00:01In this first exercise, we’re going to get to know the Los Angeles River and its surrounding area.

00:06At the same time, we’ll learn a little bit about the basics of working with ArcMap... to navigate a map, how to add and symbolize data...

00:12...and how to get some information about the map features.

00:17We’ll start with a blank map document...

00:22...and add a basemap from the Add Basemap command.

00:26Pick the one called Streets, click Add.

00:29Click yes to enable Hardware Acceleration.

00:32Now grab the Zoom In tool and drag a window around the west coast of the United States...

00:38...and down into the Southern California region around Los Angeles.

00:46Keep zooming in...

00:47...until you can easily distinguish cities, freeways, and landmarks like parks and airports.

00:56Now let’s add some project data on top of our basemap.

00:59Click the Add Data command.

01:00The first thing we have to do is connect to a folder.

01:05Expand the directory down to the UGIS folder that was added when you installed the data.

01:13Click OK.

01:15Now go in and expand the ParkSite folder, SourceData, double-click the ESRI.gdb...

01:23...double-click Boundary, and add the City_ply feature class.

01:28A layer of city boundaries gets added to the map.

01:31Go to the table of contents and toggle that layer on and off a few times.

01:36Click on the layer symbol and change it to whatever color you’d like.

01:42The name is somewhat cryptic, City_ply, so let’s go ahead and right-click the layer name...

01:49...go to Properties, and we’ll change the layer name to Cities...

01:53...which is a little bit more descriptive.

01:59Click the Source tab.

02:00You can see some technical information about where the layer is stored.

02:03One of the key things about a GIS database is that all of the geographic features...

02:07...actually have attribute information behind them.

02:10So if we use the Identify tool...

02:12...we can go in and click on any feature... this case, Santa Monica, see some descriptive information about it...

02:18...and we see information about households, population, square miles, that kind of thing.

02:23Another way to get information... to actually open the attribute table for the entire feature class.

02:29So we go to the layer, right-click, say Open Attribute Table.

02:34Now we see an attribute table for every feature.

02:37Down at the bottom of the table, we can see that this feature class contains 25,374 records.

02:45These are actually all of the incorporated cities in the United States.

02:49We can expand the table by dragging it out to the left and the right.

02:58As you play with the table and drag it around...’ll see the different anchor points that are available.

03:03These are different places where you can dock the window on the top or bottom...

03:07...or the left and right of the application window.

03:12If you right-click Cities, and click Zoom To Layer...

03:15...the map zooms all the way out to the entire United States, including Alaska and Hawaii...

03:20...because this feature class includes cities in all 50 US states.

03:24If you move the window out of the way, you can see the entire extent cover.

03:29Click the Return To Previous Extent button to get right back to where we were.

03:34Now, rather than sorting through all 25,000 records to find the city of Los Angeles...

03:39...we’ll use the Population Value, Sort Descending...

03:43...and then Los Angeles comes up second on the list behind New York.

03:46Click on the left square box to highlight the record.

03:51Close the attribute table.

03:55Right-click the layer...

03:57...go to Selection...

03:59...Zoom To Selected Features.

04:01Now we’re centered and zoomed in to the city of Los Angeles proper.

04:05We can clear the selection with the Clear Selected Features button.

04:08Now we’ll go back to the Layers menu.

04:10Right-click, go to Properties.

04:12We’re going to build a definition query, which is going to show us only the city of Los Angeles.

04:18In the Query Builder, click "Name" =... Get Unique Values, which will populate a list of all the values in this table.

04:27Locate the one that says 'Los Angeles'...

04:31...double-click it to finish building the expression, verify it, click OK.

04:42What we’ve done with the definition query... to filter down our feature class down to a single record.

04:47If we open the attribute table, we can see that single record for Los Angeles now.

04:52Close the attribute table.

04:55Now we’ll go ahead and add some more data.

04:57Click the Add Data button...

05:00...navigate up one level to the Hydro feature dataset, and click the River feature class.

05:07This is a layer of hydrology for the county of Los Angeles.

