This guide was created by the staff of the GIS/Data Center at Rice University and is to be used for individual educational purposes only. The steps outlined in this guide require access to ArcGIS Pro software and data that is available both online and at Fondren Library.

The following text styles are used throughout the guide:

Explanatory text appears in a regular font.

  1. Instruction text is numbered.
  2. Required actions are underlined.
  3. Objects of the actions are in bold.

Folder and file names are in italics.

Names of Programs, Windows, Panes, Views, or Buttons are Capitalized.

'Names of windows or entry fields are in single quotation marks.'

"Text to be typed appears in double quotation marks."

The following step-by-step instructions and screenshots are based on the Windows 10 operating system and ArcGIS Pro 2.5.0 software with an Advanced license. If your personal system configuration varies, you may experience minor differences from the instructions and screenshots.

Obtaining the Tutorial Data

There are three ways of obtaining the tutorial data. The best option for getting the full GIS project experience is to follow Option 1 and learn how to download and prepare data from online GIS data providers independently. You will also gain exposure to the best GIS data websites for the Houston region.

If you have already completed the Introduction to Data Management tutorial, but did not save a copy of your files, or if you would prefer to complete this tutorial first, then you may follow Options 2 or 3. Option 2 is best if you are completing this tutorial in one of our short courses or from the GIS/Data Center and Option 3 is best if you are completing the tutorial from your own computer.

Before beginning the tutorial, you will copy all of the required tutorial data onto your Desktop. Follow the applicable set of instructions below depending on the particular computer you are using.

OPTION 1: Obtaining tutorial data independently online

If you would like to download and prepare the data for this tutorial from scratch, follow the instructions below:

  1. Complete the Introduction to GIS Data Management tutorial.

At the end of the tutorial, you will have an Intro folder on the Desktop containing all of the required files.

OPTION 2: Accessing tutorial data from Fondren Library using the gistrain profile

If you are completing this tutorial from a public computer in Fondren Library and are logged on using the gistrain profile, follow the instructions below:

  1. In the Windows taskbar, click the File Explorer application.

  2. In the 'File Explorer' window, click This PC on left side panel and then navigate to gisdata (\\ (R:) > Short_Courses > Introduction_to_GIS  
  3. To create a personal copy of the tutorial data, drag the Intro folder onto the Desktop. 
  4. Close all windows.

OPTION 3: Accessing tutorial data online using a personal computer

If you are completing this tutorial from a personal computer, you will need to download the tutorial data online by following the instructions below:

Tutorial Data Download

  1. Click above to download the tutorial data.
  2. Open the Downloads folder.
  3. Right-click and select Extract All....
  4. In the 'Extract Compressed (Zipped) Folders' window, accept the default location into the Downloads folder.
  5. Uncheck Show extracted files when complete.
  6. Click Extract.
  7. Directly within the Downloads folder, drag the Intro folder onto your Desktop.

Getting Started with ArcGIS Pro

Managing Projects

Opening an Existing Project

  1. On the Desktop, double-click the Intro folder to open it.
  2. Double-click the Intro ArcGIS Project File (blue icon) to open the existing project in ArcGIS Pro.
  3. Maximize the ArcGIS Pro application window.

Creating a New Map

A map is a project item used to display and work with geographic data in two dimensions. The first step to visualizing any data is creating a map. Because this project was first created using the Map template, there is already a default map view open. It is possible to have multiple maps within a single project, so you will practice creating a second map. The ribbon runs horizontally across the top of the ArcGIS Pro interface. Tools (buttons) are organized into tabs along the ribbon.

  1. On the ribbon, click the Insert tab.
  2. In the Project group, click the New Map button.

    You will notice that a new map view opens in the main section of ArcGIS Pro, called 'Map1'.

    The panel on the left side of ArcGIS Pro is called the Contents pane. After creating a new map, the Contents pane now displays the default Map1 title and automatically adds the Topographic basemap layer to the map.

    The panel on the right side of ArcGIS Pro is called the Catalog pane. After creating the first map, a new Maps section has been added to the top of the Project tab within the Catalog pane.

  3. In the Catalog pane, click the arrow to expand the Maps section.

    Notice that there is the original template map, named 'Map', along with the map you just created, named 'Map1'. Since most projects will have multiple maps, it is a good idea to name your maps with more descriptive titles.

  4. In the Catalog pane, under the Maps section, right-click Map1 and select Rename.
  5. Type "Census Tracts" and press Enter.

Saving a Project

Any time you create a new project item, such as a map or a layout, or any time you spend time adjusting the symbology of your map layers, it is a good idea to save your project.

