Introduction to GIS
The goal of this lab is to introduce new students to the UNBC GIS lab and software used for this course. You will become familiar with the following:
- About UNBC GIS lab
- Login & getting started
- Working in ArcMap
- Map Scales
- Map of BC
- Attributes: Information behind the Map
- Finding Help
- Web Map services (data)
- Online map viewers: BC iMap
1. About UNBC GIS Lab
GIS Lab Rules
- Please NO food, or Drinks, sound systems or radios beyond the Lab Entrance
- Please consult a lab instructor before switching on or off a computer (usually don’t!)
- Use your mouse arrow to point rather than touching the screen.
- Students new to the GIS lab need to get your computer account from ITS help desk 8-265 (Teaching Lab building).
- If you do not remember your account information, check http://www.userdb.unbc.ca/
- You also need a user account to access the GIS Lab file server and terminal servers. This should have been setup if you are registered in the course.
Computers & Operating System
All the lab machines are running Ubuntu Linux operation system. Each lab machine generally is running as a client to access GIS servers:
Servers for the GIS lab
osmotar.unbc.ca: GIS Windows Terminal Server running the software for windows platform
GISFS2.unbc.ca : GIS file storage for data and files access via Linux
ragutiene.unbc.ca: GIS Web Server (i.e gis.unbc.ca)
ninkasi.unbc.ca: Main process and virtual machine server
GIS Terminal Server is running Windows 2012 R2 and acts as a processor server for all windows based software. The GIS file server or storage is used for files and data access.
Using Web Browser
As all of our course work for the GIS Lab is posted on the web, it is necessary to use a browser to see the pages. We recommend that you use Firefox (default browser on the Linux workstations in the lab) over Internet Explorer (on osmotar – or anywhere for that matter).
2. Login and Getting Started
By default, all lab machines run in Linux operating system. You need to login to lab machines using your UNBC UNI credentials.
- To login to the lab machines, enter your username / password in the Linux login window.
- Once you login to lab machines, you should see icons on your desktop. If you did not see desktop icons, logout by clicking Menu button located at lower left menu bar and choose Logout button (second button from bottom at left). Then login again
Creating a folder for geog205
Click on the yellow folder symbol at the bottom; Right-click in the new window, then create new folder, name it geog205 (no spaces/capitals) – Linux is case-sensitive;
click on the new folder, and then right-click -> create new folder, and name this intro_gis (for today’s lab) … it should be inside the geog205 lab
The Linux server window has similar tools to windows, bottom left (left to right): Menu (includes logout), desktop, Firefox browser, command line terminal, files-folders
Starting Windows Terminal Server
Once you login to the system, you should see icons on your desktop. These icons are the shortcuts to programs or connections.
- Click Osmotar Terminal Server icon. This will establish a remote desktop connection to our Windows Terminal Server “Osmotar”.
- A login window pops up allowing you to login to terminal server. Login Osmotar using your UNBC UNI credentials.
the Windows environment appears, similar to the windows environment at home
In Osmotar terminal server window
- Click Start-> This PC. Here you will find local drives and network drives.
K: User home directory for files and data storage (full access)
L: Home for all users and lab (read only)
K drive is the user’s home directory with full access. You will save everything created from this course here. You can also create new folders using the windows environment – same as in Linux. L drive is the home for all users. The folder “labs” on L drive holds all lab data for the courses running in GIS lab.
NOTE: Do NOT save anything to C drive. The C drive is cleaned up periodically
3. Working in ArcMap
ArcGIS is the software used in this course. ArcGIS is designed and developed by ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) company to work on spatial data and analysis.
ArcCatalog and ArcMap are two major applications to provide front end user interface for easy use of ArcGIS. You will learn more in this course about ArcCatalog and ArcMap. If you are curious about ESRI’s software architecture, visit http://www.esri.com/
ArcMap is the major application you will be working in each lab. ArcMap allows you to view the data, perform analysis, get input and produce the final output.
- Click the start shell in the bottom left of your osmotar desktop then –> All Programs –> ArcGIS –> ArcMap.
- When ArcMap starts, a dialog appears, click “Browse for more…”.
- Navigate to L:\labs\geog205\canada\ and choose canada.mxd. Click Open.
