Tech Corner: Tips and Tricks from the 2015 Electric and Gas GIS Conference

By Brian Baldwin, Esri Lead Technical Specialist


One of the most popular technical sessions at the annual Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference is the “Tips and Tricks” session. While there are a number of great advancements to Esri technology coming down the road, here are 10 tips and tricks that you can apply right now to increase your productivity:

Tip 1: Desktop Productivity

One of the oftentimes overlooked features of ArcMap is the ability to edit your online content. If you have a feature service that was published for conducting map notes or map change requests to crews in the field, any of these services from ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS can be added to ArcMap and edited.
By going to the Add Data tool in ArcMap and selecting Add Data from ArcGIS Online, any of the content that you have access to throughout your organization can be brought directly into a traditional desktop session. By right-clicking in the Table of Contents, you can now create a local copy of this data and make edits. Your edits can then be synced back to Portal or ArcGIS Online, all from right within ArcMap.

Tip 2: Tasks in ArcGIS Pro

Are there any workflows or tasks that you need to reproduce monthly or annually? Do you ever need to share these workflows or provide them to other users?
ArcGIS Pro provides a framework called Tasks for this exact purpose. Tasks gives you the ability to “record” a series of tools, scripts, symbology changes, or any other interactions that a user could make with the user interface (UI). These tasks can then be shared with other users and annotated to provide easy-to-follow steps.

Tip 3: Projects in ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro uses projects rather than MXDs. Each project can contain multiple maps and scenes. It also generates a new toolbox and database where all your project data can be stored. Rather than have hundreds of MXDs, you can manage multiple maps, tools, and layouts in one shareable project.

Tip 4: MXD Importing

To start using ArcGIS Pro, open the program, go to the Insert tab and select Import Map. You can point to any of your existing MXDs that were created with ArcMap and all the symbology will be re-created in ArcGIS Pro. The data will still reside in your original database.

Tip 5: Schema Inspection

Have you ever found yourself saying, I just want to see a list of fields, domains, and domain values? One of the most beneficial uses for ArcGIS Pro is the ability to dive into your schema and database design. If you click a feature in the Table of Contents, you will see a new Feature Layer menu command. By clicking Data, you will find options for Fields, Subtypes, and Domains. Click the Domains button to view all the domains in your database and click a specific domain to view all the codes/values.

Tip 6: Custom Feature Searches

In any of your web maps, you can configure custom searching on any map service or feature service. If you edit your web map and scroll to the bottom of the edit page, you can configure the Find Locations tool to use either Address, Layers, or both. If you check Layer, you can now add any of the features that are present in your map and create exact match or partial searching. This option will create a new drop-down list in the web map search bar.

Tip 7: CSV to Smart Map

Users across your organization utilize spreadsheets and CSVs to manage and gain insights from data. If any of this data contains a spatial reference, be it an address or x,y value, and you want to understand the relationship of this data to space, ArcGIS Online makes it extremely easy. By simply dragging and dropping a CSV file into a web map, the data will be geocoded on the fly. With the new smart mapping capability, ArcGIS Online will inspect your data and symbolize it for the best visualization based on the basemap and values.

Tip 8: Custom Basemaps

While there are a number of great options provided by Esri for basemaps, you may need something different. In an open web map, by simply clicking the Add Data button and adding data from the web, you can add any tile layers or ArcGIS for Server services as a basemap in your web maps. You can also search the web for a number of other tile layers.

Tip 9: Configurable Templates

While creating maps in ArcGIS Online can vastly increase your productivity and ability to share maps and content, there are also a wealth of configurable, out-of-the box web application templates available to you. One recently updated template is the Information Lookup template, which lets you create an easy-to-use “what’s here” self-service application for your users.

Make sure to look through all the application templates that are available and read their descriptions, as they are constantly updated.

The Information Lookup template provides a configurable, self-service lookup application for users.
The Information Lookup template provides a configurable, self-service lookup application for users.

Tip 10: On-Demand Map Printing

This tip also speaks to a larger idea that is highly suggested: investigating GitHub to see what tools are available. You do not need to be a developer to take advantage of GitHub and the work that Esri and the larger community are doing. Simply search for “Esri” on GitHub and start exploring the many widgets, templates, and scripts that are available for download.
One such download is the Product on Demand (POD) mapping application. This provides users with a fully configurable, high-quality map printing application. If your organization has grid numbers or map sheets, these definitions can be used to define the map product.

Start Being More Productive Today

These are just a few of the top tips and tricks that can help you work smarter. Have any tips and tricks that we missed? Share your best kept secrets by emailing: bbaldwin@esri.com.