  1. Above the ribbon, on the Quick Access toolbar, click the Save button.

Managing Maps

Browsing Existing Data

As a reminder, in the Intro to GIS Data Management tutorial, we imported the feature classes of interest into our project geodatabase.

  1. In the Catalog pane, click the arrow to expand the Databases section.
  2. Click the arrow to expand the Intro.gdb geodatabase.

Adding Data to a Map

  1. Right-click the HGAC_tracts feature class and select Add To Current Map.
  2. An alternative method of adding data to a map is to click and hold the HGAC_Major_Roads feature class and drag and drop it into the Census Tracts map view.

Symbolizing Layers with a Single Symbol

When layers are added to a map, ArcGIS Pro assigns then a random color symbol. Sometimes the colors are very faint and difficult to see on top of the basemap or the colors of multiple layers are very similar to each other and difficult to distinguish. To ensure that everyone can easily see the layers we are working with, we will adjust the basic symbology.

  1.   In the Contents pane on the left, right-click the HGAC_Major_Roads layer name and select Symbology to open the Symbology pane on the right.

    Notice that the 'Primary symbology' defaults to Single Symbol. With this type of symbology, all features in that particular layer will be assigned the same symbol.

  2. For 'Symbol', click the colored line symbol to switch to Format Line Symbol mode.

  3. Within Format Line Symbol mode, click the Properties tab.

  4. For 'Color', use the drop-down menu to select Black.
  5. At the bottom of the Symbology pane, click Apply.

    The freeways on the map should now all be black and easily visible on top of the basemap. The Format Symbol mode of the Symbology tab can be accessed directly via the layer symbol (instead of the layer name) in the Contents pane.

  6. In the Contents pane on the left, click the colored rectangle symbol beneath the HGAC_tracts layer name.

  7. For 'Color', use the drop-down menu to select Mango.

  8. For 'Outline color', use the drop-down menu to select Gray 50%.
  9. At the bottom of the Symbology pane, click Apply.

The census tract polygons are now easy to distinguish from both the basemap and the freeways. In addition, the borders of the super neighborhoods are clear and easy to differentiate from the freeways.

Navigating the Project

Navigating the Contents Pane

At the top of the Contents pane, there is a series of seven buttons. By default, the leftmost button is selected: List by Drawing Order.

When this button is selected, the order in which the layers are listed corresponds to the order in which the layers are visually stacked in the Map view. To test how the drawing order works, you will reorder the layers.

  1. In the Contents pane, click and hold the HGAC_tracts layer name and drag and drop it above the HGAC_Major_Roads layer.

    You will notice that, in the Map view, the HGAC_tracts layer is now drawn in on top of the HGAC_Major_Roads layer, meaning that the freeways are no longer visible. It is possible to add transparency to the super neighborhood layer or to symbolize it with a bold outline and a hollow fill, but, in general, it is best to have polygon layers at the bottom of the drawing order, so we will return the layers to their previous order.

  2. In the Contents pane, click and hold the HGAC_tracts layer name and drag and drop it beneath the HGAC_Major_Roads layer, but above the Topographic basemap.

    The check boxes to the left of each layer name toggle the visibility of each layer.

    Because the basemap is a solid image, any layers beneath it will not be shown at all, so ensure the basemap is always at the bottom of the layers in the Contents pane.

  3. Uncheck the HGAC_Major_Roads layer to turn off its visibility in the map view.
  4. Check the HGAC_Major_Roads layer to turn its visibility back on in the map view.

Navigating the Map View

You will now learn how to navigate the Map view by panning, zooming, and using spatial bookmarks.

  1. On the ribbon, click the Map tab.
  2. In the Navigate group, ensure that the Explore button is selected by default.

    To pan the map:

  3. Within the map view, click and hold the left mouse button and drag the mouse and release.

    To manually zoom:

  4. Hover your cursor over the area you wish to zoom in to and push the center scroll wheel away from you for incremental zooming. Pull the center scroll wheel towards you to zoom out.


  5. Hover your cursor over the area you wish to zoom in to, hold down the right mouse button, and drag the mouse down for smooth zooming in. Drag the mouse up to zoom out.


  6. Hold down Shift such that your cursor changes to a magnifying glass and then click and hold and drag a box around the targeted area of interest to zoom directly to a specific extent.

    To zoom to the extent of a particular layer:

  7. In the Contents pane, right-click the Census_tracts layer name and select Zoom To Layer.

    A spatial bookmark allows you to quickly return to a particular zoom extent in your Map view.

