Designing a Basemap

Table of Contents

  1. Designing a Basemap
  2. Setting Up Your Workspace
  3. Download Data from the DataSF Website
  4. Refreshing a Folder in the Catalog Tree
  5. Changing the Map Projection of the Data Frame
  6. Changing the Map Size and Position
  7. Preparing the Layout
  8. Adjusting Line Weight and Color
  9. Cartographic Typography
  10. Skill Drill: Practicing Cartographic Typography
  11. Skill Drill: Choose a Map Theme
  12. Skill Drill: Finalizing the Poster

Refreshing a Folder in the Catalog Tree

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 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.

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

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. In previous tutorials, you decompressed the files before opening ArcMap. In this instance, you did not decompress the files for reasons that will become clear in the next step.

Expand the original folder to view the contents. Assuming that you did not decompress the files, nothing will appear under the original folder in the catalog tree. The folder seems empty because ArcMap cannot make use of compressed zip files.

An image of the empty original folder
ArcMap will not display compressed zip files in the Catalog Tree.

In a previous activity, you learned how to decompress a file using 7zip. In Microsoft Windows, navigate to your original folder. You should see the zip file for the SF Shoreline and Islands. Right-click on the file, select 7zip, then Extract Here. Be sure to delete the zip file when you are done decompressing it. You won’t need it anymore. Eliminating the zip file saves space and helps to avoid confusion later.

When you first connect to a folder, the Catalog Window correctly lists the items within a folder. However, if you later make changes to the items in the folder outside of ArcMap, the contents will not automatically update to display the alterations. You must refresh the folder to update the Catalog Tree. Right-click on the original folder in the Catalog Tree and select Refresh.

An image of the refresh option
The Catalog Window in ArcMap does not always keep track of changes made in Microsoft Windows.

Expand the original folder in the Catalog Tree. You should now see the shapefile for SF Shoreline and Islands listed.

An image of the refreshed original folder
The default naming convention used by DataSF is not user-friendly.

The default naming convention used by DataSF begins with the words “geo_export” followed by a series of numbers and letters. Regrettably, the file name is not very user-friendly. All of the other files downloaded will also have a similar name. To help avoid confusion, you will rename each of the files immediately after decompressing them.

In a previous tutorial, you learned how to rename files using the Catalog Window. Rename the shapefile and give it a more human-friendly name such as “shoreline.”

An image of the renamed shapefile.
Always use the Catalog Window to rename shapefiles.

Repeat these steps for the remaining files. Avoid decompressing more than one file at a time. Each time you decompress a file, refresh the original folder and rename it. Be sure there are no spaces in the name. When done, remember to delete the compressed zip files from the original folder. You will not need them anymore. Removing them will save space and help to prevent confusion later.

With the building footprints, you will need to decompress it twice to get to the data. After refreshing the original folder in the catalog tree, you should see the geodatabase, represented by a silver cylinder. Click the plus sign to expand the geodatabase. Then, click the plus sign next to the feature dataset that starts with G84. Rename the first feature class “buildings.”

After renaming all the files, add each one to the map document. You may ignore any geographic coordinate system warnings for now..

An image of the SF data added to the map
ArcMap assigns random colors when adding data. Click to view a larger sized image.

In a previous activity, you learned how to set your map document properties to store relative paths. Do this now. Then, save your map document to your project folder, SF_Basemap. Call the map document “San Francisco Basemap.”

An image of the Map document properties for earthquake map
Always make sure to check the Store relative pathnames to data source option.