Home | Interactive Data Displays | GIS Tutorial


How to Use the Interactive GIS Mapping Tool

The ARCVIEW Internet Map Server (IMS) is a program for displaying and querying maps over the Internet. The maps are interactive - a user can zoom in and out of maps, with different amounts of detail being presented at different spatial scales. IMS allows different kinds of map layers (roads, land use, water bodies) to be turned on or off, so customized maps may be created. A user can also perform interactive queries to collect information about different items on the map. It is thus a fairly powerful way to distribute GIS data over the Internet.

The following primer covers the basics of using IMS - how to get and retrieve information. In the few minutes it takes to read this, you'll learn all you need to know to interact with the Lower Cape Fear River maps.

Getting to the IMS

Clicking on one of the links causes a lot of things to happen: 1) it accesses a live copy of ARCVIEW residing on the UNCW GIS server, 2) it loads all the appropriate data, and 3) it delivers the data over the Internet to the web browser on your computer. As a result, these links can be slower than most web links, although in most cases the maps will be delivered in under a minute.

The IMS Display

The IMS display has three primary sections: A toolbar for performing various map operations, an interactive legend that allows different layers to be turned on or off, and map viewing frame, that shows the map itself. The status bar shown at the bottom of the screen provides information on map coordinates, a map scale, and information on the status of current operations.

The Toolbar
The toolbar at the top of the display contains a number of icons that allow you to manipulate the map. Their functions are described below:

pan Pan - allows you to move the map back and forth, up and down. This is useful if you have zoomed in to the map and want to see something that is off the screen.

zoom in Zoom In - allows you to obtain a close-up view of an area of the map. A key feature of the zoom tool in IMS is that it can be programmed to show progressively more information as you zoom in.

zoom out Zoom Out - very similar to Zoom In, but the other way

identify Identify - An important tool, it allows you to retrieve information about a particular map object

arrows Arrows - Forward and Back - these work like your browser arrows, taking you forward or back to different views.

home Home - Takes you back to the view at the start of the IMS session

world World - Zooms out to the furthest extent of the map

print Print - sends the map to your local printer

arrows Arrows - A Refresh tool, lets you reload the current image. Beats me why they picked arrows to show this

cancel Cancel - Stops the current process

The Legend

The map legend is a legend with a twist - you can use the check boxes to the left of the legend names to turn map layers on or off! This is a powerful feature - it allows you to hide or show different layers (or themes) of information, and allows us to place a large volume of data water quality parameters located along the river and allow you, the user, the chose which month you want to look at. Experiment with turning on and off data layers and you will notice that the layers are drawn from the bottom of the Legend to the top so that the more recent dates draw on top of the older dates. For this reason, a map layer may be 'hidden', i.e. the layer might be turned on, but you won't be able to see it.  If a layer seems hidden, turn off the layers above it to make it visible. When you issue a command to turn on or off a data layer, be patient because a command is sent back to the GIS server to update the map and send the result back to your browser.

The Map Display

The map display shows all data layers which are selected in the map legend. Most of the tools in the toolbar (e.g. Zoom, Pan, Identify) are used on the map itself. The small arrow in the upper left corner allows the legend display to be turned on or off which will give you more size on your monitor to see the map.

Using IMS

Most of the tasks you can perform involve interacting with either the legend or buttons along the top of the map. You can also use the Identify tool to retrieve information on map objects. The Identify tool returns information in a data table that opens to the right of the map window.

More Help

Further information on using IMS can be found at the ESRI web site under

GIS Overview | GIS Interactive Mapping Tool

Rich Huber - huberr@uncw.edu
Joanne Halls - hallsj@uncw.edu

Partial funding provided by a grant from
UNCW Information Technology Systems

Portions Copyright