  8. Hold down Shift such and then click and hold and drag a box around Beltway 8.

  9. On the Map tab, in the the Navigate group, click the Bookmarks button and select New Bookmark....

  10. In the 'Create Bookmark' window, for 'Name:', type "Houston" and click OK.
  11. To test the bookmark, use panning and zooming to change the extent of the map.
  12. Again, click the Bookmarks button and this time select the Houston bookmark to return to that extent.

Exploring Data in the Map View

Selecting Features Manually

Selecting Features Manually from the Map View

  1. On the Map tab, in the Selection group, click the Select button.

  2. In the map view, click on any census tract to select it.

    The selected census tracts will be outlined in cyan.

  3. Drag a box to select multiple adjacent census tracts.
  4. Hold down Shift and click any non-selected census tracts to add additional non-adjacent census tracts to the selection.
  5. Hold down Ctrl and click any selected census tracts to deselect census tracts.

    When you are finished using a selection, it is important to clear the selected features, because the majority of tools in ArcGIS Pro only run on selected features. Therefore, if you run a tool anticipating that you will be processing all features in a particular layer and you inadvertently left some features selected from a previous process, only those selected features will be processed, which will lead to unexpected results.

  6. On the the Map tab, in the Selection group, click the Clear button to clear the selected features.

    Notice that the Clear button becomes grayed out once all features are cleared. On the Map tab, notice that the Select button is still activated, which means that if you now attempted to pan the map by clicking and dragging your left mouse button across the map, you would, instead, select numerous features on your map inadvertently. To prevent this, it is a good idea to reactivate the Explore button as soon as you are finished using manual selection.

  7. On the Map tab, in the Navigate group, click the Explore button.

Selecting Features Manually from the Table View

  1. In the Contents pane, right-click the HGAC_tracts layer name and select Attribute Table.

    A table view now appears docked beneath your map view. Each row, or record, in your table corresponds to exactly one census_tract polygon on the map. Each column, or field, in your table represents a variable describing the census tracts.

    Every geodatabase feature class has two to four default fields, which cannot be edited or deleted. The leftmost OBJECTID field is a unique ID that is automatically numbered from 1 to the total number of features at the time of creation. The Shape field indicates whether the feature geometry contains points, lines, or polygons.

  2. In the table view, use the scroll bar at the bottom to scroll to the far right of the table.

    The other two default fields are the last Shape_Length and Shape_Area fields which contain the perimeter and area of the census tracts, respectively. A line feature class will only contain the Shape_Length field and a point feature class will not contain either field. The units of these fields correspond to the units of the projection in which the data coordinates are stored.

  3. In the Contents pane on the left, double-click the HGAC_tracts layer name.
  4. In the 'Layer Properties' window, in the left column, click the third Source tab.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the window and click to expand the Spatial Reference section.
  6. Use the scroll bar on the right to scroll through the metadata.

    Within the Spatial Reference section, notice that the projected coordinates system is NAD 1983 StatePlane Texas S Central and the linear unit is US Survey Feet. Therefore, the Shape_Length field is displaying feet and the Shape_Area field is displaying square feet. Before measuring distance or area. More information about projections is available in the Introduction to Coordinate Systems and Projections tutorial.

    The majority of the remaining fields contain 2010 census data that was aggregated to the census tract level by the Census Bureau. While the fields have cryptic names, they are explained in the Field_Names.xls file that came with the original census data download from the H-GAC Regional Data Hub. For this tutorial, we will be interested in field H_1 (Housing Units–All) and H_3 (Housing Units--Vacant).

  7. Scroll back to the far left of the table.
  8. Double-click the 'Name10' field header to sort the census tracts numerically.
  9. Double-click the 'Name10' field header a second time to sort in descending order.
  10. To select a census tract from the table, click the gray square to the far left of each row.
  11. To select an adjacent section of records, hold down Shift and select a record below or above the currently selected record to automatically select all records in between.
  12. To add or remove individual records from the selection, hold down Ctrl and select another record.

    Notice in the bottom left corner of the HGAC attribute table, it indicates the number out of 1,109 table records (and corresponding map features) that are currently selected.

    The two buttons to the left allow you to toggle between 'Show all records' and 'Show selected records'.

    Note that if 'Show selected records' is active and no records are currently selected, the table view will appear empty. If necessary, toggle back to 'Show all records' to view the table.

  13. At the top of the HGAC_tracts view, click the Clear button.

  14. Close the attribute table.

Symbolizing Layers By Attributes

Symbolizing Layers By Quantity

  1. In the Contents pane, right-click the HGAC_tracts layer name and select Symbology.
  2. Use the primary 'Symbology' drop-down menu to select Graduated Colors.

