Categories: GIS Software

ArcGIS Tips and Tricks

Using ArcGIS for your GIS data and analytical needs?  Listed here are ArcGIS tips and tricks provided by fellow users. Do you have an ArcGIS or QGIS tip or trick?  Submit yours here.

General ArcGIS Tips

ArcGIS can crash unexpectedly.  Save often.

Improve the start time for ArcGIS ArcMap by changing the default address locators. Remove any locators you do not use for improved performance.  More: Setting Default Locators in ArcMap.


In Data view, hold down “C” to immediately turn your cursor into the hand tool, so you can scroll and pan around. Similarly, in Layout View, Ctrl+Shift+C does the same.

GIS Data

Work in the geodatabase file format for better performance.  Avoid defaulting to shapefiles.

When creating a new table in SDE use ArcCatalog and Not a third party solution like Toad, SQL Server (even if it’s a non-spatial flat table). Doing so automatically registers your table, using an objectID, to the geodatabase. This will prove helpful in the future when you want to export to another geodatabase.

When editing more than one layer in a session (i.e. parcels and subdivisions), instead of clicking the drop down arrow to choose from multiple possible features, dragging the desired layer above the other layer in the TOC is often quicker.

A quick way to get data in the correct coordinate system is to import it into a feature dataset in a geodatabase that has the correct cs. All feature classes in a feature dataset have the same cs.

Spatial Analysis

Make sure your data is projected before calculating geometry.  ArcGIS won’t calculate geometry on unprojected datasets.

Cartographic Output

Export to EPS and then use Adobe Distiller to get a smaller PDF file for emailing.


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