GPS to GIS Importing XY Data into ArcView 3.x

Use the directions below to import a table of XY coordinates into ArcMap to create points on a map.

Note: If you are not using ArcView 3.X GIS software, choose your software: ArcMap 8.X ~ ArcExplorer ~ Other

1. Open ArcView and start a blank project or open an existing basemap for the XY data. In the project window, click on the Tables button, then click Add. In the Add Table dialogue box, use the file type pull down menu to select your file type, dBASE (*.dbf) or DELIMITED TEXT (*.txt), navigate to your file, and click OK.

Your data will appear in the ArcView project. Now minimize (but do not close) the new table and start a new view.


2. Add the new table as an event theme. In the View menu, choose Add Event Theme. In the Add Event Theme dialogue box, choose the table you wish to import and indicate which fields contain the x and y coordinates. Remember that longitude is the x coordinate, and latitude is the y coordinate. Click OK. Your data will appear as a cluster of points in your view.

Now you can add additional themes, and overlay the new data.

Remember: if the points do not line up with other shapefiles, you may need to project the new data which will be in geographic coordinates unless you have set your GPS to project your data. Convert the new event theme to a shapefile (see below), load the ArcView Projection Utility extension, and use the Projection Utility Wizard to project the new shapefile.

Working with your data to create shapefiles:

Now that you have imported your data into your ArcView project, you can use your data to create point, line, polygon themes.

Point Themes: If your new event theme is of features that will be represented as points, you can simply convert the event theme to a shapefile.

Make the event theme active, and choose Theme>Convert to Shapefile. In the Convert dialogue box, give the new shapefile a name and specify where you want to save it. Click OK. ArcView will ask you if you want to add the new shapefile as a theme to the view. Click yes, and the theme will appear in the legend. If you turn it on, the points will appear directly over the event theme.


Line and Polygon Themes: There are two ways to make lines and polygons from point data: digitizing or automatically generating poylgons using an extension like XTools.

You can download the free XTools extension here: XTools for ArcView 3.X

Instructions are given here for using the X-Tools extension. For instructions on digitizing, please consult your software's documentation.

1. Download the XTools extension at the URL given above, and copy it into ArcView’s Ext32 file (This is most likely the directory: C:\ESRI\AV_GIS30\ARCVIEW\EXT32). XTools can convert points to new shapefiles of polygons or lines directly from your event theme.

2. Open ArcView, and load the XTools extension. In the XTools Defaults window, you may change the defaults if desired; click Close. An XTools pull-down menu will appear on the menu bar.

3. Use the select tool to select the points which will form a single line or polygon feature.

4. From the XTools pull-down menu, choose Make One Polyline From Points or Make One Polygon From Points, as appropriate. XTools will prompt you to choose the theme you wish to convert. Your .dbf event theme will be among the choices. XTools will convert only the selected features by connecting the points in the order in which they appear in the attribute table. Points entered out of order may lead to an oddly shaped polygon.

5. If several lines or polygons need to be combined into one shapefile, you can merge or union themes using XTools or the Geoprocessing extension that comes with ArcView.


Note: Some GPS software packages will allow you to convert your GPS waypoints to shapefiles. You may not be able to use this software to make lines or polygons from your points, however. These are a few low- or no-cost programs:

GPS waypoints to ESRI shapefiles free conversion utility from Minnesota DNR can be used as an extension for ArcView 3.x or as a standalone utility to convert Garmin GPS waypoints to shapefiles.

Ozi Explorer GPS to GIS utility. not free, but works with a large number of GPS brands

GPS Utility for managing, manipulating and mapping GPS data from GPS Utility, Ltd.


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