Learning About Projections Using ArcGIS

Table of Contents

  1. Learning About Projections Using ArcGIS
  2. Setting Up Your Workspace
  3. Downloading Data from Natural Earth
  4. Adding Data to ArcMap
  5. Symbolizing the Map by Subregions
  6. Exploring Map Projections
  7. Choose Your Projection

Downloading Data from Natural Earth

Natural Earth is a website created to provide free vector and raster data to meet the needs of cartographers using a variety of software applications. Tom Patterson and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso (an HSU alumni) are the primary authors. The data on this website is free to use without restrictions.

Open the Chrome browser and navigate to the Natural Earth website at http://www.naturalearthdata.com/. Click the Downloads link. Under Small scale data, click the Cultural link.

If you do not have the Chrome browser, you can download it here.

An image of the Natural Earth download page
Natural Earth provides physical and cultural data in large, medium, and small scale. Click to view the image in a larger size.

Under Admin 0 – Countries, right-click Download countries. Select, Save Link As, then navigate to your original folder and save.

An image of the Natural Earth Cultural Vectors download page
The image here shows the Natural Earth Cultural Vectors download page for small-scale data.

When you are ready, hit the back button and return to the main Downloads page. Click Physical under Small scale data. On the Physical Vectors page, scroll down until you see Graticules. Right-click on the button that says Download 10. Select, Save Link As, then navigate to your original folder and save.

An image of the Natural Earth website.
The image here shows the Natural Earth Physical Vectors download page for small-scale data. Graticules is near the bottom.

The image here shows the Natural Earth Physical Vectors download page for small-scale data. Graticules is near the bottom.

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 two zip files, one for countries and one for graticules. For each zip file, right-click, select 7zip, then Extract Here.

An image of 7zip for extracting countries data
You can access the 7zip software by right-clicking on a compressed file.

Be sure to delete the zip files when you are done decompressing them. You won’t need them anymore. Eliminating them saves space and helps to avoid confusion later.

An image of the original folder for world map project
As you can see, many parts make a shapefile. It must use these files together to work correctly. NEVER delete any of the component files. Pay attention when deleting unwanted zip files.