Introduction to GIS software
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 with ArcCatalog
- Viewing spatial data in ArcCatalog
- Working in ArcMap
- Map Scale
- 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 Entrancehttp://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/sv/imapbc/
- Please consult a lab instructor before switching on or off a computer.
- Use your mouse arrow to point things out to other people 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 in GIS lab
osmotar.unbc.ca: GIS Windows Terminal Server running the software for windows platform
GISFS2.unbc.ca : GIS file storage GIS file storage for data and files access
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 and 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
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.
After a while the Windows environment appears, similar to the windows environment at home or office computers
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. 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 with ArcCatalog
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/
ArcCatalog is a tool for browsing, organizing, distributing, and documenting your data, while ArcMap is used for viewing, analysis, and final output.
- Start ArcCatalog by clicking its desktop icon. You should see ArcCatalog as the following:
The left part of ArcCatalog is the Catalog Tree showing the drives, folders and files etc. ArcCatalog works similar to Microsoft’s Windows Explore (the file manager). You can manage your regular file, spatial datasets and database in ArcCatalog.
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 to GISFS2
- Click the Connect to Folder button from the top standard toolbar. If the toolbar does not show, click Customizes->Toolbars->Standard to turn it on
- 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. You can click any item here to see more information on datasets in the display window. The items highlighted at left are displayed at right.
Create Folders in ArcCatalog & Change Settings
WARNING: DO NOT use spaces when creating new folder names, or file name. It is also a good idea to use only lower-case letters – avoid mixing capitals and lower case.
ArcCatalog allows you to perform data management tasks such as create, delete, copy and paste a file, a spatial dataset or folder. Since you need a folder for your lab work, create one as follows:
- In the Catalog Tree, right-click on K:\ and choose New->Folder. Type geog205 and press the Enter key. Now you should have a new folder K:\geog205. This folder will be used to store all your lab work for this course.
As you are going to complete a number of labs and project for this course, it would be better have a folder for each lab and project to better organize your data.
- For this first lab, create a new folder under K:\geog205 and call it lab1. You should see K:\geog205\lab1 showing in catalog tree. If it does not show, right click geog205 folder and choose Refresh.
- note: in the other labs it is perhaps easier to create the folder using Windows Explore (File Explorer)
Next, you will ensure you can see all the file extensions for the course data:
- In ArcCatalog, click Customize->ArcCatalog Options -> General. Ensure the Hide file extensions box is clicked off
- Click OK. This will allow you to see the file extensions in ArcCatalog
- Open the Windows File Manager as follows: Click Start and click This PC.
- Click on the View tab
- Now click in the Options box and the end of the panel. Once the Folder Options frame opens, click the View tab –> click show hidden files –> click off hide extensions of known file types. (as in the image below):
- Click OK.
- Click the check box beside hidden files or drive (Hidden files and folders) if it is not already clicked on.
4. Viewing spatial data in ArcCatalog
If you highlight a data source in the catalog tree, you can view it in several ways, depending on which tab you choose in the right part of window.
Let’s take a look at UNBC datasets. A folder UNBC under L:\labs\geog205 contains all datasets related to the UNBC area.
- Find UNBC folder under L:\labs\geog205 (this will take some time to refresh the first time you navigate the L drive). Click the plus sign beside UNBC folder to list its contents.
- Click the dataset boundary. This dataset contains UNBC land boundary.
- Click on Contents tab in right window. This tab window displays the name of feature, the type of feature class and the thumbnail if any.
- Click Preview tab. The Preview window lets you preview the dataset geographically. You can see UNBC reserve land boundary displayed at right.
- Click on Description tab. Description is the term used to describe spatial datasets. It may contain information such as the coordinate system, projection, data type, attributes etc. You can create these documents on your own.
- You can also preview the data by viewing its attribute table. The attribute table contains more information about the dataset, such as area, perimeter, length, street name, river type etc.
- Click the Preview tab again
- Click the dropdown list available at the bottom of the Preview tab and choose Table. The content of the table associated with the dataset is displayed (the layers attributes). You can also find the total records (features) from the bottom part of the window. This datasetonly has one record – not too exciting so..
- Try looking at another layer – contours_5m.shp for instance. There are a number of attributes for this layer (the most useful being LENGTH and ZVALUE). You can sort the table’s attributes. For example, we want to sort the LENGTH in descending order. To sort the LENGTH in descending order, right-click on the column header LENGTH and choose Sort Descending. After sorting the table, you will have the record with largest area listed at top.
5. Working in ArcMap
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 icon ArcMap on your desktop to start 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
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\lab1
- 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 of the map.
- 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. Carry on if this is if this the case .
- 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.
6. 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 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 kilometers
- Write down the distance by rounding your value to the nearest kilometre
- Close the Measure window
The distance you measured is the actual straight line distance in kilometres of the islands. If you took a ruler and measured the distance on the screen, you would need to multiply your measurement by the scale of the map to get the real world distance. If measured the distance to be 150 mm, and the scale was 2,000,000 – what would the measurement in kilometres in the real world?
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.
7. 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\lab1\mycanada.mxd
- Save a version of the BC map to your local folder as follows: File –> Save As
- Navigate to: K:\geog205\lab1 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.
8. 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 Fall_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
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Loading data from Web Mapping Services 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, pick ecozones of Canada
- click on the add button in the bottom corner
- 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, this link to a WMS service can be used
we will copy and paste this into ArcGIS by:
- Clicking on the add data icon as you normally would do, but click on GIS Servers instead of Folder Connections. (You may have to go up a level in the add data frame to get back to GIS Servers).
- Double click on the GIS Servers and then double click on Add WMS server
- in the top line paste in the address above and then click get layers
- Click on the top of the tree of layers (toporama in this case) and then the ADD button in the bottom corner (this adds the service to the list of servers)
- You can now double click on the server, click on the service in the next panel and add the layer
- Set the project you want the data to be generated for you map (see the IMPORTANT section below)
Try this one more time with the GeoBase service from NRCAN. The WMS link below was found and explained at http://www.geobase.ca/geobase/en/wms/index.html
IMPORTANT: After you have added a WMS layer into your map, you should take the time 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 the have the data in. This is accomplished by:
- Right clicking 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)
12. Online Map Viewers: BC iMap
In this part of lab, you will be viewing some BC provincial spatial data on the web (Use Internet Explorer for this section).
Province of British Columbia iMap http://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/sv/imapbc/
- You many be asked to use silver light for this and other applications. In this case, you have to use osmotar and activate the silverlight pluginallow to run silverlight (USE Internet Explorer – Silverlight should work best with it)
- The base map that appears shows provincial data layers produced mostly in the 1980s, with some updating.
- zoom in on PG and the UNBC area … the trails are pre-UNBC, with many 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 archeology 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
- 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 (not sure!) ?
You can also test out a multitude of applications which each have their launcher: http://geobc.gov.bc.ca/applications/index.html
NOTE: You many be asked to use silver light for some of the applications. In this case, you have to use osmotar and activate the silverlight plugin
- Click File->Exit from ArcMap.
- Click File->Exit from ArcCatalog
Now you can logout from the windows terminal server.
- Click Start -> Logoff. Click Log Off to logout from terminal server (make sure you are in Terminal server window)