05:11Click the Identify tool and begin exploring this dataset.

05:15The one that we’re looking for is called the Los Angeles River, and there it is right there.

05:20There’s the first instance of it.

05:26There are different segments of it in this database, and there’s another one.

05:30The river runs east to west across the city, then turns south near the eastern edge...

05:34...and follows the 710 freeway down to San Pedro Bay.

05:38But because this is the only feature in this layer that we’re interested in...

05:42...we can use the definition query again to filter it down to just the Los Angeles River.

05:48So just like we did for the Cities, we’ll do the same thing for the Los Angeles River.

05:54So we click "Name" = 'Los Angeles River', that’s our complete query.

05:59Click OK.

06:00Now before we apply it, we’ll go over to Symbology...

06:04...and we’re just going to increase the thickness of this feature... make it a little bit more prominent on the map.

06:09Bring it up to 3-point width.

06:12Click OK.

06:15And one last thing, we’ll go back to the General tab.

06:17We can see some descriptive information about the layer...

06:20...and we can change the layer name to Los Angeles River.

06:24Click OK.

06:27Now open the attribute table for the Los Angeles River feature class.

06:32We’re going to use the values in the DESCRIPTION column... show you by example how you can select by attribute.

06:42So open the Select by Attributes table, click "Description" = 'Perennial'.

06:51Click Apply.

06:52And now we can see a way that we can select records based on their values within the field...

06:58...just like we did with the definition query...

07:01...only now we’re using it as a means of making a selection.

07:09We’ll save our document by clicking the Save button and navigating into the UGIS folder...

07:16...under ParkSite in the MapsAndMore folder.

07:20We’ll call this first map document Lesson1.

07:23Click Save.

07:26Now we’ll go ahead and add another basemap.

07:28This one’s going to be an imagery basemap.

07:31Click Imagery, and Add.

07:35Now, both these basemaps are called Basemap, which is a little bit confusing... we’ll go into the properties of each one and rename them something more logical.

07:43The first one that we just added we’ll call Imagery Basemap.

07:48Press OK.

07:51Then we’ll go into the Streets basemap that we added previously...

07:54...and rename that one to be called Streets Basemap.

07:59Press OK.

08:00Turn off the Streets Basemap, and turn on the Boundaries and Places...

08:06...and the Transportation layer.

08:08Under the Imagery Basemap, we actually have three sublayers, Boundaries and Places...

08:12...Transportation, and the original Imagery layer itself.

08:15We want to create what’s called a map sandwich by dragging the Cities layer...

08:19...down underneath the Boundaries and Places and the Transportation layer...

08:22...and above the Imagery layer.

08:24Now our map is showing a little more context.

08:27Let’s create a bookmark.

08:30Call this bookmark City of Los Angeles.

08:34This way, we’ll be able to get back to this point whenever we need to.

08:37Now we’ll grab the Zoom In tool and go down to the far southern point of the LA River...

08:41...where it dumps into the San Pedro Bay.

08:44Set the scale at 1:10,000.

08:46Actually, down in this part of the bay it’s known as Queensway Bay...

08:49...and the reason is that the Queen Mary ship is docked down here.

08:53Use the Pan tool to kind of zoom around in this area, take a look around...’s a very interesting part of the city of Los Angeles.

09:00You can use the Fixed Zoom In and Fixed Zoom Out tools to get around.

09:04There’s the Queen Mary.

09:07Keep zooming in.

09:09You can see this is very high-resolution imagery...

09:12...but even the imagery will have a limit... some point as to how far we can go, and there it was.

09:19But we have a bookmark, so we can easily get back to where we want to be.

09:23We’ll drag our Cities layer back up above the Imagery basemap.

09:27We’ll open the Properties for the Cities layer.

09:31Click the Symbology tab, and open the symbol.

09:35Let’s change the fill color to blank, or no fill color.

09:42We’ll increase the outline width to 2 and change the outline color to a bright yellow.

09:50Click OK.

09:53Under the General tab, we will change the layer name to Los Angeles.

09:58Click OK.

