Finding Latitude and Longitude for a Point

Question: Is there anyway to click on a point on a map (aerial photograph, shapefile, etc that has been projected in NAD 1983 UTM Zone 15N) and get a latitude and longitude value for that point? Without using the editor tool and creating a new point file? Thanks.

Answer: There are two ways (and probably even more than that) that you can do this — the one you choose will depend on how precise you need to be. If you just need approximate values, then right click on the name of the data frame in the table of contents and click Properties. On the General tab, set the display Units to Decimal Degrees (or Degrees Minutes Seconds – whichever you prefer). Then use the Selection tool to select and then zoom to the feature (of course, there are also many other ways to zoom in on the feature). Move your cursor over the feature and in the bottom right you will see the coordinates displayed in either DD or DMS, whichever you selected as the Display Units.

If you need to be more precise, then the best thing is to add the lat and long to the feature class. This is easy and does not require an edit session. Just open the attribute table of the point feature class and add a short integer field called Latitude. Then add another called Longitude. Right click the Latitude field and click Calculate Geometry. Set the Property to be the Y Coordinate of Point. Then do the same for the Longitude except select the X Coordinate of Point. Now, for any point feature in your feature class, you will have the exact latitude and longitude coordinates.

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About the author

Dr. Aileen Buckley has been making maps since she was an undergraduate student. She has a Bachelors in Geography and Spanish from Valparaiso University, a Masters in Geography from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Geography from Oregon State University. She is a senior product engineer on the Living Atlas team, and her work focuses on determining and sharing best practices for mapping and analysis with modern GIS. She publishes and presents world-wide on many aspects of mapping and GIS. She is a co-author of Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation, and she is a co-editor for the Atlas of Oregon. Aileen is a former president of CaGIS (the U.S. cartographic association) and is actively involved with the International Cartographic Association in which she is the lead delegate for the United States.


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