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Instructions are current as of 4/30/2019.
Please notify a SSIL GE if the information is no longer accurate.


Problem:  Student map not displaying labels. Red exclamation mark under individual layers.

Solution:  The pathway to the data has been altered or disappeared. The student needs to reconnect the data set to the layers by specifying pathway (data location). To do this, click on red exclamation point, and browse to that specific layers data. All remaining layers will automatically correct themselves and map should display all of its colorful glory.

Note:  To reduce the risk of this happening in the first place, all new MXDs should be set with relative data source path enabled (File > Map Document Properties… > Enable “Store relative pathnames to data sources”.


Problem: Can’t see any map layers on the screen.

Solution: Try right-clicking on the layer you want to view and click “Zoom to layer.” This should allow you to see the layer wherever it is projected.


Problem: Student prints with ARCH Landscape (ex. A3, A4, A5, A6, B4, B5, etc.). Printer freaks out & goes “Beep, Beep, Beep, What are you tryin’ to print?!” Lights start blinkin’ all sorts of colors – Lots of lights and sounds (4th of July show for Printer)

Solution:  Press the button that says “Form Feed”, confirm by pressing OK. Another screen pops up asking what size print you want. Most of the time people want 8.5×11, SELECT. Press OK.  Print should come out how the person designed it, just on 8.5×11 or on 11×17.


Problem: Unable to export ArcMap as PDF

Solution: Click “File” then “Export Map…” and change the “Save as type:” to “PDF” from the drop down menu. ArcGIS will save a copy of the map as a PDF file. Make sure the output folder is not opened in Windows Explorer and that the Adobe Acrobat isn’t running.

Alternate Solution: Have student print ArcMap file, ensuring that Adobe PDF is selected as the print option. This will save a PDF on the desktop.


The Importance of folder and file names

It is very important NOT to have spaces in the names of your files and folders when using ArcGIS. The software can behave unpredictably and generate errors if it encounters a file or folder with a space in the name. Sometimes the program will work normally if there are spaces, but it’s not worth the risk. Do yourself a favor and resist the urge to use spaces when naming files and folders. An underscore (“_”) works as a nice replacement. Furthermore, long folder and file names can cause geoprocessing errors, thus it is recommended to keep file names concise.

  • For example: instead of naming a shapefile “slope analysis.shp” instead you should do something like “slope_analysis.shp” or “SlopeAnalysis.shp.”
  • Instead of naming a folder “Lab 5 Data” you should name it “Lab5_Data” or “Lab5Data.”


Connecting to a folder

Sometimes you’ll want to import data from a folder that is not displayed when you click the “Add Data” button.

To connect to a new folder:

  • Click the “Connect to Folder” button from the “Add Data” window or from the “Catalog” window that appears on the right side of the Arc screen.
  • Navigate to the folder that you’d like to connect to
  • Never select a geodatabase (.mdb or .gdb) as the folder to connect to. Connect to a folder ‘above’ a geodatabase to access it.

It is good practice to connect to a higher level folder and navigate to subfolders rather than connecting to individual subfolders.

For example: connect to “H:\” instead of connecting to “H:\Labs\Lab1” and “H:\Labs\Lab2” that way you’ll have access to both folders using one connection.


If you receive an error message when opening a particular tool (e.g. Spatial Analyst)

If you are trying to use a particular analyst tool and you receive an error message that says the tool is not licensed do the following:

  • Open the “Customize” menu at the top of the screen
  • Click on “Extensions…”
  • Activate the extensions that you want by clicking the box to the left of the name so that it is checked.


Data Frames

There are many situations where someone will want to design a cartographic product that has multiple maps on one page. This is typically done by using multiple Data Frames. Each Data Frame contains its own data. Even if you want to use the same data source (e.g. shapefile or raster) in multiple Data Frames you need to add a copy of the data to each Data Frame. ArcMap only allows you to add data and edit data within one Data Frame at a time. Users must switch between their Data Frames to work with the data contained within them. This is called “Activating” a Data Frame.

To add a new Data Frame:

  • Click on the “Insert” menu at the top of ArcMap
  • Select the first option, “Data Frame”

To “Activate” a Data Frame (i.e. switch between Data Frames):

  • Right-Click on the name of the Data Frame in your Table of Contents on the left-side of ArcMap.
  • Click on “Activate” towards the bottom of the menu.

The “active” Data Frame will have its name displayed in bold letters in the Table of Contents


Printing Issues

If someone is having issues with the way their map looks when printed versus how it looks on their computer screen (e.g. the edge getting cutoff) it might be a result of Arc’s printer engine not playing nicely with our printers. A simple solution that tends to fix a lot of these issues is to export the map document as a .pdf and print it through Adobe Acrobat or another.pdf viewer.

