Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How To Create a GIS Ready Excel Spreadsheet

The following is a list of simple, easy to follow instructions for preparing an Excel spreadsheet that can be readily imported into ArcGIS. A small part of my job includes publishing GIS data to a read-only end-user map service for people in my organization to view. I created these instructions for the non-GIS savy individual who would like to see their data published in GIS. A lot of my time has been saved, I hope you will find this useful as well.

How to Prepare an Excel Spreadsheet for Use in ArcGIS

1. File Types & Naming

a. Save the file as .xls file type
b. Excel files in the Microsoft Office 2007 (.xlsx) format will not be recognized
c. Use a short file name without spaces, use an underscore (_)
d. Example: data_points.xls

2. Spreadsheet

a. The spreadsheet must NOT contain cell borders, shading, fill, pivot tables, hidden rows/columns, frozen rows/columns, locked rows/columns, frozen/split panes, cells with green triangles in the corners, etc. DO NOT merge rows or columns.
b. There should be NO header, footer or sidebar comments in the document. This includes summary lines, totals, references, citations, etc.

3. Font

a. Use a simple sans serif font, such as Arial
b. Do not underline, bold, italicize, highlight, or color text

4. Column Width

a. Set all column widths to auto-size
b. Select all cells > CTRL A
c. Choose Format > Column > Auto Fit Selection

5. Column Headings

a. File can contain only one header row; don’t create stacked headings
b. The first row must contain ONLY the names of the fields
c. Column names must be 64 characters or less; brief headings are preferable
d. Column names must begin with a letter
e. Columns names can contain ONLY letters, numbers, and underscores (_)
f.  NO spaces in column names
g. Use ALL CAPS with underscores (_) as spacers or use capital letters to distinguish words; example BLDG_NO or BldgNo; either method is OK but you must be consistent
h. NO punctuation except underscores (_)

6. Column One of Your Spreadsheet

a. Name this column ID
b. Number each row (1, 2, 3 . . . ) beginning with Row 2

7. Hyphens

DO NOT use hyphens. NEVER use hyphens. Hyphens are a NO_NO.

8. Columns & Cells

a. All cells in a column must be of the same data type
b. Cells can contain a maximum of 255 characters
c. Look for cells with lots of data and truncate the data if necessary

9. Cells with Text

a. Cells with text should be formatted as Text
b. If you wish to label features on the map with text, write the text exactly as you would like it to appear on the map. For example, Main Avenue or MAIN AVENUE or Main Ave

10. Cells with Number Values

a. Cells with numbers should be formatted as Number
b. DO NOT use 1000 separators
c. You can change cell format by highlighting the column(s), right clicking and selecting Format > Cells… > Number, Uncheck “Use 1000 Separator (,)”
d. If you are using whole numbers set the number of decimal places to 0

11. Latitude and Longitude Coordinates

a. Longitudinal coordinates should be under the column heading LONG
b. Latitudinal coordinates should be under the column heading LAT
c. Coordinates should be in decimal degrees; Example: 35.654923
d. Cells should be formatted as Number, with 6 decimal places
e. If you are West of the Prime Meridian, please include a negative (-) sign before the longitudinal coordinates; this negative sign is not a hyphen. Example: -87.512689
f. If you are South of the Equator, please include a negative (-) sign before the latitudinal coordinates; this negative sign is not a hyphen. Example: -26.325989

12. Linking to Existing GIS Data

a. If you wish to link your data to existing GIS data you must create a column (JOIN_ID) that will be used to “Join” the Excel spreadsheet to GIS data
b. Each value in the column that will be used for the Join must be (1) absolutely unique and (2) correspond to an existing data field in GIS
c. Please coordinate with your GIS point of contact to learn more about joining your data to GIS data

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Essential Info for Those that Travel with Pets

This great website was recently brought to my attention by @claudehanhart ~ Many Thanks!

Our dog, Scout, is a member of the family like any other. We love to travel with Scout however it has often been difficult to find pet friendly hotels and attractions. Not anymore... contains an amazing amount of information for those that want to bring their dogs along...

Dog Friendly Vacation Spots Around the World ~ Provides info on dog friendly destinations for over 10,000 cities around the world.

Flying with Dogs ~ Offers info on and links to many airlines so that users may view dog policies, lists tips & tricks for flying with dogs, and provides reviews.

