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

Adding 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. Click to view the image in a larger size.

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

An image of the connect to folder window for world map
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 tree for world map
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 countries to the map document.

From the Catalog Window, select the countries shapefile from the original folder. In this example, a green square represents the shapefile called “ne_110_admin_0_countries.shp.” Click and drag the file over the data frame, the interior window pane in ArcMap, then release. The countries layer appears in the data frame window.

An image of the countries added to the map
The countries layer is an example of a vector data model representing a polygon feature. Click to view the image in a larger size.

Repeat these steps to add the graticules shapefile. You may get a Geographic Coordinate Systems Warning. You may ignore the warning for now. Check the box next to Don’t warn me again this session and click Close.

An image of the Geographic Coordinate Systems warning for the graticules
This warning appears when you have layers with different Geographic Coordinate Systems loaded in the Table of Contents.

When you first add the graticules to the map, they appear above the continents. In the Table of Contents, drag the graticule layer under the countries layer, so ArcMap draws them underneath. Now is an excellent time to save your work.

An image of the graticules added to the map
When the Table of Contents is set to List by Drawing Order, the order listed determines the order drawn on the map. Click to view the image in a larger size.

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, World_Map. Call the map document “Global Subregions.”

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