ARC GIS Layers and Navigation

GIS programmes all work with layers – essentially sheets of  tracing paper holding different information.

Layer management is done through the left hand pane.

Layers contain different types of information, more of which later.

If the layer pane is too narrow, widen it now.

For now you just need to know that layers can be :

  • Activated or Disactivated by ticking a box.
  • Moved from one position to another (a set of points needs to be on top of your base map not below it!)
  • Removed, beware though you may lose all your settings this way.
  • Show or hide the Layer Classification or Key
  • Scaled (More of this later)
  • Properties such as classification and key tailored (More later)

To make a layer “active” make sure it is ticked and also selected.

Try changing some stuff now and see it appear/disappear from view.


Learn this in this order:

Right click to select zoom or pan, left click to select, and always switch this way – saves you sweeping the mouse across the big screen.

Prefer keyboard shortcuts? Arrow keys pan and ctrl up / down zooms.

Now you’ll see that there are options in the top menu too.  Hover over each to see what it does.

In order:

  • Previous and Next Extent (like browser buttons)
  • Zoom to full extent (of all layers)
  • Zoom to active layer extent
  • Zoom in and zoom out (you click on the map, of course)
  • 2 Pan tools

Try zooming in and out, activating layers, zooming in to different extents.  The last Pan tool seems pretty pointless, but no doubt serves some purpose.

View Maps with Arc Explorer 9.3.1 (Java version)

Start Arc Explorer – you cannot miss the badly drawn icon – we’ve emphasised it by doubling the size (now what is that yellow scribble?)

The windows interface is old-school, but it works well for viewing and initial exploration and really quick to get to grips with.  You won’t need to understand GIS inside out to do some pretty cool things, and if you are completely new to GIS you’ll pick the basics fast.

Here is what ESRI have to say “ArcExplorer offers tools for viewing and querying your spatial and attribute data; performing spatial analysis tasks, such as selecting and buffering features; creating a variety of maps, such as unique symbols and graduated symbols; and much more. You’ll be amazed at the ease with which you can take advantage of these tools.”

Click the open folder icon and navigate to the desktop (in the left hand pane.)

Now click Public – Map Store and then Map Projects, which is where our ready-made map projects  sit.

Since we are using Arc Explorer, click on the ARC Explorer JAVA folder and select ARC Map Maker.axl (note the extension that is used only for Arc Explorer projects.)

Tada … we have some ready made map data to look at.

Next we will look at ARC Layers and Navigation.