Tips and Tricks for Mapping with ArcGIS

Need Help with Another Mapping Software?

Resources for Other Mapping Softwares

If you need help with other mapping softwares besides ArcGIS, see the following resources.

Not sure which software to use? See our interactive table in the Musical Geography Research and Style Guide, or jump straight to the table.

Resources for Palladio:

Palladio Tutorials and FAQ 

Four Part Youtube Tutorial from the Raynor Digital Scholarship Lab. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Getting Started with Palladio


Resources for Tableau:

Getting Started with Tableau Public

Make a Map with Tableau

Tableau Mapping 2: Geocoding, Layers, and Basemaps

Tableau Training Videos



QGIS Help and Training

Google My Maps

Get Started with Google My Maps from Google

Google My Maps Resources

Google My Maps Video Tutorial


Tips and Tricks for Mapping with ArcGIS

This section is a tutorial section, designed to answer your questions and help you make the map(s) you want.

ArcGIS Pro vs. ArcGIS Online

The first step is deciding whether to use ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Pro. Unless you want to make extremely complex maps, you should use ArcGIS Online. If you start using ArcGIS Online and realize the platform is too limited, you can always switch to ArcGIS Pro at a later date. While both programs have similar capabilities, ArcGIS Pro is a desktop program that allows for more complex analysis. ArcGIS Online is an abbreviated version of ArcGIS Pro. It has the same core features, but is an easily shareable, web-based platform. If you do decide to use ArcGIS Pro, be aware that ArcGIS Pro only works on a Windows operating system. 

Basics of ArcGIS Online

To begin, create a new map in ArcGIS Online. To add data, click Add → Add Layer from File. You should download your data as a CSV file for easy upload.


Esri’s Learn ArcGIS site is a great resource for ArcGIS questions or tutorials. If you are just starting out, try the following tutorials:

  1. Get Started with ArcGIS Online
  2. Map a Historic Cholera Outbreak
  3. Get Started with ArcGIS Online Youtube Playlist

Resources and Advanced Tutorials for ArcGIS Online

How to Configure Pop-ups and tooltips:

 Click on the three blue dots to the far right under the title of your layer. Then scroll down to “configure pop-up.” This will allow you to edit the info window. 

       Within the “Configure pop-ups” Menu, selecting “Configure attributes” will allow you to select which information you want to see and arrange each category in the order you like. You can also edit how each category title will appear. 

Adding Images to Tooltips:

  1. Make sure that you’ve entered an image URL in the database for each venue/event that you want to map. These can be URLs from external sites, or from a PUBLICLY shared Google Photos album. 
  2. Export and upload the CSV as normal.
  3. Under the “Configure Pop-ups” menu, scroll down to “Pop-Up Media.” Click Add Media→ Image. 
  4.  In the window that appears, the title and caption are optional and up to you. For URL and Link, click the small plus sign to the right of each box and scroll down to select “Image {ImageLink}.” This connects the info window to the Image Link column of the database, where you pasted the URL. 
  5. Hit OK to save within the window, and then make sure to click OK again in the “Configure Pop-Up” window to save your changes. 
  6.  If you want to change the image title, etc., click the small gear icon under the Pop-Up Media section to make edits. Note that unless there’s a separate column for it in the database, any words that you write will be the same across all points on the map. 

Adding Youtube Clips to Tooltips: 

In a “Media” field, include the following code around a Youtube link:

<iframe width=”280″ height=”157.5″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Creating Hosted Feature Layers from Google Sheets:

  1. To create a hosted feature layer, go to your arcgis online “content” page and clicking “add item” –> “from cloud drive.” 
  2. Next, go to the drop-down menu that says “CSV” and select your desired file type, presumably a google sheet, search for and select your desired file, and follow the instructions from there.
  3. Once this feature layer is created, you can add it to a map by going to add –> search for layers.
  4. A hosted feature layer does NOT automatically sync with google sheets, and a map using a hosted feature layer does NOT automatically sync with changes made to that hosted feature layer. In order to sync a map with a hosted layer automatically, you can click “more options” (the blue ellipsis) on the layer from within the map that you’ve added it to and then adjust the refresh interval.
  5. In order to sync a google sheet based hosted layer with its original sheet, go to the hosted layer and click “update data” –> “overwrite entire layer”. Once this is done, the map will refresh automatically with the new data if it has been set to do so. (See point above)

