Pee Dee GIS Users Group

SC GIS Professionals in the Pee Dee Area


March 2010

Developing Data Access Policies

Does your organization have data access policies in place?  If yes, do these policies meet the needs of your organization in managing data?

Great news!  Geospatial Administrators Association of SC (GAA-SC) is here to help.  GAASC recently completed a comprehensive step-by-step process guide to assist your organization in the development of data access policies.  The guide is not a policy template but rather a process to guide in the development of policy to suit your particular organizations needs. 

To read more or to download the Policy Framework guide from the GAA-SC site:

SAF approves CFE credit for 2/24/10 meeting

Society of American Foresters CFE credit approval.

The February 24, 2010 Pee Dee GIS User Group Meeting has been approved for 1.5 hours Category 1-CF, 0.5 hour Category 2. 

Information entered it into SAF’s online calendar

Labeling Spice

Many of us have our little secrets (or not so secret) ways of labeling. ESRI does a great job of documenting how to label our features. Labeling is a very important part of our cartography that we need to pay close attention too. Strengths and weaknesses in our labeling can help or hurt a good map.

With that being said I thought I might share a few of mine:

My first tip is when you are labeling for background information soften the labels. An example would be if you are labeling streets to help people with their location. I try to make these labels as weak as I can, and keep the labels legible. For a light colored background use a soft grey (a dark color) for a dark background use a soft yellow (a light color). The idea is to have information there without taking away from what you are actually showing.

My next tip is just opposite of the first make those labels easy to read. Make them standout by using high contrast colors, text backgrounds, and halos. For those of you who do not know how to get to these properties follow the instructions below:

  • Right click on your feature class in the table of contents
  • Select “Properties”
  • In the “Layer Properties” dialog box that appears select the “Labels” tab
  • Two-thirds down the dialog box is the “Text Symbol” box select the “Symbol” button

The “Symbol Selector” dialog box appears and you have some choices here but not much more than you did in the “Layer Properties” dialog box.

  • Now select the “Properties” button and the “Editor” dialog box appears in this dialog box is a wealth of properties you can change to make your labels bold or soft. Go ahead and experiment with some I’ll wait.

Please close all of the dialog boxes before you continue

The next tip I would like to offer is stack labeling or the ability to label multiple fields from the same feature class one on top of the other. To do this we need to build an expression follow the instructions below:

  • Right click on your feature class in the table of contents
  • Select “Properties”
  • In the “Layer Properties” dialog box that appears select the “Labels” tab

Half way down this page is the “Text String” box

  • Go ahead and pick your first field you would like to label in the “Label Field” list box
  • Now select the “Expression” button and the “Label expression” dialog box appears

In the “Label Fields” text area it says ”Double-click to add a field into the expression” so go ahead and select your second label field. Double click it so it is added to your “Expression” text area. Now we are not done yet don’t get excited if you try to click OK and close this dialog box you get a nice error message that says your expression has an error, how useful.

Now between your first and second field type everything between the quotes “ & vbnewline & ” so your expression should look something like this:

[OWNERNAME] & vbnewline & [TMS]

Now when you label this feature class your labels should be your first field selection on top of your second field selection. In the example I used my owner name field is on top of my tax map number field.

Taking labels a step further below the “Expression” text area there are some useful buttons one of those buttons is “Help”

Click the “Help” button this dialog box is full of valuable information to help you really make your labels fancy. Just a word of caution, try to remember what you are presenting in the map is the most important thing don’t get carried away with the labeling.

Pictometry Meeting Date Change

­Pictometry has changed the date of the Charlotte Meeting to May 27th instead of the original date of April 15th.

When ArcGIS acts funny even after a reboot

I think we have all experienced some quirks from ArcGIS. However from time to time it may be quirker than normal and no matter how many times we restart Arc or reboot our computer it continues to act wierd.  One of the more common causes of this type behavior is the Normal.MXT has become corrupt.

