Frequently Asked Questions--Details

Using Geography Network Explorer

There are two ways to find geographic content using Geography Network Explorer: by searching or by browsing.

Then, use the Explorer to view search/browse results.

Searching

You can search by place name, geographic extent, content type, content theme, and keyword. Your search can include one or more of these search criteria. Specify the geographic extent by typing a place name or by zooming, panning, and selecting a location on a map of the world. Once you have executed your search, view the search results in the right panel.

Each method has its advantages. Use a combination of search criteria to narrow your search results. For example, if you choose the United States as the geographic extent but do not specify a content type or content theme, Geography Network Explorer returns metadata for all data sets covering the United States. If you are only interested in transportation networks or only want to find downloadable data, specifying a content theme or content type will narrow your search results considerably.

Find detailed instructions below for
Searching by geographic extent
Searching by content type
Searching by content theme
Searching by keyword
Searching for geographic content

Searching by Geographic Extent

If you know the name of the area for which you want geographic content--for example, Orange County, California--it may be easiest to type it in the text box and click Find. If you do not know the correct name for the area or you want to search for a larger area--for example, the area around Los Angeles--zoom in and select it on the map.

When you type a place name and click Find, Geography Network Explorer returns a list of matching places. You might have been thinking of the state of Georgia, but your search results also include the country of Georgia in Asia, the city of Georgia in Indiana, Georgian Bay in Canada, and so on. Click the place you are looking for in the list of place names that appears in the right panel. The map of the world on the left panel zooms to the place that you selected.

As an alternative to searching by place name, use the Zoom In, Zoom Out, and Pan tools to find an area on the map. Once you are zoomed in enough to see the area, use the Select Search Area tool to select it.

Searching by Content Type

You can search for three types of content: data, documents, and resources. Each category has a number of subcategories. Search for

  • Data if you want to download, order, or add data or map services directly to your map
  • Documents if you are interested in map files and geographic information
  • Resources if you are looking for links to external Web sites, data clearinghouses, GIS-based Web applications, and geographic services
Searching by Content Theme

A content theme is a categorical description of the features in a data set. Agriculture and farming, human health and disease, oceans and estuaries, and imagery and basemaps are examples of content themes that you can choose. Sometimes a content theme precisely describes what you are looking for, making your choice simple. Other times, you are not sure how to classify the data. If you are not sure whether the soil data you are looking for is classified as agriculture and farming or environmental, you could search twice (once by each category) or you could search by selecting All Data Themes.

Searching by Keyword

Searching by keyword is an excellent way to narrow your search results. If you are searching for something specific like satellite data, typing the keyword "satellite" limits search results to data sets with detailed descriptions including "satellite." Sometimes, however, the keyword limits your search too much, eliminating data sets that might have been useful to you. For example, even though a RADARSAT image is, in fact, a satellite image, its list of theme keywords might not include "satellite."

If you are going to include a keyword in your search criteria, it is a good idea to repeat your search using other words with a similar meaning. For example, if you are interested in rivers, you might try "rivers," "streams," "hydrology," "drainage," and so on.

Searching for Geographic Content
  1. Type a place name, click Find, and click a place name in the right panel or use the zoom, pan, and selection tools to select a location on the map.
  2. Specify any combination of the following: content type, content theme, and/or keyword.
    1. Click the content type drop-down arrow and click Data, Documents, Resources, or one of their subcategories.
    2. Click the content theme drop-down arrow and click one of the available themes.
    3. Type a keyword.
  3. Review your search criteria. If you typed a keyword, check it for typographical errors.
  4. To extend your search to the Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, check Search NSDI Clearinghouse.
  5. Click Search. Search results are displayed in the right panel.

If you checked Search NSDI Clearinghouse, the Geography Network NSDI search application opens. Search additional servers and view additional search results. Click Close when you are finished.

Browsing

All metadata documents are organized in a hierarchy of directories and subdirectories, making them easy to browse. When you click a directory, a list of subdirectories appears. Click each directory to see its subdirectories, and so on.

The right panel lists the data sets belonging to the current directory. The title and publisher of each data set are provided. Often the coverage area and map scale are provided as well. You might also see a thumbnail image of the data. You can view the detailed metadata for each record and, in some cases, view a map of the data as well.

To browse metadata

  1. Click Browse.
  2. Click a directory in the left panel. A list of subdirectories appears.
  3. Click a subdirectory. A new list of subdirectories appears.
  4. Repeat step 3 to continue drilling down.
  5. Once you have arrived at the directory you want, scroll through the list of the contents in the right panel.
  6. Click View Details to view a data set's detailed metadata, or click View Map to view a map of the data.
Viewing Search/Browse Results

If you searched for data, the results of your search are summarized in the right panel. If you browsed to a directory, the contents of the directory are listed in the right panel. If searching or browsing returned more than one type of content, the records are listed by content type.

Use the scroll bar to move through the list of data sets. The description of each data set includes the name of the publisher, the content title, and often the coverage area and map scale.

Find detailed instructions below for
Viewing metadata
Viewing a map of the area
Adding data to ArcMap, ArcExplorer, or ArcExplorer Web
Printing search results, metadata, and maps

Viewing Metadata

Viewing the complete metadata for a data set will either confirm your initial impression about its suitability or eliminate it as an option. Pay particular attention to the access and use constraints because these also affect the suitability of the data. If you want the data for a use prohibited by the publisher, you will have to find another data set.