  3. Use the 'Field' drop-down menu to scroll down to the bottom and select the H_3 field. This field stores the number of vacant housing units within each census tract.

    The map view now displays a choropleth map, where the darker colors represent higher numbers of vacant housing units. In studying the map, it appears as if vacant housing is scattered throughout the city, but particularly in the southwestern section and the far northern section. While this is true according to raw counts per census tract, there could be differences in the census tracts that are unaccounted for in this symbology. Now you will try normalizing by the area of the census tract.

  4. Use the 'Normalization' drop-down menu to scroll to the bottom and select the last Shape_Area field.

    As discussed earlier, the units of the Shape_Area field is feet, so the map is displaying number of vacant housing units per square foot, which leads to extraordinarily small values. However, the values are still proportional to how they would be in a different unit and the relative coloring on the map remains correct. Notice that, according to the density of vacant housing units, the greatest amount of vacant housing units is now concentrated primarily inside Beltway 8, though still in Southwest Houston.

  5. Use the 'Normalization' drop-down menu to select the H_1 field, which contains the total number of housing units within each census tract.

    The map is now displaying the number of vacant housing units divided by the total number of housing units, or the percent vacant housing units. Notice that, according to percentages, the vacant housing is again spread throughout the map with the a greater concentration in the eastern section inside 610. While all methods of symbolizing the vacant housing units are technically correct, this is probably the most common method.

  6. On the lower half of the Symbology pane, click the Histogram tab.

  7. Use the 'Method" drop-down menu to select Equal Interval.

    Notice how the map changes. Equal Interval divides the range of attribute values into equal-sized subranges.

  8. Use the 'Method" drop-down menu to select Quantile.

    Again, the display of data on the map changes. Quantile assigns the same number of data values to each class.

  9. Use the 'Classes' drop-down menu to select 20.
  10. Use the 'Classes' drop-down menu to select 4.

    Observe how changing the number of classes alters the display. 

  11. Use the 'Color Scheme' drop-down menu to select a different color scheme of your choice.

Adding Layer Transparency

  1. In the Contents pane, ensure that the HGAC_tracts layer is selected.
  2. In the ribbon, click the Feature Layer contextual Appearance tab.
  3. In the Effects group, slide the Layer Transparency slider or type "50" and hit Enter.
  4. Return the Layer Transparency slider to "0".

Symbolizing Layers By Category

  1. Use the primary 'Symbology' drop-down menu to select Unique Values.
  2. For 'Field 1', select GEOID10, which contains a unique ID, called a FIPS code, for every census tract.
  3. When asked 'Do you you want to generate the full list of unique values?', click Yes.
  4. In the Contents pane, collapse the HGAC_tracts symbology.

Selecting Features Programatically

Sometimes you want to automatically select numerous features in a layer based on certain tabular criteria. In this case, you will select all the census tracts in Harris County out of the larger 13-county region. The COUNTYPF10 field in the attribute table contains the county FIPS code, which is '201' for Harris County.

Selecting Features By Attributes

  1. In the ribbon, click the Map tab.
  2. In the Selection group, click the Select By Attributes button to open the Select Layer By Attribute tool in the Geoprocessing pane.

  3. In the Geoprocessing pane on the right, ensure 'Input Rows' says HarrisTracts. This layer was selected automatically, because it was selected in the Contents pane at the time you clicked the tool button.
  4. Click the New selection button.
  5. Use the drop-down menus to build the following expression: (COUNTYFP10 is equal to '201').
  6. At the bottom of the Geoprocessing pane, click Run.

Exporting Selected Features

  1. In the Contents pane, right-click the HGAC_tracts layer name and select Data > Export Features.
  2. In the Geoprocessing pane, for 'Output Feature Class' type "HarrisTracts". If the full file path is shown, ensure that you leave everything in the file path through Intro.gdb\.
  3. At the bottom of the Geoprocessing pane, click Run.
  4. To see the results, in the Contents pane, right-click the newly exported HarrisTracts layer name and select Zoom To Layer.
  5. In the Contents pane, right-click the original HGAC_tracts layer and select Remove. Note that this process does not delete the layer from your project geodatabase, but only removes the layer from this particular Census Tracts map.

Now you will repeat the above process to select the census tract for Rice University.

  1. In the 'Selecting Features By Attributes' section above, repeat steps 2-5 for the HarrisTracts layer with the expression: (GEOID10 is equal to 48201412100). You can type in the FIPS code to have it highlighted in the drop-down list rather than scrolling through the entire list to locate it.

