In this post we’ll delve into the ArcMap Menus to see what they have to offer.

For a few posts we’ve been looking at some of the basics of ArcMap, particularly the Menus and Toolbars:


In previous posts we’ve looked at the Standard and Tools toolbars.  For this view into the unsung heroes of ArcMap we’ll look at the all too often overlooked Menus at the top of the window:


Most of these are pretty self-explanatory and do similar things to what we’re used to in other applications.  Others are more specialised.  We’ll go through each menu by menu, noting that many of the things you can do under the menus can also be done from the Standard and Tools toolbars.

First up, File:


Rather than go through each one, I’ll pick on the ones that are out of the ordinary.  New and Open allow you to open map documents.  The various Saves do what you would expect, except for Save As… which allows you to save map documents as previous versions of ArcMap.  I have had to save, say a 10.2 map document as a 9.3 when the person I was sending it to hadn’t upgraded to 10.2 yet.

Share As will let you save your map as a map service – we won’t focus on that just now as we’re not set up to let everyone publish to the server (yet).

Add Data does just that with the option of adding data from the folders you have access to as well as some basemaps from and data from – more on that in another post.

ArcGIS Online is the ESRI’s cloud-side access to data.  The makers of ArcGIS have increasingly been shifting to providing data and maps online, so if you have an account with ESRI, you can sign in search for and add data to your local map.  For using this on-campus, you do need to provide your LU username and password to get through the firewall.  Go to ArcCatalog > Customise menu > Connections.

Another option of note is the Export Map button.  Clicking on this allows you so save you map in a variety of formats (e.g. PDF, JPG, SVG, etc).  From the Map View only the map is exported, but from the Layout View the whole layout is exported (legend, north arrow, etc).  This is a great way to share your final map product or to give yourself and image to insert into a Word or Powerpoint document.

The Map Document Properties can be quite an important place to visit if you plan on shifting your data and map around from place to place, say from your desktop machine to a laptop.  One way to avoid the dreaded red exclamation mark is to go to the Map Document Properties and tick the wee “Store relative pathnames to data sources” box at the bottom.  All this means is that instead of looking for a layer somewhere like:

  • H:\MyGISProject\Data\StudyArea.shp,

ArcMap will just look in the Data folder for StudyArea.shp.  A small setting but one that can save you a lot of trouble.  This works well as long as you keep your map document and data in the same folder – you can then copy and past the whole folder and be reasonably sure it will all open up nicely on the other end.

Next is Edit:


While it might be tempting to think you can use this menu to edit your data layers, all these options relate to map elements, such as legends, scale bars, graphics that you may have drawn on top of your map.

One handy option is Copy Map To Clipboard which does just that – this might save you having to open the snipping tool to grab part of your map that you might want to paste into a document.  If you want to make a permanent copy then you’ll need to use File > Export Map as outlined above.

Next is View:


With this menu you can switch between Data and Layout Views (though I find the buttons at lower-left of the map window to be far quicker).  Well have to spend some time on another post to look at Graphs and Reports – quite a lot to cover there but using these tools you can plot your data in graph form and create output reports that can be handy.  The remaining buttons turn various elements on and off, mainly in the Layout view, that help with creating your maps.

Bookmarks can be very useful to save particular views of your data:


If there’s a particular view you want to easily be able to return to, set it up in the Data View and go to Bookmarks > Create Bookmark… and give it a name.  Later, if you’ve shifted the view and want to return to that exact view, go back to the Bookmarks menu and select the Bookmark of choice:


Different options are available in the Insert menu depending on which view you’re in.  This is mainly about making your map, including essential items like legends, scale bars and north arrows.  Below is what you’ll see in Layout View:


Here you can insert a Data Frame to hold data – this is how you can add multiple map windows to your Layout – a data frame for each set of data (for example if you want a map of your particular area of interest and want to include an inset map to show where that study area is within a larger area).  Title (Layout View only) adds a title to your map.  Text and Dynamic Text work in both views, the difference being that Dynamic Text are things like today’s date, your name, shoe size, and various other timely things.  The remaining items are essential map elements that can (should) be included on all your maps (unless you’ve got a really got reason not to).