You have opened a Map Document with a list of layers displayed at left and the spatial data displayed at right. The ArcMap window has two parts, the Table of Contents at left and Display Area at right
Connect to Folders
Making a connection to a frequently used folder or drive allows you to quickly locate the data or file instead of navigating among the directory tree every time.
You will make two connections
- Click the ArcCatalog button on the main toolbar at top top open the ArcCatalog side window.
- Click Connect to Folder button or Right-click Folder Connections->Connect to Folder
- Navigate to K: drive and Click OK. This connection is linked to your home directory on GISFS2 where you will be saving all your files and data.
You will see a new connection K:\ displayed and highlighted in the Catalog Tree (Folder Connections).
Now make another connection to the course data:
- Click button and navigate to L drive and highlight the folder L:\labs. This connection points to the folder L:\labs where all lab data are located. Click OK.
- Click the plus sign beside the labs folder to display its contents or add data layers by dragging it to ArcMap display area
Map Navigation toolbar
Float your mouse over each button without clicking to see the button’s name. You should see Zoom In, Zoom Out, Pan, Select Elements, Full Extent and Measure etc.
- Click on the Zoom In button and drag a box around British Columbia.
- Click the Pan tool and click on Alberta and drag it to the left (west).
- Pan across Canada.
- Click the Full Extent button to see all of Canada.
Experiment with navigating around the map. At any time, you may click Full Extent to see the entire map.
The Table of Contents
The Table of Contents lists all layers. A box with +/- sign beside each layer name allows you to show/hide the legend of layer.
- Click on the minus “-“ symbol beside a layer name to see the legend symbol disappear.
- Click the “+” sign to see the legend symbol reappear.
Layers and Feature Classes
A layer contains one feature class (also known as geometry). There are three basic feature classes: point, line and polygon. Examine the symbols in the Table of Contents and note the point, line and polygon symbols. The dot graphic represents a point feature class, the line graphic represents a line feature class and the box graphic represents a polygon feature class. The check box beside each layer allows you to toggle the layer on and off.
Changing Feature Symbols
Save your own copy of the Map Document as follows:
- Click File –> Save As. Navigate to your local folder: K:\geog205\intro_gis
- Rename the map to mycanada.mxd, click Save
The Map Document name in the blue title bar at the top should read mycanada.mxd. Check this now.
- In the Table of Contents, click on any symbol. The Symbol Selector appears.
You may now change the symbol. Experiment with changing the symbols for a point, a line and a polygon layer.
- Save your modifications: Click File –> Save
- Remove all the checkmarks for the layers in the Table of Contents (click on a checkmark to make checkmark disappear). Note that the layers disappear from the display area.
- Replace one checkmark at a time and watch that layer re-draw.
At the bottom of the Table of Contents, ensure the Display tab is selected. This tab may not be present in your version of ArcMap.
- Highlight Major Roads, and drag it to the bottom of the list. Note it has disappeared from the map.
- Toggle the layer Province on and off (remove and replace its drawing checkmark) to see Major Roads was hidden beneath Province.
- Continue to change the drawing order until you can see all the layers, and have the map portray these layers in a sensible manner. Make sure you have the List By Drawing Order button turned on (top left corner of the Table of Contents panel) .
- Next, Zoom In on the southern half of British Columbia (you can see a bit of Alberta too).
- Where are the layers whose features you cannot see? They are hidden beneath other layers. Prove this by removing the drawing checkmarks from the top of the list down the list – watch the map’s Display Area for the hidden features to appear.
When you toggle National Parks on and off, is there any layer hidden beneath? Drag the layers back to their original drawing order.
Layers are drawn on the map in the order in which they appear in the Table of Contents. The bottom layer is drawn first and the top layer is drawn last. It is possible for features from one layer to be hidden by features from another layer.
4. Map Scale
Examine the scale display in ArcMap, your value may be different.
To make the next step easier, round off the scale display to the nearest million as follows:
- Hi-light the scale ratio and type the denominator only, no zeros: 8000000 and hit Enter key.
The scale readout states that one unit of measure on the map equals eight million units of measure in the real world.
Now lets go measure the distance from one end of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) to the other. Zoom to Haida Gwaii and reset your scale to a reasonable number (such as 1:2,000,000)
Click the Measure button in the Tools toolbar.