The Normal.MXT is the default template used by ArcMap any time a new map is created. It also stores most of your display customizations such as what toolbars are on and where they are docked. So the Normal.MXT is changing often which is why it gets corrupted. These setting are also applied to existing maps which is why they will act funny if the Normal.MXT has become corrupt. So what is the fix for a corrupt Normal.MXT?

The fix is easy. You just delete the existing one making sure ArcMap is closed. The next time you start ArcMap, it will recreate the Normal.MXT from stratch. So where is the Normal.MXT stored? It is stored in your user profile which is normally located on your local drive at c:\documents and settings\%username%\applications\ESRI\ArcMap\Templates\.  There is one draw back to deleting your Normal.MXT. You loose all your custom settings. So how do you avoid that? Well that is simple. Make a copy of your Normal.MXT once you have everything set the way you like it. So when ArcMap starts acting wierd even after a reboot, all you need to do is copy your backup Normal.MXT over the active one.  This way you keep all your customizations while at the same time getting rid of the corrupt file.

ArcCatalog also has a default template, Normal.GXT. It is less common for this file to become corrupt since there is less you can customize in ArcCatalog however it can happen. Like the Normal.MXT, the Normal.GXT is stored in your user profile and is recreated on the fly by ArcCatalog if it is missing.

Hopefully this proves helpful. I know I have used this tip often.

Tripp Corbin, CFM, GISP

Instructor Led GIS Classes in March – 30% Off

Keck & Wood now has a new corporate office and training room. To help break-in the new training room and to show off our new office, we are offering a 30% discount on instructor led classes through the end of April. Currently scheduled classes include: ArcGIS Desktop I, ArcGIS Desktop II, ArcGIS Desktop III, Using AutoCAD data in ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server Basics: Installation, Tweaks & Services,  and Mastering ArcGIS Server Java Script API.

These classes can be used as education points toward getting or maintaining the GISP Certification. Other Organizations and States may also accept these classes as continuing education and professional development points.
Class Schedule:

These classes will be held at Keck & Wood’s Corporate Office in Duluth, Georgia. All ESRI Official Classes will be taught by an experienced ESRI Authorized Instructor. For more information including cost or to register please visit our website at or contact us via email at

Have a scheduling conflict or budget issue that is keeping you from attending our training classes? Our portable training lab might be your answer. We can come to you, removing the need for travel, hotels and meals. This is especially cost effective if your organization has 5 or more needing training. Please contact us at or 678-417-4000 for more information.
In addition to our GIS training services, Keck & Wood offers services in the areas of civil engineering, planning, and surveying.  Please visit our website for more information about our services and other upcoming classes. If you have any questions concerning these classes or any other classes offered by Keck & Wood, please call us at 678-417-4000.

ESRI Live Training Seminar

 Best Practices for Working with Map Templates
Thursday, March 4, 2010
9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. (PST)
Noon, 2:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. (EST)
5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. (UTC/GMT)

No-Cost Live Training Seminar
Best Practices for Working with Map Templates
will show you how to use ArcGIS map templates to create professional-looking maps for use in print, online, or mobile applications. The 60-minute seminar will cover how to access map templates, the types of resources included with map templates, and considerations to take into account when configuring data for use with map templates.

Viewing the Seminar
A broadband Internet connection and an ESRI Global Account are needed to view the seminar. An ESRI Global Account is complimentary and takes only minutes to create. Shortly after the live presentation, a recorded version of the seminar will be archived and available for viewing.

For more information, please visit ESRI Training.

We hope you will join us for this seminar.

Program Committee

At the February 24, 2010 meeting of the Pee Dee GIS Users Group the Program Committee was formed to help develop future agenda topics.  Scott Park, Florence County Planning Services Officer, was announced as the head of the committee.  Additional members were solicited at that time. 

A warm welcome to Lisa Eargle of Francis Marion University who volunteered to serve on the newly formed Pee Dee GIS Users Group Program Committee.

Would anyone else like to serve on this committee? Please contact Scott Park if interested.

Thank you to Scott and Lisa!

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