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I've been through University for a Geography degree and am now working on a PhD in Remote Sensing. As part of my undergraduate degree I did a couple of GIS courses, but they concentrated mainly on the theory and techniques of GIS rather than the practical side. We did have some practicals using ArcGIS and Idrisi, but they stayed very much in the basics.

What I'm looking for now is a good way to learn some more ArcGIS techniques to really use the power of the software. Browsing around and asking questions on this site has helped quite a bit: for example, I never realised (until I saw my supervisor do it) that you could link dataframes together, or even that you could have multiple data frames (see this question). Similarly, I suspect there are lots of ArcGIS features that could really make my life easier, but that I just don't know about. For example, I don't have the foggiest idea about geodatabases, but I suspect that they're really handy.

What I'm really looking for are tutorial recommendations, in any medium (books, videos, websites, whatever). Obviously free or cheap are better, but I do have a budget for books as part of my PhD. As I probably hinted at above, I'm more interested in general usage of ArcGIS rather than specific tools (like DEM processing or route-finding), and something that is relatively structured would be good, so that I can work through it in a sensible order.

I know this is a bit of a tall order, but any ideas?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Ensure you have ArcTutor installed (comes with ArcGIS Desktop install)

Start doing the tutorials.

Id also advise paying a trip to the ESRI Virtual Campus. - Plenty of free training on there to get you started.

Go to video.esri.com for inspiration.

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Understanding your data (projection, attributes, formats) then you can using ArcGIS in some quite amazing ways..

General Usage : For a good basis of understanding a geodatabase. http://webhelp.esri.com/arcgisdesktop/9.3/pdf/Building_Geodatabases_Tutorial.pdf (yes 9.3 but still worth the look - good starting point)

Focus on: Subtypes and Domains (and validation spatial data) Relationships between objects. Topology - very powerful in controlling spatial features and their relationships.

for ArcGIS 10 http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/An_overview_of_geodatabase_design/003n0000000z000000/

If have access to MS Visio you can see the structure of the Geodatabase http://resources.arcgis.com/content/data-models

For really fancy stuff (making gis data look nice) look into Representations http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/What_are_representations/008t00000002000000/ which is tied to spatial data (keeping the topological) structure but represent the data in a more human (cartographic) form.

The most advanced and powerful part of ArcGIS is the Geoprocessing tools that can be automated to do serious amounts of analysis. http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/A_quick_tour_of_advanced_techniques_in_ModelBuilder/002w0000005q000000/

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First of all, I would suggests, to start from help of Arcgis. You will find a lot of examples and tutorials.

For videos you can find some in youtube channel of esri and more in other channels:


You mension about Geodatabaseis, a good idea to start is the book of ESRI (i know is theoretical but sometimes you need it):

Designing geodatabases: case studies in GIS data modeling

and free from google...:

Designing geodatabases: case studies in GIS data modeling

Very good books with tutorials is:

GIS Tutorial 1: Basic Workbook

GIS Tutorial 2: Spatial Analysis Workbook

GIS Tutorial 3: Advanced Workbook

In some forums you can take some ideas:


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One option would be the ESRI Virtual Campus. There are free training tutorials and many that are pay-as-you-go.

knowgis.com has many free tutorials. They also have an entire training series.

Many colleges including Harvard have GIS tutorials and exercises. Visit : http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/maps/gis/tutorials.cfm

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ESRI has a basic GIS course is "Learning ArcGIS Desktop for ArcGIS 10) at this link:


Knowgis.com is really good. I have their two-day professional training series and found it to be useful. www.KnowGIS.com

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