Certainly every tab has its importance.  If there is something you’re curious on, let me know contact me or leave a comment. 🙂

Fix the red exclamation mark using relative path directories

Can't find file will result in a red exclamation mark.

Uh oh red exclamation mark.

Ever get that red exclamation mark in your ArcMap Table of Contents?  No worries, this is probably because you were moving the file from your C drive to your D drive.  Or sharing your ArcMap file on a memory stick.  Or you shared the ArcMap file, but not the GIS files.  The red exclamation marks represents a broken pathway.

To help you, I’ve uploaded a video called Fix the red exclamation mark using relative path directories.

To fix this problem, simply select the check box next to your dataset and set the Data Source.  But this is only a temporary fix.

A more permanent fix is to set your Relative Path Directories.  A relative path would be formatted like this: teachugisbikeway.shp.  Relative path identify the file location without associating drive names.  So long as you use similar file structures (i.e. place your *.mxd file with associated *.shp files in one folder), you’ll find this will fix your red exclamation mark problem.

Note, that the ArcMap 10 version access to the Relative Path check box is slightly different from ArcMap 9.3.  If you need instruction, feel free to contact me.