    You should see the Rice University census tract selected on your map, as shown below. Next you will zoom in closer.

  2. In the Contents pane, right-click the HarrisTracts layer name and select Selection > Zoom To Selection.

  3. In the 'Exporting Selected Features' section above, repeat steps 1-3 with the HarrisTracts layer. for 'Output Feature Class' type "Rice".

Selecting Features By Location

Now we will create a map of the bus stops and bus routes that serve the Rice campus. We could continue to do our work within the existing map, but, since we are now focusing on different thematic layers in a different geographic extent, this could be a good time to create a second map within our project.

  1. On the ribbon, click the Insert tab.
  2. In the Project group, click the New Map button.
  3. At the bottom of the Geoprocessing pane, click the Catalog pane tab. 
  4. Rename the new Map1 to "Rice Bus Routes".
  5. From the Catalog pane, within the Intro.gdb geodatabase, add the METRO_BusRoutesMETRO_BusStops, and Rice feature classes to the new Rice Bus Routes map.
  6. in the Contents pane, right-click the Rice layer name and selectZoom To Layer.

You will now select all the bus stops within the Rice census tract. To include bus stops across the street from Rice, you will add a search distance of 50 feet from Rice.

  1. On the ribbon, in the Selection group, click the Select By Location button to open the Select Layer By Location tool in the Geoprocessing pane. 

  2. For 'Input Features', select METRO_BusStops.
  3. For 'Relationship', select Within a distance.
  4. For 'Selection Features', select Rice.
  5. For 'Search Distance', type '50' Feet.
  6. Ensure the 'Selection type' is New selection.
  7. Ensure your 'Select Layer By Location' tool settings appear as shown below and click Run.

    Do not clear the selection, as we will use the selected bus stops to now select the bus routes within 100 ft of a bus stop in your neighborhood.

  8. In the 'Select Layer by Location' tool, for the 'Input Feature Layer', select METRO_BusRoutes.
  9. For 'Relationship', select Within a distance.
  10. For 'Selecting Features', select METRO_BusStops.
  11. For 'Search Distance', type "100" Feet.
  12. Ensure the 'Selection type' is 'New selection'.
  13. Ensure your 'Select Layer By Location' tool settings appear as shown below and click Run.

    All bus stops within 50 feet of Rice, as well as all bus routes that are 100 feet from those stops should now be selected on your map, as shown below.

  14. In the Contents pane, right-click METRO_BusRoutes and select Data > Export Features.
  15. In the Geoprocessing pane, for 'Output Feature Class' type "RiceBusRoutes". Ensure that you leave everything in the file path through Intro.gdb\.
  16. Click Run.
  17. In the Contents pane, right-click METRO_BusStops and select Remove.
  18. Right-click the original METRO_BusRoutes and select Remove.

    You should now have two layers in your Contents pane: RiceBusRoutes and Rice.

  19. In the Contents pane, right-click RiceBusRoutes and select Zoom To Layer.

    The result is a map showing you everywhere you can get by bus from the Rice campus without transferring between routes.

Presenting and Sharing Maps

Creating a Layout

Once you are finished with your analysis, you may want to create a map that is suitable for adding to a report, presentation, or sharing with others who don't have access to ArcGIS software.

  1. On the ribbon, click the Insert tab.
  2. Click the New Layout button.
  3. If you wanted to create a custom image size for insertion into a report or presentation, you could select Custom page size at the bottom of the options, but for a full page layout, select Letter 8.5" x 11" at the top left of the options.
  4. On the Insert tab, click the Map Frame button with the drop-down arrow.
  5. Under the 'Rice Bus Routes' map section, select the second frame that is labeled with a scale, such as 1:500:000.
  6. Click and hold near the top left corner of the layout page and drag the rectangle near the bottom right corner or the layout page.

On the Insert tab, the Map Surrounds group and Text group have buttons which allow you to insert a legend, scale bar, text box, and more. Detailed tips for creating a layout are covered in the Map Layouts for Publication short course.

Exporting a Layout

  1. On the ribbon, click the Share tab.
  2. Click the Export Layout button.
  3. For 'File Type', select PDF.
  4. For 'Name, click the Browse button and navigate to the Desktop > Intro folder.
  5. At the bottom of the 'Export' window, for File name:, type "Rice Bus Routes".
  6. Click Save.
  7. Click Export.
  8. Save and close the project.
  9. Open the saved PDF in your Intro folder to see the result.

To continue learning intermediate topics in ArcGIS, refer to the courses in the other ArcGIS Pro Series.

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