Uploading a Live Google Spreadsheet (that refreshes automatically) to


Searching Feature Layers:

  1. First, make your feature layer that you want to search within a hosted feature layer
  2. Then, in the web-app editor, go to widgets, hover over the search widget, and click the pencil icon to configure this widget.
  3. Click “add search source” and select your new hosted feature layer.
  4. Select your desired search fields (which field you want the users to be able to search) and your desired display field (the field which will be displayed as possible options when the user is selecting a result to display from their search) Adjust any other options as desired.

Creating Time Aware Feature Layers for a Time Slider:

  1. First, you must make sure that the desired layer has all of the dates in the same format – ambiguity is not allowed.
  2. Select your desired  layer in the map and select “more options” (the blue ellipsis) →  “configure pop-ups” Then, create a hosted layer and make it time-enabled. 
  3. If you get an error message, download the data as a CSV and re-upload it to create the hosted feature layer that is time-enableable
  4. The time slider should show up automatically on the map viewer. To add it to the web-app, simply add the time-slider widget. 

Adding Custom Basemaps Using Mapbox:

If you want to add a custom or historical basemap to your project, you can do so using Mapbox. Both the David Rumsey Map Collection or the NYPL Map Warper are good resources for high quality, public domain historical maps.

  1. Once you find the map you want to use, download the map as a GEOTiff file.
  1. Then, make a free account on Mapbox, and go to Mapbox Studio
  2. In Mapbox Studio, click New Style → Customize Basic. Then click Layers → Upload Data → New Tileset. 
  1. Then drag and drop your GeoTIFF file you previously downloaded and wait for it to upload. Your file may take several minutes to upload.
  2. Once your file has uploaded, then copy the file link that pops up in the bottom right.
  3. Now click Layer → New Layer → Source → None Selected → Add Source by ID → Paste the file link you copied in step five and your map should appear.
  4. Now click Share → Third party → choose ArcGIS Online in the dropdown menu and copy the integration URL
    1. Next, navigate back to ArcGIS Online. Click Add Layer → Add Layer from Web → Select A Tile Layer → Enter the URL you copied from Mapbox. Add Layer and Your map should appear as a basemap.

    Making Maps Public: 

    In order to make a map public, the layer that you upload needs to be made public (Share→ Everyone), right when you upload it. Then the map also needs to be made public once you’re done (again, Share→ Everyone). 

    Troubleshooting: What to Do When Your Map Looks Different Than You Imagined

    Mapping is a process of trial and error. Inevitably your map will look different than you imagined. Don’t expect the first map you make to be your final map. The process of map-making is instructive and the more you map, the better you will get at it. When you get frustrated or stuck, reach out and ask questions. Ask a librarian, peer, or professor for help or utilize one of the many GIS tutorials available on the internet. 

    Utilizing ArcGIS StoryMaps

    Once you’ve completed your map(s), embedding your work in a story map is a great way to share your work. A StoryMap allows you to add text, and media to your map creating a guided tour for viewers. 

    To get started, check out the following tutorials:

    Get Started with ArcGIS StoryMaps

    Quick Tips for Mastering the ArcGIS StoryMaps Builder

    Sara Dale’s Instructional StoryMap

       Creating ArcGIS Dashboards

    Another great way to showcase your map is through an ArcGIS Dashboard. An ArcGIS Dashboard allows you to combine multiple maps, and filters into an interactive dashboard. ArcGIS Dashboards are more data-focused than a StoryMap and would be a good choice if you don’t want to add a lot of supporting text to your map. 

    If you are interested in making your own ArcGIS Dashboard, try the following tutorials:

    Create Your First Dashboard Using ArcGIS Dashboards

    Five Tips to Improve Your ArcGIS Dashboards