ArcGIS Online – Organizing and Expressing Data Tutorial

While I was making my Japanese Mascot Map (which you can see here!) a lot of my time was spent experimenting with how to organize my data and which data ArcGIS Online could pull directly from the resulting spreadsheets. I explained some of my process HERE but I want to explain in greater depth how I organized, input, and expressed my data.

I used GoogleSheets to store and organize my data which worked well. However, ArcGIS Online can only upload spreadsheet files in .csv or .txt format. GoogleSheets lets you download individual sheets in .csv format, but that means if you edit your data than you have to delete the layer made with the unedited file, download the edited file to your computer, and render the edited file to your map as a new layer. This takes a lot of time. I’m hoping that with this tutorial the time I spend editing/downloading/uploading could save some time with your own project


What type of location data do you want to map? This will affect how many spreadsheets you make and how you express location within them. My rule of thumb is make a new datasheet for a new layer if location of places/regions will be rendered to the map by  different parameters. In other words, locations denoted by City, State vs. Street Address vs. Latitude/Longitude should be organized in their own spreadsheets. This is helpful for a couple of reasons:

  1. Confuses ArcGIS less – ArcGIS asks you when you import a layer which columns it should pull location data. With multiple datasheets/layers, you can choose which data are rendered in which manner without having to sacrifice accuracy, arbitrarily pick drop points for larger regions, or confuse the program with void entries.
  2. As data sets get larger, problems are easier to find – A number of my spellings didn’t match those ArcGIS used and some of my photo links were broken. It was much easier to delete one layer, find the error, fix it, and re-upload a smaller spreadsheet than it was to do the same for a spreadsheet with 50+ entries
  3. Easier to stylize different categories of data – Not to mention you only have to re-stylize some of your data if you have to fix a layer. Whenever you (re)upload a layer, the points are set as red dots by default.

In my case, I wanted to map mascots from Prefectures, Cities, Buildings, Organizations, and Companies. I used two different methods for designating location so I made two map layers from two datasheets.

Prefectures and Cities  I mapped as points denoted by two columns of data: Prefecture, City (ie. Hokkaido, Hakodatte).  Because prefectures aren’t associated with any one city, I used the same format with the capital as my city marker (ie. Kobe, Hyogo). It would be the same as making one column each for State and City if you were mapping in the United States.

NOTE!: If you want to make polygons for prefectures/states and not points, I would suggest making a separate spreadsheet for them. I did not use polygons in my original map, but if you include a city than ArcGIS will pin that city instead of denoting a region.

Buildings, Organizations, and Companies I mapped using Latitude and Longitude. These are things with definite locations, usually denoted by street addresses. However, street addresses are often very different across countries, and that’s before differing spelling conventions for foreign languages. Even in familiar areas, points sometimes don’t get dropped in the right place. The easiest way to get an accurate point the first time is to use its latitude and longitude.

An easy way to find it is to use GoogleMaps. To do so:

1.) Search Location

2.) Right click on the point and choose “What’s here?”

A small bar should show up at the bottom of the screen. See the numbers at the very bottom?

The first number is the Latitude. The second number is the Longitude.

In my spreadsheet, I made 4 columns for location data: Prefecture, City, Latitude, Longitude. I included the Prefecture and the City because I wanted to display this information at each point, but when I uploaded the layer the program used the latitude and longitude to drop the pins. A window may pop up asking you to specify which data you’d like to use for locations. In that case, pick your preference.

NOTE!: ArcGIS sometimes gives you the option to limit your expressed dataset to a single country, in my case, Japan. If your data set reaches across countries, include a Country column in each spreadsheet. So, in the first example, the location of a city would be expressed in 3 columns: Japan, Hokkaido, Hakodatte. The location of a building would be expressed in 5: Japan, Kyoto (prefecture), Kyoto (city), 34.987756, 135.759333.

You should include a column for any categories you want to distinguish stylistically.

In my spreadsheets I added a Mascot_Type column. This I kept close to my other non-location data: Name and Name of Building/Company/Organization.

From that data, I could set the layer to display points based on what type mascot the point represents. When you upload a new layer, a menu called “Change Style” will appear on the left. In the drop down menu under “Choose an attribute to show,” pick which column you put your categories.

You can then change how each category appears on the map by changing the appearance of the point. Click on one of the sample points in the “Change Style” menu. A window will pop up with point style options for the category you selected. When you are done, press “OK” both in the window and the “Change Style” menu.

If you want an image to pop up when you click on a point ArcGIS Online can pull images straight from your spreadsheets. In a column titled “Image” or “URL”, add URL links to images you want to use for each location. Here is the image of Tawawachan I used and the corresponding link highlighted in yellow. Because URLs are long, I recommend making this the last column in your datasheet.

To add these images to your pop-ups, make sure you pressed “Ok” on any open menus and click the “…” next to the layer you want to add images to. From that menu, click “Configure Pop-up.”

The menu will open on the left hand side. Here you can change which data is expressed where. To add images, go to  “Pop-up Media” and press “Add.” From that drop down menu, select “Image.”

A window called “Configure Image” will appear. Here you can add titles, captions, and hyperlinks to your images. To add the images from your spreadsheet, go down to “URL” and press the small boxed cross to the right. Scroll down and select the name of the column where you put your image URLs. I called mine “Image.”

Press “Ok” in both the “Configure Image” window and “Configure Pop-up” menu. Once you do, an image should appear in your pop-ups when you click on a point. If you don’t see it immediately, scroll down or enlarge the pop-up window as they are quite small. If you still don’t see an image, the URL in your spreadsheet may be broken.

NOTE!: Make sure to double check the links aren’t broken while you’re still working in your spreadsheet. When you render your data onto the map, the program won’t tell you if it can’t find images. It’s better to check before you render your data instead of after you’ve spent time stylizing your points because you will have to re-upload the sheet, setting the points back to default red circles.

6 Replies to “ArcGIS Online – Organizing and Expressing Data Tutorial”

  1. ArcGIS seemed like a bit of a pain when we first played around with it, but this tutorial makes it a bit more obvious to me as to how it would be useful. Also, I love the cute little mascots!

    1. Unfortunately not, sorry. Obviously my project wasn’t reliant on showing change over time. Perhaps you could use different layers based on time such as a series of heat-map layers?

      Good luck!

  2. I like that your info panes seem to more or less correspond to the size of your mascot image. Mine unfortunately always seemed to be the wrong size. Did you use smaller images or have them automatically resize?

    1. They were small to begin with because many were part of logos or other blog posts. Otherwise it seems they resized automatically to the default pop-up dimensions. The thing I WISH I could resize is the pop-up window so all of the information AND the picture is visible at once without having to full-screen the pop-up. That, however, I couldn’t figure out

  3. Lydia,

    This is a very detailed tutorial on how to upload CSV and images, and you do a good job of walking the reader through not just the steps to take to prepare data but the reasons behind each decision, and the whole is illustrated with many fitting screenshots.

    As for uploading and reuploading, this isn’t really the best practice, since each time you do it uses credits to geocode your data. Your tutorial will hopefully help people avoid that fate, but you can also edit the layer once you’ve created it and add data that way, or upload all the locations once with a unique ID and then Join Features to a separate data table that you can upload separately. And you are not the only one to wish you could resize the popups — they say they are on it:

    Great job working through the challenges and making a really compelling web map!

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