- Measure the distance from the southern tip of Haida Gwaii to the northern their northern tip. Notice the distance values are some big number! It would be easier to record the measured values in Kilometres rather than Metres – or in ESRI (USA) speak – Meters
- Click the appropriate pulldown button (you can figure out which one to click) in the measure tool and set the distance units to kilometres
- Write down the distance by rounding your value to the nearest kilometre
- Close the Measure window
The scale readout in ArcMap represents the display scale and is affected by your map navigation. Zoom in and out and watch the scale readout change. This is the Display Scale.
5. Map of BC
In this part of lab, you will be examining some BC data in ArcMap.
- Open a new map: File –> Open Navigate to: L:\labs\geog205\bc\bc.mxd
- Say Yes to save your changes to your map of Canada K:\geog205\intro_gis\mycanada.mxd
- Save a version of the BC map to your local folder as follows: File –> Save As
- Navigate to: K:\geog205\intro_gis and rename the map to mybc.mxd, click Save
- Draw a Zoom In box around an area of BC that interests you. For example, draw a Zoom In box around the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.
- Adjust the scale readout to 1:2,000,000.
Practice these skills in this lab on the map of BC:
- Change the drawing order,
- Change symbols,
- Zoom In, Pan around etc.
Ensure that no features from one layer are hidden by the features from another layer.
6. Attributes: The Information behind the Map
You may use the Identify button to click on a feature to learn the feature’s name.
Not all features have this information, just the Towns, Provincial Parks and Cities layers.
You may leave this window open while you navigate the map. Move the Identify window to the side so that you can see the map. Focus in on a specific layer by changing the Identify from: field (click its drop-down arrow, and select a layer e.g. town).
The Identify button is a basic query. When you click a feature, you are asking: “What is this?”
- To close the Identify window, click the upper-right X.
Where are these data stored? Right-click your mouse on the layer name Towns and select Open Attribute Table from the pop-up menu. Scroll across the Attribute table until you see the field Name. Close the table.
How can you use the attributes? Town names might be useful as a label. Right-click the Towns layer name and click to checkmark Label Features
Another method for using the attributes of the feature is Map Tips. In this labeling method, the labels are available on demand – meaning the label appears when the mouse floats over the feature, no clicking.
- Open the Attribute Table for Provincial Parks as follows: Right-click Provincial Parks and select Open Attribute Table from the context menu. Note the field containing park names Full_Name. Close the Attribute Table.
- Right-click the Provincial Parks layer name and select Properties from the context menu.
- Next, click the Display tab and select “full_name” from the drop down menu for the display expression and place a checkmark for Show Map Tips.
- Click OK
Float your mouse over any provincial park and you will see its name pop up.
- Save your work File –> Save
7. Finding Help
You can always find help from ArcGIS help.
- Click Start->All Programs->ArcGIS->ArcGIS Desktop Help.
- Click on the Search tab.
Type in Measure Tool, and click on Measuring distances and areas (there are many other measurements that can be executed with the measurement tool as well). If you go back to the contents tab while a subject is clicked in the search tab – you can see what category the results fall under. Experiment with the functionality of the Measure tool.
8. Check List
By the end of this lab, you are able to:
- Create and break Folder Connections in ArcCatalog
- Create Folders in ArcCatalog (no spaces in name) in your working directory.
- Open a Map Document in ArcMap
- Save your changes to a Map Document in your working folder: K:\geog205…
- Recognize map layers, be able to list any map’s layers.
- Recognize point, line and polygon feature classes.
- Change the symbols for a point, line or area.
- Change layer Drawing Order.
- Change Layer Visibility
- Navigate the map: Zoom In, Zoom Out, Pan, Full Extent.
- Measure distances with the Measure tool.
- Basic query with Identify tool.
- Find the Scale display and manually change the scale readout to control map extents (zoom).
- Calculate scale based on map distance and real world distance.
- Open a layer’s Attribute Table
- Display a feature’s attributes on the map with Labels and Map Tips.
9. Loading data from Web Mapping Services (WMS) into ArcGIS
Close your BC map (if you still have it open), and reopen your Canada map (mycanada.mxd).
