Tutorial: Create a map

Welcome to the world of GIS! With these tools, you can create and modify maps, import, and export geographic information, as well as build and analyze spatial models to support decision making. Here you will find a basic overview of the ArcGIS software. We encourage you to experiment with the tools offered through the interface. We hope that this tutorial will help you get started.

For a printable version of the classic map viewer tutorial please download: Using ArcGIS Online to Create Web Maps - for Beginners

Introduction to the Tutorial

Tell stories, answer questions, and make informed decisions with an ArcGIS web map. GIS (geographic information system software) is used to create interactive web maps that analyze and visualize geographic data, making it easy to explore the past and present in many ways.

  • What is GIS? GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. GIS systems create, manage, analyze, and map all kinds of data. In GIS, data is connected to a map, combining location data (where things are) with descriptive information (what things are like). In almost every industry and science, this forms the basis of mapping and analysis. Users benefit from GIS by understanding patterns, relationships, and geographic context. Communication and efficiency will be improved, as well as management and decision-making.
  • TCLGIS provides a comprehensive collection of publicly available GIS layers. The Data Dictionary serves as a powerful tool for locating specific datasets. By using keywords in the search box, you can filter the available layers. This manual will guide you through the process of searching, viewing detailed descriptions, and visualizing GIS layers on maps. Additionally, it will explain how to use the ESRI Map Viewer once you select the "MapIt" link.

Sign up for a Free Public Account

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Sign up for a free public account so you can save your maps in and upload data into Esri’s cloud.

  • Visit the site: Visit arcgis.com/home
  • Select sign in: You will be taken to the sign in page. Choose Create an account.
  • Create public account: Choose Create a public account and fill in the information below.
  • Next: Once you have finished select the next button. An activation link will be sent to your email.

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  • Activate your account: Once you have activated your account by clicking the link in your email you may proceed to setting up your account.
  • Create Account: Once you click the create account button, you will be taken to a welcome page. This page will give you a brief overview of how GIS works and provide links to other resources that can help you get started.: arcgis.com/home

A Review of the Home Screen

Take a moment to explore the web catalog of ArcGIS Online for content that’s relevant to your needs. You can even connect to it! You can find applications and services shared by other users. You can also publish your own information and applications for others to use.

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  1. Living Atlas: Click on the Go to Living Atlas button (mid page) to browse featured maps, web mapping applications, and mobile applications shared by the ArcGIS Online community.
  2. Select Map: Click on the Map option to build interactive web maps and share them with others.
  3. Groups: Select Groups and then Featured Groups to search for topical content.
  4. Content: Once you begin creating content in ArcGIS Online, it will be saved in the Content section. This allows you to access it from anywhere and share with others.
  5. Search: Looking for something specific? Search ArcGIS Online using the bar in the top right. For example, type “Historical Tallahassee” and press Enter. You will be presented with over 400 pieces of content related to Historical Tallahassee.

The TLCGIS Historical Data Dictionary

Visit the Historical Data Dictionary: Data Dictionary You’ll find a table with columns like Title, Description, Details Page, and MapIt

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  • Search: Type relevant keywords (e.g., parcel, zoning, flood, imagery, or specific years) in the search box. The table will dynamically update to display filtered results based on your search terms.
  • Category: Indicates the thematic category of the GIS layer.
  • Title: Provides the name of the GIS layer.
  • Description: Offers a brief description or summary of the GIS layer.
  • Details Page: Click "view »" to access a detailed description of the selected GIS layer.
    • Click the “view »” link next to the layer’s description in the table.
    • Explore the comprehensive details of the selected GIS layer, including its purpose, source, and usage guidelines.
  • MapIt: Click "mapit »" to view the selected the layer you want to visualize.You will be redirected to the ESRI Map Viewer with the selected GIS layer loaded.

Opening ESRI Map Viewer

After clicking the "MapIt" link in TCLGIS GIS Data Dictionary, you'll be redirected to the ESRI Map Viewer interface with your selected GIS layer loaded.

Navigating the Map:


  • Click and drag to pan
  • SHIFT + Drag to zoom in
  • SHIFT + CTRL + Drag -zoom out
  • Click the home button to zoom out to the full extent of the loaded data.
  • Click the plus button to zoom in.
  • Click the minus button to zoom in.
  • Click the search button to find an address or a place.
  • Mouse Scroll Forward -zoom in
  • Mouse Scroll Backward -zoomout
  • Double Click to Center -zoom in

Keyboard Only

  • + key to zoom in a level
  • - key to zoom out a level

Working with Layers

Click on “Add” to add data layers to your map. You can add data from various sources like files, web URLs, or ESRI Living Atlas.

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  • Layer List: On the sidebar navigation of the map choose the layers icon. Here, you can ad layers from the Living Atlas or ArcGIS Online. Once the desired layer has been chosen add it to the map.
  • Layer Visibility: Toggle the checkbox next to a layer to show or hide it on the map.
  • Layer Transparency: Adjust the opacity of a layer to see underlying layers. Drag the transparency slider to set the desired level. For more information visit Set transparency and visible range
  • Layer Order: Drag layers up or down in the list to change the drawing order. For more information visit Organize layers
  • Explore layers from various categories to find the most relevant data.

Interacting with Features

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  • Identify Features: Click on a map feature to view detailed information. The information might include attributes such as names, values, or any data associated with the feature.
  • Pop-ups: Some layers have pop-ups that display additional information when you click on a feature. These can include text, images, or links.


  • Basemaps: Change the basemap to alter the visual style of the background map. For more information visit Choose a basemap
  • Symbols and Styles: Customize the appearance of features by changing colors, sizes, and symbols.
  • Pop-up Configuration: If you're the map creator, customize the content and style of pop-ups to display specific information. For more information visit Configure pop-ups

Analysis Tools

Experimenting with different tools and options will enhance your understanding of the data and help you create compelling maps tailored to your needs.

  • Measure: Use tools to measure distances, areas, and find coordinates on the map. For more information visit Measure distance or area
  • Drawing: Draw points, lines, polygons, and shapes on the map. This is useful for annotations or highlighting specific areas.
  • Buffering: Create buffer zones around specific features or points for analysis. For more information visit Create Buffers

Save a Map

Once you are satisfied with the map, you can save it in My Content so that only you can see it and use it later.

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  • Save:Click Save, on the left sidebar navigation, to save the map.
  • Title: Title the map to help yourself and others know what it is about.
  • Folder: Choose a folder in My Content to save the map.
  • Folder: Choose from the drop down a category to give the map.
  • Tags: Enter relevant tags or keywords to help search for the map.
  • Summary: Enter a summary explaining what the map is trying to convey.

The TCLGIS GIS Data Dictionary simplifies the process of finding and understanding GIS layers. By following these instructions, you can efficiently locate, explore detailed information, and visualize geographic data layers relevant to your needs.
Happy mapping!