The Metadata tab also allows you to view the coverage area. This is particularly useful when you cannot view a map of the data. A green box indicates the coverage area. To view metadata

  1. Find a data set that interests you by browsing or executing a search.
  2. Click View Details beneath the record in the right panel. The Details tab appears.
  3. Examine the metadata for the selected data set.
  4. Scroll down and click View Coverage Area.
  5. A new window appears showing a map of the world zoomed in to the coverage area of the selected data set. A green box outlines the coverage area.
  6. Click Close when you are finished looking at the coverage area.
Viewing a Map of the Area

Geography Network Explorer has several navigation tools that allow you to pan and zoom a map of the data. Use these tools to take a closer look at different features of the map. This option is only available when the metadata references live data. To view a map area

  1. Find a data set that interests you by browsing or executing a search.
  2. Click View Map beneath the record in the right panel. A map of the data appears in the right panel.
  3. Click Zoom In, Zoom Out, or Pan on the toolbar to change the map extent.
  4. Click Zoom to Full Extent to return to the full extent of the map.
Adding Data to ArcMap, ArcExplorer, or ArcExplorer Web

If you launched the Geography Network Explorer from ArcMap, ArcExplorer, ArcExplorer Web, or the Geography Network, an Add to ArcMap, Add to ArcExplorer, or Add to ArcExplorer Web button is available from the Search Results. Click this button to add the selected data or service directly to your current ArcMap, ArcExplorer, or ArcExplorer Web map display.

Printing Search Results, Metadata, and Maps

Anything that appears in the right panel of the Geography Network Explorer can be printed. This includes maps, metadata, and search results.

The printable version of search and browse results excludes the View Details and View Map buttons. The printable version of the map excludes navigation tools. To create a printable version

  1. Click the Create Printable Version button in the upper right corner of the right panel. A new browser window appears containing the printable version.
  2. Click File and then click Print to open the Print dialog box.
  3. Click OK on the Print dialog box.
  4. Click Close at the bottom of the browser window to close the printable version.

Using Geographic Content

Most Geography Network content can be used with one of two tools: a standard Web browser or a GIS software package. Web browsers can be used to access content such as map services, solutions, and clearinghouses. Other content, including map data files and data services, require GIS software to be fully utilized. Content is divided into

  • Data, which can be added directly to your map, downloaded, or ordered.
  • Documents, which include map files, static map images, and other documents.
  • Resources, which are GIS-based Web applications, geographic services, links to external Web sites, and data clearinghouses.

When choosing a content type, consider the level of interaction you want to have with the data and whether or not you want to download it to your own machine.

Data

Dynamic Data and Maps: GIS users can access "live" data and map services, such as ArcIMS or WMS map services, using software tools such as ArcExplorer Web, ArcGIS, and ArcExplorer--Java Edition. ArcExplorer Web provides a way to view multiple image services and perform basic queries such as identify and find.

ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcExplorer--Java Edition, and ArcExplorer Web include links to add map services directly from the Geography Network. These links launch a customized version of the Geography Network Explorer that can be used to find a map service. Once an appropriate map service is found, click Add to ArcExplorer Web, Add to ArcMap, or Add to ArcExplorer to add the map service to your map view.

Users can visually combine multiple map services by using the image transparency options or integrate local data with the map services.

Documents

Map Files: Map files are digital maps that can be viewed in a mapping application such as ArcReader or ArcMap. Map files are typically completed maps that are ready for viewing, publishing, and printing.

Static Maps: You cannot directly interact with static map images as you can with live data and maps. You can view them and download them to your computer.

Other Documents: This category includes geographic information stored in text files, spreadsheets, or other formats and can be used in conjunction with geographic data. In many cases, they can be viewed and downloaded.

Resources

Applications: An online application is built using Geography Network content or other Internet-hosted data. The application includes a complete user interface and a set of geographic content needed to perform one or more tasks.

Clearinghouses: A clearinghouse is a Web site that contains references and links to a variety of free geographic data. Many clearinghouses offer geographic data for download while other sites include metadata references or hyperlinks to data sets that may be acquired through other mechanisms.

Content Types

Three types of content can be found on the Geography Network: data, documents, and resources.

  1. Data, which can be added directly to your map, downloaded, or ordered.
  2. Documents, which include map files, static map images, and other documents.
  3. Resources, which are GIS-based Web applications, geographic services, links to external Web sites, and data clearinghouses.

When choosing content, consider the level of interaction you want to have with the data and whether or not you want to download it to your own machine.

Data

This content type includes downloadable data, offline data, and data that can be added directly to your map.

Dynamic Data and Maps: Dynamic data and maps are geographic services that allow direct interaction with map content. This type of content is published to the Geography Network as "Live Data and Maps" and delivered to users in one of two ways.

  1. Cartographic images or "snapshots" of maps
  2. Compressed vector features that are streamed to you

Dynamic features allow for greater client-side interaction including dynamic labeling, feature symbolization, and MapTip creation. Users do not need to download anything to use live data--they can just add it to a map and begin exploring. ArcIMS and WMS services are in this category.

Documents

This content type includes static map images and text or tabular information that is used in conjunction with geographic data.

Map Files: This category includes any digital maps that can be viewed in a mapping application. Maps created for ArcReader and ArcMap are examples of digital maps that fit into this category.

Static Maps: Static Map Images are map image files. You cannot directly interact with static map images as you do with live data and maps. You can view them and download them to your computer.

Other Documents: This category includes geographic information stored in text files, spreadsheets, or other formats. These documents are used in conjunction with geographic data. In many cases, they can be viewed and downloaded.

Resources

This content type includes links to external geographic data sources, GIS applications, and geographic services.

Applications: This category includes custom-built GIS applications. These applications usually have a complete user interface. ArcIMS Viewers belong in this category.

Clearinghouses: Clearinghouses are Web sites that either provide links to free geographic data or allow you to directly download it.