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ArcGIS: Starting Out and Getting Help

Where to Find ArcGIS

(1) The Brandaleone Family Center for Data and Visualization Services is in Bostock Library, on the first floor (The/Edge). (2) Duke University students, faculty, and staff can get a free copy to install on their own computer as long as they are affiliated with Duke. * (3) OIT computer labs on the Duke campus with computers running Windows. (4) Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) from Duke's Office of Informtion Technology (OIT) allows Duke users to check out a virtual machine with ArcGIS installed and connect via a remote connection.


PointerGeodatabase:  Before beginning your ArcGIS project, consider the advantages of managing your data inside a geodatabase. You can set one up with a few mouse clicks.  Also, please see our blog post regarding the geodatabase structure versus working with separate shapefile layers.
  Windows only: ArcGIS runs only on Windows platforms. Users of Macs or other operating systems need to install virtual machine software to install ArcGIS in a Windows environment.  Another option is the open source GIS package Quantum GIS (QGIS), compiled for several platforms.


A selection of ArcGIS software manuals (examples below) are located on the bookshelves in The Brandaleone Family Center for Data and Visualization Services.

Some books include tutorial data on a DVD/CD, which can be temporarily installed on the D: drive or in your "my documents" space on computers in the DVS lab in The/Edge on the first floor of Bostock.

Documentation and Tutorials

1. On the web: 

2. Within ArcGIS: Pull down the Help menu or press the F1 key to access local on-line help in the Windows Help interface.

3. Windows Start Menu: Access Help directly from a choice in the ArcGIS folder (without opening ArcGIS first).


The data to use with them are included wiith the ArcGIS installation from OIT, or ask Data and Visualization Services staff for assistance. These tutorials refer to data in the default install location, which is C:ArcGIS\ArcTutor

1. On the Web: ArcGIS Desktop 10.3.1 Tutorials can be found online. 

2. Within ArcGIS Desktop Help:
Open Help and then open ArcGIS Tutorials in the left column.

Tutorial Data

The 10.3.1 tutorial data is available as part of the OIT install package. Duke affiliates only can download ver. 9.3 tutorial data (one tutorial at a time as .zip files) when needed.

3rd Party Tutorials

ArcGIS Introductory Tutorial, University of Arkansas Libraries: A nice intro for social science users, focusing on vector data, but getting dated (based on v. 9.2).

Introduction to GIS and Census Mapping Tutorials using Census data, from Baruch College, CUNY. This has been used with the Duke SSRI classes. The related blog has a lot of useful tips relating to GIS software.

Training Seminars and Web Courses

Training Seminars

Recorded training seminars from Esri cover specific topics.  These are free, and typically are recordings of 1-hour webinars.

Training Videos

These free videos are typically just a few minutes long, and cover a range of specific how-to topics for ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS online, and for several of the desktop extensions and special applications. Be careful regarding version numbers, as some videos are for earlier versions. Some of the options under the "Lessons" tab are good for a quick start.

Web Courses (Esri Virtual Campus)
(Duke affiliates only)

These online courses (which don’t require separate data) provide training in a wide variety of ArcGIS applications (more in-depth than Training Seminars; more choices than tutorials).

Searchable interface to Web Courses. 

To obtain the access code and instructions to use any of them, you must be a Duke University affiliate and must first contact Peter Harrell with the request for the courses you need.  Tutorials consist of one or more 3-hour modules, and the time to take one is estimated from 3 hours up to 21 or more hours total, depending on the topic.


Sample Data and Session Outlines

Check for upcoming sessions for Perkins Library ArcGIS workshops.
Feedback Form: Help us improve future workshops!