Adding County Data to ArcMap

Locate ArcMap on your computer and launch the software. If you are using Microsoft Windows 10, click the windows button and type ArcMap to find the desktop application.  Launch the ArcMap software.

An image of the Windows 10 Start Menu
The actual version of ArcMap may vary over time.

When you first launch ArcMap, a window appears that gives you the option to either open a blank map or to open any of your recent map documents. Choose to open a blank map document.

An image of the ArcMap getting started window
The ArcMap Getting Started window provides several options on startup.

The ArcMap user interface has three main windows that you use on a regular basis, the Table of Contents, the data frame, and the Catalog Window. The Table of Contents displays a list of data frames and map layers loaded into the map documents. The data frame, sometimes spelled dataframe, represents the layers in the form of a map and defines the map extent. The Catalog Window displays a hierarchical view of folder connections and data in the form of a Catalog Tree.

An image of the blank map document
From left to right, the three main windows are the Table of Contents, the data frame, and the Catalog Window.

The icon for the catalog window looks like a yellow file cabinet. If your catalog window is missing, you can find the icon on the toolbar across the top. Click to open it back up.

An image of the Catalog Window Icon
Click the yellow file folder icon if your Catalog Window is missing.

In this step, you will start by working with the Catalog Window. The catalog window is where you manage your geospatial data in ArcMap. Start by clicking on the Connect to Folder button. Navigate to your workspace folder, Basic_QAQC, on your local hard drive.

An image of the connect to folder button in the Catalog Tree
You connect to a folder so that the contents will appear in the Catalog Window.

In this step, it is essential that you select your primary workspace folder, Basic_QAQC, to add it to the Catalog Window. When ready, click OK.

An image of connect to folder for basic QAQC
Connect to Folder will add the folder to the Catalog Window.

Once you add your workspace folder to the Catalog Window, expand the folder by clicking on the plus sign. You should see your three subfolders inside. Expand the original folder to view the contents. This display of folders and files within the Catalog Window is sometimes called the Catalog Tree.

An image of the Catalog Window for QAQC
The contents of the original folder are displayed and organized in the Catalog Window. This display of folders and files is sometimes called the Catalog Tree.

There are several ways to add data to ArcMap. The most direct method is to drag and drop files from the Catalog Window. In this step, you will add the county boundaries to the map document.

From the Catalog Window, select the 500k county boundary shapefile from the original folder. In this example, it is called “cb_2017_us_county_500k.shp” and is represented by a green square icon. Click and drag the file over the data frame, the interior window pane in ArcMap, then release. The county layer appears in the data frame window.

An image of the county 500k added to the map
The county shapefile contains boundaries for all U.S. States and Territories. Click to view a larger sized image.

In a previous activity, you learned how to use various zoom tools. In ArcMap, zoom to the West Coast of the continental United States. Try to set your map so that the West Coast takes up most of the space.

An image of the west coast of US
The map extent displays the U.S. West Coast. Click to view a larger sized image.