It is easy to load data from places such as NRCAN (where we downloaded the layers to make up the Canada.mxd dataset) as pre-made basemaps into ArcGIS. There are two ways to load what we call WMS (Web Map Services) layers into ArcGIS.
One method for loading WMS data is to use layers from sources such as ESRI themselves or reassembled layers that are promoted through the ArcGIS online method. To do so:
- Click on the drop down arrow by the add data icon and select Add data from ArcGIS Online
- As an example, search out “Canada population” and add in what ever ArcOnline map service you wish to see (i.e. Canada Population Density)
- click on the add button in the bottom corner to add whatever service you wish
- If you cannot see the newly added layer – it may be hidden by other layers
- Don’t stop there if you see another one of interest .. add it also
WMS Services anywhere
The other method is not as simple, as it requires the user to find the map services on their own. It uses the same method, but allows you add any WMS service you find. Lets add the topographic layers we used in the Canada map. For this exercise, reload your canada map (mycanada.mxd).
After searching for WMS layers and toporama in a web browser (i.e Google search) , a link to a WMS service was found that can be used in your ArcMap project:
we will copy and paste this path into ArcGIS by:
- In ArcCatalog side window, expand GIS Servers and click Add WMS server
- in the top line paste in the address above and then click get layers button. Click OK
- In ArcCatalog side window, under GIS Servers, expand the WMS services you just added. Drag layer boundaries, hydrography, and road network to display area to add data layers
- Click close to ignore the “Transformation Error” window that may pop up and start checking out the added layers at different zoom levels
IMPORTANT: After you have added a WMS layer into your map, you often need to transform the data (not as you are adding the data into ArcMap). This is to provide the WMS web server the projection (to be discussed in lectures later on this semester) you wish. This is accomplished by:
- Right click on the WMS layer in the table of contents and select change coordinate system
- ask the instructor as to what coordinate system works best for your map (i.e the BC Map uses BC Environmental Albers and the Canada Map uses Canada Atlas Lambert)
10. Online Map Viewers: BC iMap
In this part of lab, you will be viewing some BC provincial spatial data on the web
Province of British Columbia iMap : https://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/hm/imap4m/
- The base map that shows provincial data layers produced in the 1980s, with some updating.
- zoom in on PG /UNBC area … the trails are pre-UNBC, with current (post 1982) trails missing ..
- Note the inset map bottom right, scale bar bottom left (round numbers) and lat/long for coordinates – change these to UTM 10
- zoom out to show the whole city area
Add layers: in the left under ‘build your map’ click – add layers now
- select archaeology and culture and expand +
- tick on First Nation community locations and OK
- The Lheidli-T’enneh location at Shelley displays .. on the Fraser River NW of PG (zoom out if needed)
- add more layers – click off ‘map layers’ [another way is to select 'I want to' and add provincial layers]
- select – Parks, Recreation and Tourism -> Recreation lines->Recreation lines Active
- The ones near PG are: Pidherny (north side of Nechako River) and Tabor Mountain (east of the city) – both are lines submitted to the province by user groups collected using GPS, over the last few years.
- to see added layers more clearly, you can subdue the base layer, by using the transparency slider for roads basemap - this modifies transparency to enhance visibility. The ArcMap software has a similar option.
- Zoom in to either the Pidherny trails or Tabor (pick the one you prefer); The trails include annoying official trail line numbers – it may be possible to hide these, but not sure how
- check the map display scale and manually change scale to approximately fill your screen with the selected trail system, perhaps 25000 – Pidherny; 100,000 -Tabor (display north half only)
Adding your own data
- The iMap system also allows you to add your own data, usually we would ‘upload’ a trail file created by GPS, but we can add a random trail – just make a line somewhere …
- click on the markup dropdown, line click on line, click on points to make a line and double click to finish – use erase if you don’t like it but there’s no marks for this …
Finally you can print map if for example you want to take one with you to Pidherny or Tabor either as a print or on your mobile device.
Printing a map
- Reports and Printing dropdown -> print map – click on print and then open file
- It may not be pretty but it may be your first map and using the iMap template complete with inset map and perhaps an odd scale bar with awkward units – how to fix the scale bar?
- Click File->Exit from ArcMap
Now you can logout from osmotar (windows server).
- Click Start -> Logoff. Click Log Off to logout from terminal server
- Click the running man icon to logoff the Linux system