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CTSP Technical Tips Column:

The following is the text of a special standing-room only CTSP workshop presented by Larry Orman at the 1998 ESRI International Conference.


Larry Orman, Greeninfo Network

Making your GIS software do what you wanted and enabling it to do more are like the Holy Grail -- something to search after, but probably never to find. Well, if your standards are just a little lower, you can actually achieve a huge amount. Here are some tips that come out of the experience of GreenInfo Network, a non-profit GIS support organization based in San Francisco (www.greeninfo.org):


ArcView at version 3.1 has some terrific capabilities that reduce the need for looking outside to improve its capacities, but there's still lots to consider -- and there are always people who figure out things that no one ever expected.

It always pays to keep up to date on the ArcView Scripts and Extensions area of the ESRI web site, as well as to explore the many programs that ship with ArcView, especially 3.1. Things change often, so check in every month or so. Here are some enhancements to ArcView that we've found especially useful (actual script names can be seen on the web site):

  • Labeling (creates interesting map labels)
  • Inset creates an inset view within a view, Overview creates full extent with shaded actual extent
  • Remember saved projects (so you can choose from the last four projects you saved)
  • Port project allows retargeting of project paths (if you're switching from one drive or directory to another)
  • Merge themes (merge click) -- combines multiple themes into a single theme
  • MapTools creates graticules and grids, plus custom legends in layouts
  • Save ODBs -- allows reusable parts

At GreenInfo Network, we've created our own internal scripts web page, downloading the scripts we need and building a page that lists them all, with a hyperlink that displays the text file of the script so that it can be copied directly into an AV script window.

One of the best ArcView extensions is XTOOLS, created by Mike Delaune of the Oregon Dept. of Forestry. This extension gives you the ability to do GIS spatial functions, such as BUFFER, CLIP, ERASE, IDENTITY, INTERSECT, UNION, UPDATE, and MERGE. Plus it has many shapefile management tools, and table management tools. A number of these functions have now been replicated in ArcView 3.1, but XTOOLS is still a valuable adjunct to the ArcView core. Where to get it: mike.g.delaune@state.or.us

From Sweden comes a very useful extension, called The Analysis Extension by SWEGIS ($400, licensed). It helps bridge the capabilities of ArcInfo. They've also come out with a spreadsheet like ArcView table editor. Go to: www.swegis.com


ARCPRESS: The most important tool for output is to get ArcPress, no matter what it takes (it boosts quality and speed, and gives you scaling -- a modest price for big jump in quality). User tips for ArcPress:

  • Key is rasterizing -- ArcPress does it better than than AV or your printer
  • Use it to export layouts as graphics (use in presentation, publishing, etc.) -- it does a terrific job with JPEGs
  • Rescaling -- ArcPress will handle going from 30x40" to 11x17" (but not smaller) just fine
  • Be sure to have a bounding box on your layout, otherwise ArcPress will give you a 1" strip
  • Test it - it tends to oversaturate colors

PALETTES: Rigorous use of color (and B&W) palettes is vital to do high quality output. Here are our tips:

Test your palettes -- print all AV palettes on all your printers and use them as guides to determine consistent color. Color is a big issue with ArcView which doesn't support ICC standards (yet?!), and has non-conventional and limited color management capabilities. Use the SYMBOL DUMP script to build standard palettes, print them out as references

ARTIST.AVP -- while there are lots of them in AV 3.1, check out the outstanding ARTIST.AVP (on ESRI web site, by Jim Mossman). Match palette to printer -- do symbol dumps for each printer.


  • Save your files to EPS or RTL and use to print later; you can even use PKZIP to spool them all at once
  • Get an 11x17 (tabloid) printer -- HP 1120C or Epson 1520 for $6-700 (HP 2500 is outstanding but expensive)
  • Print originals on best glossy paper at high resolution, then use a copy shop for printing (or just do lots of originals)
  • Take your PS files to a blueprint/service shop and print the original on a fancy printer (dye sub, etc.), use that as copy original for copying
  • Use coated, 24 lb, high bright paper, plus laminate key products in a satin or semi-matte film for handouts (watch color darkening when you laminate)


Here are a bunch of general tips about using GIS in presentations:

  • Use Powerpoint and Windows Metafiles (WMFs) of AV layouts or views to create simple printouts -- very good quality.
  • You can create project archives in Powerpoint, by placing WMFs on slides and annotating them with project information
  • Always have a screen capture program (Hypersnap, SNAG32, etc.), to do quick screen shots of images, for use on Web, simple publications or to show as drafts to clients/users. Tip: use the largest screen you can and maximize the project window, to get greatest screen resolution. To get a screen capture program, see the ZD Net web site (http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/), or other shareware sites
  • Use PDFs (you need Acrobat Distiller) -- save to .ps format and then and open in Distiller. Get Acrobat 3/4 from www.adobe.com





All text © by the respective organizations, November 15, 1999

Compilation & web design: Charles Convis, ESRI Conservation Program, November 15, 1999