Helpful hints for navigating GIS on campus

Speed up ArcMap Startup - Methods to start ArcMap faster

If you use the ESRI floating license server at ISU to run ArcGIS, you may experience a 2-3 minute wait for ArcMap or Catalog to load. There are a variety of reasons ArcMap can be slow to open but the most common one, and the easiest to fix, is that the software is searching the network for the correct port to open to talk to our license server. If you hard code that information into your system, it won’t need to search and ArcMap will open more quickly. It should open in around 15 seconds, under optimal conditions.

You have to have Administrator rights on your machine to do the following. You will need to create a system variable that points ArcMap to the correct port and machine for our ISU license server.

To create the system variable go to:
Start > My Computer (right click it and select Properties) > Advanced > Environment Variables > System Variables > New

Set the variable name to ARCGIS_LICENSE_FILE and the value to 27004@<server name> where <server name> is the full name of the ISU license server. To get that name, look in Start > Programs > ArcGIS > Desktop Administrator > License Manager. Whatever it says in the box on the right side is what you put in place of <server name>.

Another suggestion from ESRI is to change the User Environment variables for the TMP and TEMP directories.

To create or modfiy the User variables go to:
Start > My Computer (right click it and select Properties) > Advanced > Environment Variables > User Variables. Highlight the TEMP or TMP variables in the top box to change their values or click New if they don’t exist. Make the value be c:\temp for both; be sure to create that directory on your computer first in Windows Explorer.


What do I do about the software timeout message?

ArcGIS will pop-up a warning message when the campus license for ESRI products will expire within 15 days. This serves as a notice to the license manager at the GIS Facility to renew the license file; it does not require action by anyone else on campus.

If the message is annoying to you and you don’t want to see it anymore, on your machine go to C:\Program Files\ArcGIS\Desktop10.0\Utilities and double-click the AdvancedArcMapSettings.exe file.  Open the Miscellaneous tab and uncheck the box on the right side, 1/2 way down regarding License timeout warning. Then click Apply.


How to Project from Geographic to UTM - Process for defining a coordinate system and reprojecting.

Please read the following directions for defining a coordinate system for geographic data (lat/long) and then how to project that data to another coordinate system (UTM, for example).

Converting shapefiles from geographic coordinates to a projection 

Using ArcGIS 10.x, there are usually two steps to taking data from a geographic coordinate system (lat/long) to a projected system (usually UTM or State Plane in Iowa).

If you receive data as a shapefile and the coordinates read -94.324, 42.234 or similar, then the data are in geographic coordinates.  The fastest way to view the data coordinates is to use ArcCatalog and preview the data. As you move your mouse over the data, the lower right edge of the screen will show changing coordinates.  The most common geographic coordinate system used is WGS 1984, although North American 1983 is also popular.  The two are very similar so picking the “wrong” one is not much of an issue. It is best to know the settings of the equipment that created the data originally but if not possible, choose WGS 1984.  The following are steps to follow for first defining the existing data system and then re-projecting it to what you want. If your coordinates have 6 X digits and 7 Y digits, the data are probably in UTM; if the X and Y both have 7 digits, the data are probably in State Plane. These are general guidelines, it is always best to check with the data provider or read the metadata to be sure about the coordinate system.

Define the existing coordinate system 

1. In ArcCatalog, turn on the Toolboxes panel – there is a red toolbox on the top menu bar, click that.

2. Go to Data Management Tools/Projections and Transformations/Define Projection.

3. For the input dataset, choose your lat/long shapefile or geodatabase. Once it is shown in the top input line, the word “Unknown” should show up in the Coordinate System line.  That just means there is no *.prj file associated with your data and therefore the software doesn’t know what the coordinate system is.  If other text shows up in that line, you need to evaluate if it is correct before proceeding. If it shows one of the geographic systems and you believe the data provider is correct, then leave it. If a projected system is named in that line or you suspect the information is wrong, then click the icon to the right of the text line. This will bring up a box that allows you to choose the correct spatial properties of the data as it is right now.

4. Click the Select … box and then the Geographic Coordinate Systems folder. Choose World and at the bottom of the list is WGS 1984. Add that and click OK. You are back at the main Define Projection window.

5. Click OK to apply the coordinate system; the command should complete in about 2 seconds.

Reproject the data to another coordinate system 

1. In ArcCatalog, go to Data Management Tools/Projections and Transformations/Feature/Project.

2. For the input dataset, choose your lat/long shapefile or geodatabase that you just assigned WGS 1984. Once it is shown in the top input line, the text “GCS_WGS_1984” should show up in the Coordinate System line but is grayed out. ArcGIS creates an output filename for you in the Output Dataset line but you will probably want to change it to something meaningful.  To do that, click the folder icon to the right of the line.


3. The Output Coordinate System line is blank and this is where you fill in the projection that you want your data to be once the command is finished.  For our purposes, since most Iowa data used by non-County or City people matches up with the DNR GIS data, we choose UTM.  If your needs are different, just choose another Output system.

4. Click the icon to the right of the Output Coordinate System line and use Select … to navigate to Projected Coordinate Systems/UTM/NAD 1983/NAD 1983 UTM Zone 15N. Add that one after highlighting it.  Click OK to get back to the main Project window.

5. In the Geographic Transformation pull down list, choose NAD 1983 To WGS 1984 1 – it’s the first one in the list. The software will automatically apply the transformation in the correct direction.

6. Click OK to run the Project command. This will create a new dataset that actually moves and changes the original data to fit the selected coordinate system.  Depending on the number of features, the command may go quickly or take a few minutes.