Troubleshooting & Tips using ArcMap - GIS Tutorial
Troubleshooting & Tips using ArcMap

Activating a data frame
A map document (.mxd) may need or already contain several data frames. To perform certain functions with the data in a specific data frame, it has to be “Active”. Often you want to switch between data frame for analysis or change symbology. There are two methods of selecting a specific data frame. In the first method, right-click the data frame name in the Table of Contents and in the context menu, select “Activate”. The second method requires the Layout View, use the “Select Elements” tool to click and select the specific data frame to activate.

Creating a working directory
When using the Spatial Analysts, it is essential to establish a working directory for many of the operations to succeed. A good practice is to create a working directory where you will store new grids that will be created. A niche that can cause many problems when deciding on a folder (where new grids will be stored) is that the working directory can NOT have any spaces in the path name. If you want spaces to separate words or dates use the underscore character. Creating a working directory with a space in the path will prevent you from saving your environment.

From Excel to ArcGIS
More times than not you are creating data from surveys or analysis from other statistical programs. To import this data into a format ArcGIS can understand, an effective procedure is to use Excel and save the document as a Database File (.dbf). Each column in excel become the variable and each row represent an object or feature. When the data
is entered, select and highlight all populated cells, click File and then click “Save As…”. In the following dialog box, provide a name for the document and click the drop-down arrow for “Save as type: ” and select “DBF 4 (dBASEIV)”. Click “Save” and a prompt will let you know that it can not save multiple worksheets, click “OK”. Another prompt will appear describing that the saved file may contain features that are not compatible with DBF 4 and if you want to keep this format, click “Yes”. Finally, in order to view the new .dbf file in ArcGIS, you must close the excel file. You will be asked once more if you want to save the file, click “No” or if you feel unsure click “Yes” and repeat the steps above.

Length of raster grid name
When or if you decide to provide your own name for a raster grid, keep in mind that there may be a limit on the number of characters allowed. Typically, when using Spatial Analyst a 13 character limit is the case. Attempting to save a raster file with more characters will prompt a message that the procedure failed

Portrait vs. Landscape
When switching to the Layout View in ArcMap you will have two choices on the layout position: Portrait or Landscape. Portrait is when the layout is greater in height than in width, this is usually the default. Landscape layout provides greater width than height. ArcMap will store the format chosen when the document is saved. However, when opening the same document on a different computer than the original ArcMap may open with a different format. Unfortunately, data frames, text, legend, and other items will need to be resized to the appropriate format. To access the option of portrait or landscape, right-click the virtual page in Layout View and click “Page Setup”.

Printer not found!
This is a common prompt from ArcMap when opening a map document (.mxd). A .mxd file records the active printer on a computer in which it the file was saved. Opening the same map document on a computer that does not have the same active printer will cause this prompt, but will in no way effect or corrupt the file. Simply, click Ok at the prompt and proceed.

Projection change
Data added to ArcMap that does not have projection information may cause the layer to appear distorted or if several layers need projection change the data frame can provide a projection or change a projection. Using the data frame properties a projection can quickly be changed from state plane to UTM or other several projections. Right-click the data frame to display the context menu. Click “Properties” and select the “Coordinate System” tab. Then choose to use an existing layers coordinate system or choose from a list of “predefined” projections. (Note: this global change does not permanently affect the shapefiles themselves.)
Read Only
The Read-Only permission can be a source of many operation failures in ArcMap and ArcCatalog. You may encounter “failed to paste” or “check your permissions” during some operations which ArcGIS will most likely require you to close all relating programs and remove the Read-Only permission. To avoid these failures remember to uncheck the read-only permission in the folder or files properties when copying data from cd’s or other storage devices. Right-click folder or file, select “Properties”, then uncheck (if necessary) Read-Only box, select “Apply”. In the following dialog box, select “Apply changes to folder, subfolders, and files”.

The large amount of data in an ArcMap document can sometimes lead to the view not being fully rendered. This can occur when turning layers off/on, panning, adding data, over-clicking buttons or navigation tools etc. the result can leave layers not to be drawn or half the view blank. A simple solution is to use the refresh button in the bottom left corner of the view.

Restoring broken links (eliminating the red exclamation)
A common result of storing data sources as an absolute path is that sometimes we forget and move data. This causes a red exclamation point to appear next to a layer that has their data source missing. To resolve this issue right-click the broken layer and select “Set Data Sources”, use the following browsing dialog box to navigate to the file and click Add.

Saving new versions of your work
Under certain unpredictable circumstances a map document can become corrupted when saving. A typical response from ArcMap once a file has been corrupted is for it to terminate the program and asks if you want to debug the program. To avoid losing hours of work save new version of the file using “Save As” rather than “Save”. In the case a file has been corrupted, a program named MxdDoctor can attempt to restore the file.

Saving paths for data in .mxd files
One function of an .mxd file is to store the information needed to locate data in the document. Specifically, it will store the data source of a shapefile, for example “C:/ArcGIS/Data/USA/states.shp” This type of procedure keeps .mxd files small and easy to copy or move. However, if you move a .mxd file from one computer to another or simply transfer data to a different hard drive the data source also needs to change to reflect the new directory path where the data is being stored. ArcMap provides the option of saving the .mxd file with an “absolute” or “relative” path. An absolute path requires the data to keep the same directory path structure and is the default setting in ArcMap. A
relative path will allow data to be moved to another computer or hard drive. To change how data sources are stored click File and select “Map properties”, in the following dialog box click “Data source options”, then choose an absolute or relative path and click OK.

Select features vs. Select elements tool
The select features tool is designed to select and highlight point, line, and polygon features on the map by clicking or drawing a box around a feature(s). To deselect features, click an area in the view that contains no features or select Selection in the main toolbar and click “Clear Selected Features”. The Select elements tool is your default cursor icon. It will only select objects in the Layout View such as, data frames, legends, north arrows, draw tool objects etc. However, both tools can be used to access context and drop-down menus or select objects in a table.

Shift vs. Ctrl
The shift and control key allow for single or multiple selections depending if your selecting features or objects in a attribute table. Use the shift key to select or deselect features one-by-one in the Data View. Shift provides no action in the attribute table. Use the Control key to select objects in the attribute table one-by-one or to select multiple objects click, hold and drag up/down the row selection column.

Understanding networking
A network is where many computers have access to the same drive. The ability to access the same information in a folder is an efficient way to share data. A concern of many people who store data on a network is the permission to access or manipulate data to only certain clients. It may be best to have a master copy of the data in a folder on your network that restricts the permissions for students to manipulate or change the data. Then have them copy the data to their own folder on the network or to their local drive on an assigned computer. Remember that the greater number of computers accessing the same folder and files on the network will decrease the network speed. To create an efficient environment for both your students and the network system manager communicate early with the Network System Manager to formulate a procedure for accessing and working with data.