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GIS Help


Like it or not, ESRI's ArcGIS family of products is the most common and widely used GIS software. ESRI is sort of the Microsoft of the GIS world. A host of arguably better commercial and open-source free alternatives exist (see here for examples), but as this is the industry standard this is usually what we teach. Below are some useful links to tutorials, forums, manuals and sources of help to get you started:

Online Help for ArcGIS

Help for ArcGIS 9.1, 9.2, 9.3 , 10.0 (click on your version) 

The ESRI website has a wealth of information on it and provides forums, technical ariticles and a comprehensive online help manual to help you learn how to undertake anything from the most simple GIS tasks to very complicated GIS modelling workflows.

All the ArcGIS 9 Manuals in PDF Format

From UNBC GIS Lab: You can download all the ArcGIS Manuals and Tutorials here as PDFs!

Crash Course Tutorial on ArcGIS

If you are not quite comfortable diving right into specifics below (i.e. have never even turned on ArcGIS), this tutorial might be a good place for you to start. The tutorial was developed at the University of Arkansas Libraries and was designed for ArcGIS Desktop version 9.2. The tutorial is intended to help the user bring in their own spatial data of interest and manipulate it in a variety of ways (without having to go through all of ESRI's own tutorials). There are six sections that describe some of the common operations a user may need to know in order to manipulate and/or analyze their spatial datasets:

Yale University Library ArcGIS Tutorials

These tutorials are more comprehensive then the 'Crash Course' tutorials above and are extremely useful (they also include sample data). If you want a more in-depth explanation, spend some time working through these tutorials.

How to Make a Map

If you want to make a map or a figure, but have little experience using ArcGIS you should have a look at this help file and the links below. Making maps in ArcGIS is done in the ArcMap module using Map Documents.

Getting Scanned Images Georeferenced

Whether you have a scanned aerial photo, a scanned paper map or just a digital map or aerial photo that has no spatial data attached to it, to use these images in a GIS you need to first georeference them. This ArcGIS tutorial walks you through all the basic steps of how to do this. To start, you need some GIS layers that are correctly georefereced (e.g. a base map) and have features you can see in your scanned image or map, and the scanned map.
In addition you may find the following tutorials helpful references:

Aberystwyth Students: Did you know our very own Map Library has a welath of maps, which you scan and use as described above? Idaho State University Students: Did you know that our Digital Mapping Laboratory, and our GIS Training and Research Center have a wealth of digital and paper maps you can use?

Digitizing Features From Maps or Aerial Photos

The above tutorials all discuss how to bring data into ArcGIS, display it, querry it and potentially modify it. But how do you make your own layers? For example, if you want to classify a landscape mannually by dividing it into regions that you define with polygons, how would you do it? These links provide some of the tools to do this.

Texts & References

Beyond Mapping III - Presents a number of online excerts from the excellent GIS text, Map Analysis, written by Joseph Berry at Colorado State University.

GIS Analyses

A number students have asked me about using GIS to do hazard mapping, land use mapping, soil erosion mapping and simple modelling. You might find the following website useful as it provides examples of a number of these topics and walks you through what the rough methodology is. This website is pushing its own GIS software (ILWIS) but you can do these sorts of analyses in most GIS packages (including ArcGIS, which is available to all of you on any University machine). The nice thing about their applications is they walk you through the basic theory, approximate methods and provide references for more detail. See what you think.

Where can I get GIS Data?