GIS ACTIVITY – CREATING A MAP OF CANADA WITH ARCVIEW GIS
This introduction to ArcView GIS will help you create a map of Canada that can be used as a reference
map for this course. It will also teach you skills that will allow you to create your own maps. You will
learn how to:
Create a new View
Add a Theme to your View
Set the View properties—Units and Projections
Label selections on your map
Add text of an appropriate size to your map
Organize map elements with the Layout window
Print your map.
Before you begin
It is important to create a course folder for your course computer activities. We suggest that an appropriate
folder is C:/Documents and Settings/yourusername/My Documents/My Courses/cgc1d/gis.
A set of files, “canada99.*”, is required for this GIS activity. Your instructor will explain where these files
can be found (they may have been emailed to you, or they might be found in a course conference). Save
these files to the appropriate directory in your C: drive.
1. Starting ArcView GIS
Start ArcView if it is not running. Unless you wish to
open a previously created ArcView project, choose OK on
the welcome dialog box to Create a New Project with a
New View. Choose No for the next dialog box requesting
to add new data now.
Maximize the ArcView window on your screen.
Rearrange the project window (labelled “Untitled”) and the
View window (labelled “View1”) so that the View window
is as large as possible.
2. Create a new View
If the opening dialog boxes did not provide you with a View window, select the View icon from the
Project window and click on the New button.
3. Add a Theme to the New View Document
From the View menu, choose Add Theme, or select the Add Theme button. This brings up
the Add Theme Dialog Box. Navigate your way to the starting theme “canada99.shp”, select it, and
The “canada99.shp” theme should be visible in the
legend of your View1 window (the legend is the area
that appears in the left part of the window). But where is
your map? A theme is only displayed if it has been
selected. Select the theme (make it visible) by clicking
on the small box in the legend.
Notice the shape of Canada. This data (like most data) is
in latitude and longitude coordinates. By default,
ArcView simply projects lat/long data in a rectangular
grid called a Geographic Projection. Notice the
distortion in the shape of Canada, especially in the
4. Changing View Properties
There are a few problems with this map that you must correct before you begin to use it.
a) Start by changing the unattractive, distorted map projection.
i. From the View menu select Properties. Click Projection from the dialog box that appears
on your screen, and the Projection Properties dialog box appears.
ii. ArcView supports a large number of projections. Some are pre-defined, others (Custom)
allow you to specify particular characteristics of the projection. Select the Custom option.
From the Projection list, choose “Lambert Conformal Conic” and accept the defaults.
iii. Select OK to close the Projection Properties dialog box.
b) Before closing the View Properties dialog box, there are some other properties to change:
i. “View1” is not a very descriptive name for this view. Change its Name to “My First GIS
Map of Canada.”
ii. Set the Distance Units to kilometers. Click OK to close the View Properties dialog box.
c) One last problem is that the map is automatically shaded in a randomly selected colour. To
change the colour of your map:
i. Double click the coloured box below the theme name. This will open the Legend Editor
dialog box. Double click the shaded box below the word Symbol. This will open the smaller
Palette dialog box.
ii. Select the paint brush icon. This opens the Color Palette dialog box. Next, select an
appropriate colour. Then click Apply, which is located in the Legend Editor dialog box.
iii. You can now close the Legend Editor and Color Palette dialog boxes.
5. Setting the Working Directory and Saving Your Project
Every project should be saved periodically in case the computer crashes or you wish to continue a
mapping project at a later date. ArcView also saves temporary files to a working directory—this
working directory should be in your network folder so that you can access the files from another
a) To set the Work Directory, choose Set Working Directory from the File menu. Enter the folder
that you are using for your GIS activities on your C: drive and then choose OK.
b) Next, save the project to your personal folder by choosing Save Project As from the File menu.
Give the project an appropriate name and save it to your work directory.
6. Changing the Legend Title
Your map is in pretty good shape now, but there is one small correction yet to be made. The theme
title “canada99.shp” is not very descriptive. You can change this title from the Theme menu by
selecting Properties and inputting a new theme Name, perhaps something like “Boundaries.” Click
OK to effect the name change.
7. Labelling Provinces and Territories
Turn on the Label button located on the second toolbar. Click and hold the left mouse button
on the Label icon to obtain other label tools (labels with lines, etc.). Click on all provinces
and territories to have their attribute names appear.
Long labels may be split onto separate lines by double clicking a selected label and changing the text
in the Text Properties dialog box that appears. Note: if you have used the label with a line, you will
need to select the label and choose Graphics, Ungroup first before separating lines
You can change the font size if the default is not appropriate. First, turn on the pointer from the second
toolbar, then select the label you wish to change. With the label selected, from the Window pull down
menu choose Show Symbol Window. Select the Text button, and change the size.
Note: Should you wish to change more than one label, hold the Shift key down while selecting
Should you need to delete a label at any time, simply select the label on your map and press the delete
key on your keyboard.
8. Preparing the Layout
You have created and labelled your map, but the final Layout must be prepared before printing.
From the View menu, choose Layout. Choose the landscape orientation when asked. The Layout
window will appear showing not only your map but also a title, legend, north arrow, and scale. Note
that the view name automatically becomes the map title, and the theme name is the legend title. You
will need to move, resize, or change these elements in order to organize your map effectively. Add on
your name and the map creation date with the text tool. Also include the type of projection.
a) Double click on the scale to delete or change it to metric units.
b) The size of the legend created in Layout is often too large and draws attention from map itself.
To make it smaller, simply select it and resize by clicking and moving one of the corner symbols.
c) Borders and neatlines may be added from the Layout pull down menu. Choose Add Neatline.
d) Consider whether the north arrow is appropriate for a map projection where the direction to
magnetic north varies around the map area.
e) To move things on your layout more easily, deselect
the Snap to Grid box under Layout, Properties.
9. To Save and Print
From the File pull down menu, choose Save Project or, if you forgot to save your project before,
choose Save Project As and save with an appropriate name in your course GIS folder.
IMPORTANT: Please approach the instructor when you are ready to Print your map.
The HP1120C printer is for colour maps, but increase the printing speed by using Econofast for drafts
or non-presentation maps. The LaserJet 4000 printer will provide maps in black and white.