Pet Friendly Lodging ~ Lists and allows users to search for pet friendly hotels, B&Bs, campgounds, and rental vacation properties in 150+ countries.

Dog Friendly Attractions ~ Learn more about beaches, national and state parks, hiking trails, shopping areas, nature preserves, etc. that welcome fuzzy friends with open arms.

Your Dog is Welcome to Eat Here: Restaurants ~ You don't have to leave pets alone in your hotel when you want to go out. Find a great listing of brew pubs, cafes, delis, etc. where you can dine with your dog. How great is that?

Worldwide Dog Events ~ Find out about events in your area or post new events. Canine Cruise season in Chicago begins this month. It's such fun and benefits The Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago.

Resources for Pet Travel ~ It's always good to know where the nearest vet clinics, pet stores, grooming centers, etc. are located. Always take adequate time to plan to make sure that your dog is safe while traveling.

Visit to learn more, view photos, and participate in user forums.

Happy Travels!

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~ Gilda Radner

Follow on Twitter ~ @BringFido

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are Our Soils Under Threat?

ScienceDaily (June 8, 2011) — The planet's soils are under greater threat than ever before, at a time when we need to draw on their vital role to support life more than ever, warns an expert from the University of Sheffield in the journal Nature.

Professor Steve Banwart from the University's Kroto Research Institute, will be helping to tackle this challenge as part of a new programme of international research, called Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs), funded initially by the USA National Science Foundation and the European Commission.

In some parts of the world, losses due to erosion are greatly outstripping the natural rate of soil formation; and the intensity of human activity is impacting the ability of soil to produce food, store carbon from the atmosphere, filter contamination from water supplies and maintain necessary biodiversity. Because of growing demand for food, intensification of agriculture alone will put a huge strain on soils over the next few decades, and climate change adds to the challenge.

Soils are at the heart of Earth's 'critical zone', the life-supporting veneer of the planet from the top of tree canopies to the bottom of drinking water aquifers that support much of humankind. CZOs are international magnets that draw together multidisciplinary experts from around the world, to focus their combined efforts to solve this soils challenge.

There are now over 30 CZOs in many different countries and they are starting to work together. One goal of this international effort is to develop mathematical models to predict how soil and the services it provides will change as humans intensify the use of soil. The aim is to pro-actively design solutions, for example to increase crop yields without compromising the other roles of soil. This could be done by laying out alternative ways to raise crops and calculate the effects, to find the best solutions before soils deteriorate, and then implement these to maintain soil quality and potentially improve it.

CZOs are developing this predictive capability from fundamental scientific principles and combining data from the sites to test the models.

Key requirements that are identified to accelerate this research effort are greater international collaboration between national research programmes, and getting companies involved in research planning to help move from research to practical solutions. Given the possible doubling in food demand by 2050, critical zone scientists are arguing that we need to have this capability operational within a decade.

Professor Banwart argues: "The challenge is clear. We need rigorous forecasting methods to quantify and best utilise soil's natural capital, to assess options for maintaining or extending it, and to determine how declines can be reversed. And we need these things well within a decade."

The news follows significant research already being carried out at the University of Sheffield in the areas of global change and food security as part of Project Sunshine. Led by the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield, Project Sunshine aims to unite scientists across the traditional boundaries in both the pure and applied sciences to harness the power of the Sun and tackle the biggest challenge facing the world today: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world's population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change. It is hoped that Project Sunshine will change the way scientists think and work and become the inspiration for a new generation of scientists focused on solving the world's problems.

For more information on the NSF National Critical Zone Observatory Program (CZO), visit:

Improving Hydrogen Safety

Improving Hydrogen Safety

ScienceDaily (2011-06-02) -- What happens when hydrogen begins dispersing from a leak? A Norwegian firm has the answers about how explosive the situation may become. ... > read full article

Apple Eases Rules for Publishers on Apps

Apple quietly pulled an about-face on controversial rules that required publishers who sell content and subscriptions in iPhone and iPad apps to offer those subscriptions through iTunes, with Apple taking a 30 percent cut.

On Monday, in an unannounced change, the company revised those rules in updated guidelines issued for application developers. The revised rules offer magazine, newspaper, music and video publishers more freedom to sell their content directly without going through iTunes.....