Managing Data Using the Catalog Window

ArcMap is part of the ArcGIS software suite. In this course, you will primarily be using ArcMap to manage data and create maps. 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. Click to view the image in a larger size.

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. Click to view the image in a larger size.

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. Click to view the image in a larger size.

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 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, GSP101_Activity1, to add it to the Catalog Window. When ready, click OK.

An image of the connect to folder window for GSP 101 activity 1
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 GSP 101 Activity 1 folder added to the Catalog Tree
The contents of the workspace folder are displayed and organized in the Catalog Window. This display of folders and files is sometimes called the Catalog Tree.

Notice the difference between the appearance in Microsoft Windows File Explorer and the way the Catalog Window displays the data. The Catalog Window reduces the number of files that you see to make moving and copying data easier. However, it keeps the component files together when moving or copying data. You will demonstrate this feature in the next step.

An image of the comparison between the Catalog Window and Microsoft File Explorer
On the left, the image displays the contents of the original folder in the Catalog Window. On the right, the same folder is viewed using Microsoft Windows File Explorer. Click to view the image in a larger size.

In the Catalog Window, right click on the Humboldt County boundary shapefile. In this example, it is called CNTYOUTL.shp. Copy the file. Paste the file into the working folder.

An image of a right click on county boundary to copy file
You can access contextual menus for copy, pasting, and renaming by right-clicking on a folder or file.

When done, you should see a copy of the Humboldt County boundary shapefile under the working folder in the Catalog Tree. Click to view the image in a larger size.

An image of the the county boundary in the working folder.
The Catalog Tree should now display the CNTYOUTL.shp file in both the original folder and the working folder.

Though it may appear that you copied and pasted only one file in the Catalog Window, the ArcGIS software also made copies of all the parts that make up a shapefile. To verify that this is true, open your working folder using Microsoft Windows File Explorer and examine the contents.

An image of the Humboldt County boundary within the working folder.
The working folder now contains all of the parts that make up the Humboldt County boundary shapefile.

Remember!  When working with shapefiles, never delete any of the component files or you will break it.

The Catalog Window also makes it easy to edit geospatial data. To demonstrate this feature, return to ArcMap and rename the shapefile in the working folder. Right click on CTNYOUTL.shp and select Rename. Change the name to “Humboldt_County_boundary.”

An image of the renaming the County Boundary
You can access contextual menus for copy, pasting, and renaming by right-clicking on a folder or file.

Once again, examine the changes in the working folder using the Microsoft Windows File Explorer. As you can see, the change to the name of the shapefile in the Catalog Window extends to the component files.

An image of the renamed file in the working folder.
The name in each of the parts of the shapefile changed.

Imagine that someone assigned you to manage dozens or even hundreds of shapefiles. If you tried to rename or transfer individual files using Microsoft Windows File Explorer, the task would be both time-consuming and prone to errors. The advantage of using GIS software to manage geospatial data is that it can save time and reduce the possibility of corrupting the data.

Practice what you have learned. Copy each of the remaining shapefiles from the original folder to the working folder using the Catalog Window. The shapefiles each have an icon that looks like a green square. You can ignore the rest of the files for now. Give the copies located in the working folder more human-friendly names such as “roads,” “election_precincts,” and “fire_hydrants.”

An image of the working folder with each of the copied files
The icon for shapefiles looks like a green square. The details vary depending on whether the shapefile is a point feature, a linear feature, or a polygon feature.

Remember! Avoid using blank spaces in the file names. You can use an underscore instead of empty spaces. Blank spaces can cause some tools in ArcMap to stop working.