10:01Now we have a nice yellow, easy-to-see outline of the city of Los Angeles.

10:06We’re going to create a layer file for this particular layer that we can use later.

10:10In the table of contents, we’ll right-click the layer...

10:13...and save it as a layer file called Los Angeles.lyr.

10:18Just to show you what’s going on now, we’ll remove the original layer...

10:22...and we’ll go in and add our layer file that we just created.

10:33The layer file stores all the properties of the layer, its name, symbology...

10:37...the definition query, everything, including the path to the layer’s source dataset.

10:43So basically, what happens is the layer is added in with all its symbology...

10:46...and everything already set up.

10:48We’re going to use this layer later on in the book.

10:51Now we’re going to go in and explore the entire length of the LA River on top of the imagery...

10:56...just to get a visual sense of what kind of landscape we’re dealing with here.

11:01We’ll pull the scale down to 1:24,000, go up and grab the Pan tool...

11:06...and then just start manually panning to the east along the length of the river.

11:12This upper portion cuts through a fairly densely populated area up in the San Fernando Valley.

11:17You can see there are some parks and open space and some golf courses along the length.

11:27As we continue to the east...

11:30...pass through the area around Forest Lawn Cemetery, Universal Studios.

11:38Now we’re heading south...

11:54...coming up to the Dodger Stadium area, the LA Police Academy, there's Dodger Stadium.

12:02Go ahead and create a bookmark at the Dodger Stadium area.

12:09Click OK.

12:13And in our Bookmarks Manager, we can actually save the entire set of bookmarks.

12:18We’ll save these into our MapsAndMore folder, and we’re going to call these Lesson 1 Places.

12:24So now we have two bookmarks and one Bookmarks folder.

12:29Now we’re continuing south, scrolling along through the downtown area...

12:35...and we come to the border of the city of Los Angeles.

12:39Now we’ll exit the map.

Copyright 2016 Esri
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Exercise 1a: Explore the study area

Understanding GIS: An ArcGIS Project Workbook for ArcGIS 10

Lesson 1: Frame the problem and explore the study area - Frame the problem and explore the geography of the study area.

This video was produced for the first edition of Understanding GIS: An ArcGIS Project Workbook. Users of the second edition may notice small differences in workflows and results. Book resources are located on ArcGIS for Professionals.

  • Recorded: Nov 1st, 2011
  • Runtime: 12:50
  • Views: 18301
  • Published: Mar 9th, 2012
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Comments  (5)

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@ninnee  Hi Ninnee,

These videos go along with a book called "Understanding GIS: an ArcGIS Project Workbook." The book includes the datasets on a DVD. You can get the book on or from Esri Press. Be sure to get the 2nd edition. If you are looking for free resources, go to and filter the training catalog for free web courses. They have a course called Getting Started with GIS for ArcGIS 10 and one called Using ArcMap in ArcGIS Desktop 10.

Tim Ormsby
timor 11 Months ago
i am jst starting to use arcgis for desktop. can anyone help he from where i can get the datasets to be used in arcmap

ninnee 11 Months ago
The video correctly shows the steps to reach the boundary>city_ply layer; the FIRST TIME a user needs to access it, it has to be done by clicking the Add button for the Source Data folder. Only then is the ESRI.gbd data accessible. Once the user does this the first time, it may be thereafter accessed by double-clicking, as the workbook instructs.
jebra 2 Years ago
Report  Hi Madhur,

These videos are based on a workbook called "Understanding GIS: An ArcGIS Project Workbook." The book includes the working files on a DVD. It also includes a code for a trial copy of the software that is good for 180 days. This book costs around $50 from Amazon. (By the way, these videos are based on the first edition of the book from 2011. There is now a second edition from 2013.)

The working files are not publicly available except from the book.

Tim Ormsby
timor 2 Years ago
Hello Sirs:

I am wondering about the working files discuss in this lesson. At the beginning of the lecture, the instructor "adds data" to the Base Map from the folder "UGIS".
From where can we download the data to be added?
Please suggest.

Madhur Devkota 2 Years ago
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