Next, the all important Selection menu:


We have two primary ways of selecting data – Select by Attribute which works on the attribute table, and Select by Location which works on the map. We can also Select by Graphic if we’ve used the Draw toolbar to draw some shapes on the map.   (Note that the Select tool on the Tools toolbar does a similar thing).  Once features are selected, we can use the Zoom to Selected Features and Pan to Selected Features to see them on the map and Statistics to get some descriptive details on them (This can also be done by right-clicking on the layer name and going to Selection).  Clear Selected Features is a small but significant option bearing that if any features are selected, most geoprocessing tools will only work on those features. With Interactive Selection Method > we can create a new selection set, or select from an existing set, or add to, or remove from.  (of course we can also get at the selection tools from the attribute table and right-clicking on the layer name itself).

Geoprocessing comes next:


The first entries are some often used tools (as picked by ESRI rather than based on your use) for easy access, as these tools can also be found in ArcToolbox.  The next four options reflect the application tools on the Standard toolbar so you can open up the Search window, ArcToolbox, set Environment parameters and the Results window (handy for trying to solve problems with tools when they arise…and they will).  You can also go directly to the ModelBuilder window and the Python window.  (see the Standard toolbar post to get more details on these.

There are some very useful bits in the Geoprocessing Options window:


In the General options note that you can set ArcMap to overwrite outputs in that first line.  This is a useful thing to tick as it will save you from having to create lots of extra layers when all you want to do is overwrite an existing one.  The other handy thing to know is you can often get around persistent errors with geoprocessing tools by unticking the Enable box under Background Processing.  What this does is shift the processing from the background (i.e. you’ll see a status window at bottom right of ArcMap) to the foreground (i.e. a window pops up that gives you more detailed status reports).  While it will often solve niggly problems that cause your geoprocessing tools to fail, it does mean that when a tool is executing you can’t do anything else except wait for it to finish.

Most of the rest of these options I leave as they are.  The Customize (sic) menu is up next:


From here you can expand Toolbars to add new ones to the window.  Under Extensions, you can turn specific extensions on and off.  This is quite important for the likes of Spatial Analyst where you might sometimes get an error like the one below when trying to run a tool:


This usually means the the Spatial Analyst extension hasn’t been turned on.  Go to Customize > Extensions and tick the box next to the Spatial Analyst entry:


Henceforth, Bob is your uncle.  Most toolbars don’t need to be turned on but the ones listed do.  The other options are fairly high level so I won’t go into them here, but there are many useful settings you can tweak under ArcMap Options mainly on the General tab:



Have a look and see what works best for you. Penultimate in this post is the Windows menu:


We’ve touched on some of these in the Standard toolbar post.  This menu controls what and how much you see on the map window.  With Overview it’s like getting a locator map for the current view:


With Magnifier you can zoom into on area within a small viewer (that’s Banks Peninsula, raster style, in the window by the way):


With Viewer you can open up an alternative view of the same layers and do all the map movements you can do with the full map – zoom, pan, select, etc.:


The next three options open up other application windows.  Most useful of all in this set is the Table of Contents option.  With this you can toggle the TOC.  It’s sometimes the case that you have inadvertently closed your Table of Contents:


Don’t Panic!  Just turn it back on from the Windows menu.

Finally, Help:


As you might expect, clicking the first one takes you to the help menu, which sometimes is helpful and sometimes is not.  This one is well worn on my window…  The Resource Center takes you to a webpage where you can easily get lost, make sure you’ve got a rope tied on to yourself.  About ArcMap can give you some details about which version you’re running.

That’s about it menu-wise.  These are often overlooked and can be helpful in getting you where you need to be map and analysis-wise.  I’d encourage you to have a look through what’s available when next you’ve got some free time on your hands (ha!)