To export the map document as a .pdf:

  • Go to the “File” menu and click “Export Map”
  • Name the file
  • Select “PDF” as the file type
  • Find the newly saved .pdf file on the computer and open it in a .pdf viewer such as Adobe Acrobat.


Tool Progress Bar

ArcGIS 10 and above doesn’t show geoprocessing progress window as a default. Instead, it is run in the background and users see no indication that the tool is running. Eventually a small progress bar will appear at the bottom of the screen that display the tool name some dots and the percent complete (e.g. “…Dissolve…2% 2% 2%…Dissolve…4% 4% 4%…“) If you prefer to have a better estimation of the tool’s progress you can revert back to the old system. Additionally, reverting back and disabling background processing will reduce the likelihood of ArcMap crashing during intensive geoprocessing.

To have a progress window display when a tool is executed:

  • Go to the “Geoprocessing” menu and click “Geoprocessing Options…”
  • Look at the 2nd section entitled, “Background Processing”
  • Un-check the box that says, “Enable”
  • Press “OK”


Legend Display

Oftentimes you might want to adjust the way that your data is displayed in the legend accompanying your map. For instance, your .shp file of the Willamette River is named willamette_river.shp, but you want it to show up as “Willamette River” in the legend. To accomplish this you’ll want to give your data file a label specifically for the legend, which is done like so:

For a single symbol feature (e.g. the Willamette River, parks, streets):

  • Right-click on the data file in the table of contents and chose “Properties”
  • Click the “Symbology” tab
  • Look for the “Legend” properties box, which is the 2nd one displayed.
  • Type the desired name in the space provided next to “Label appearing next to the symbol in table of contents”

For categorical features (e.g. data layer showing the density of houses in a neighborhood broken down into categories like 0-40, 40-80, 80-200)

  • Right-click on the data file in the table of contents and chose “Properties”
  • Click the “Symbology” tab
  • You’ll a table with Symbol, Value, Label, and Count headers. Click on the value in the “Label” column and type your desired value.

For more advanced cartographic design, you should convert the legend to a graphic.

  • Right click on the generated legend
  • Select “Convert To Graphics”
  • Ungroup segments of the new legend graphic as needed to make alterations.


Clipping Rasters

Clipping a raster is not as straightforward as a clipping .shp file, but it is not too cumbersome. Perhaps you find yourself in a situation where you have aerial imagery of an entire county and it is a very large file. Due to the large file size of this raster file ArcMap is running very slowly. It just so happens that for your project you only need the part of the aerial photo that overlaps the city boundary of Eugene. Therefore, you could clip the raster using the city boundary and use the new raster file, which in theory will not slow down the computer as much. To clip a raster do the following:

  • With the Spatial Analyst extension activated, open the “Raster Calculator” tool
  • Click the “Environments…” button at the bottom of the window that pops up
  • Click on “Raster Analysis” which is towards the bottom of the new window that pops up
  • Select the dataset that you want to use to clip the raster from the “Mask” drop-down menu (in the scenario mentioned above you’d select the Eugene city boundary)
  • Press “OK”
  • In the “Layers and variables” window on the left double-click the raster that you’d like to clip (in the scenario mentioned above you’d select the aerial image)
  • Upon double-clicking the raster you’ll see the name of it appear in the window below, which is the expression window
  • Due to Arc being finicky, you cannot create a new clipped raster by just setting it equal to another raster, which is what we’d be doing if we left the expression as is. Instead, some sort of calculation needs to be done. The easiest thing to do is multiply the original raster by “1”. Doing so will just multiply each cell of the original raster by 1, which doesn’t change original value but does count as a calculation.(So, if the original raster is named “lane.tif” then the calculation in the expression window should look like this, “1501B.tif” * 1)
  • Name your new clipped raster in the “Output raster” box at the bottom and then press “OK”
  • If all went well you should have a clipped raster


Problem:  I opened my ArcMap document (.mxd file) and all the toolbars/menus are missing.


If the Menu Bar (File, Edit, View…Customize, Help) still appears… click Customize -> Toolbars and choose any toolbar you need. “Standard”, “Tools”,  are “Layout” are commonly displayed.

If no Menu Bar appears, but one or more toolbars does appear…Right-click on an existing toolbar to access the long list of other available toolbars, and select ones you need.

If the Menu Bar AND all toolbars are missing…

  • Close all open ArcMap documents.
  • Open My Computer (Start Menu -> Computer).
  • Double-click: Local Disk (C:)
  • Type “normal.mxt” in the search box at the upper-right. Wait until the search is finished (1-2 minutes) and a file called Normal appears with an ArcMap icon. Right-click the file and Delete.
  • Re-open your ArcMap document and it should appear as normal, with default menus and toolbars.

*More Info: Normal.mxt is “template” file that stores customization of the ArcMap interface. Deleting it causes all interface settings to be reset to default options. A new Normal.mxt with the default settings will be created next time you open ArcMap.

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