What's new for accessing your data in ArcGIS 10

Catalog window

When you work with ArcGIS, you work with a catalog of data. In ArcGIS 10, the catalog is now integrated into ArcMap as a dockable window. If you have the 3D Analyst extension, you'll also see the Catalog window in ArcGlobe and ArcScene. The Catalog window provides most of the functionality of the separate ArcCatalog application but in a compact, convenient window. The ArcCatalog application is still included in ArcGIS 10 if you want to use it, but for most data management and access tasks, using the Catalog window instead is a huge time saver.

Using the new window, you can browse your catalog, drag data into your map, manage data, create data, and so on. Using the Catalog window to add or browse to data and drag it into your map is faster than using the Add Data dialog box, and using the window for data management eliminates many of the issues that have been experienced in previous releases when trying to modify data in ArcCatalog that is being used in ArcMap.

The Catalog Window in ArcMap

Easy access to your project workspaces

When you do a GIS project, you assemble spatial data, map documents, layer files, toolboxes containing models, and other supporting files into a folder, often known as a project workspace or home folder. When you work with a map in ArcGIS 10, it is easy to get to the project workspace the map belongs to, because that folder is always shown at the top of the Catalog tree as an entry called Home. The project workspace for any map document in ArcGIS 10 is regarded as simply the folder in which that map document is located, so you'll always have immediate access to that folder in the Catalog window. When you look at the Home folder in the Catalog window, the current map document you are working with is shown in bold. If you browse to a different folder in the Catalog window or connect to a database or server, you can always get directly back to the Home folder your map belongs to by clicking the Home button. This makes it much easier to access the data and other files related to your map than in previous versions. You'll also see this Home button Home on the dialog boxes used to open or save data, so that you can quickly get to your map's home folder.

The Home Folder button in the Catalog Window
Clicking this button will navigate the Catalog window to the map's Home folder.

Default geodatabase

In addition to the Home folder, which is the GIS workspace your map document belongs to, every map document in ArcGIS 10 also now has a default geodatabase. The default geodatabase is simply one that is specified as the default for the map document. It is easy to access this default geodatabase, because there is a button at the top of the Catalog window Default Geodatabase and in the dialog boxes for adding and saving data that you can click to go directly to that geodatabase. The default geodatabase is also used as the default output target for many operations that create data. You can specify the default geodatabase when you create a new map document. You can also set the default geodatabase for an existing map via the File > Map Document Properties dialog box or by opening the map in ArcMap, right-clicking the geodatabase in the Catalog window, then choosing the Make Default Geodatabase command.

Default ready-to-use project workspace created in Documents\ArcGIS

When you use ArcGIS 10, it creates a default ready-to-use project workspace in your Documents > ArcGIS or My Documents > ArcGIS folder (depending on which version of Windows you are using). This gives you an immediate default location in which to do GIS work without having to manually create a project workspace elsewhere. This default project workspace contains an empty file geodatabase, Default, that is used as the default geodatabase for new and existing map documents (unless you specify a different default geodatabase). It also contains an empty toolbox ready for you to save geoprocessing models or custom geoprocessing tools into. Of course, you can do your work in any folder in any location on your system when you work with ArcGIS 10, but the default project workspace provides a convenient default in an obvious and easily portable location.

Learn more about the Catalog window

Simplified layer file icons

In ArcGIS 10, the way layer (.lyr) files appear in the Catalog window has changed. In previous releases, layer files were shown using a set of icons that reflected the data type of the data source, such as point, line, polygon, group, raster, or service. At ArcGIS 10, all .lyr files are shown with a single generic yellow icon in the Catalog tree, regardless of their data type. A benefit of this change is that you see fewer different icons when browsing the Catalog tree, and layer files are always shown with the same generic icon in the Catalog window, Windows Explorer, Outlook e-mails, and the ArcGIS.com Web site.

Search window

The Catalog window is great if you know where your data is located, but what if you don't? Previous versions of ArcGIS had a search function in ArcCatalog, but it was slow, wasn't very convenient, and couldn't handle large volumes of data. In ArcGIS 10, there's a new Search window in ArcMap and ArcCatalog and, if you have the 3D Analyst extension, ArcGlobe and ArcScene. The Search window puts all your GIS resources instantly at your fingertips via a fast, Web like, and highly scalable search. You can search for maps, data, and tools on your local machine, drives on your network, and enterprise databases. You can also search enterprise search services. These search services, which are introduced at ArcGIS 10, enable organizations using ArcGIS Server 10 to serve a complete enterprise catalog of data throughout the organization. You can also extend your search outside the enterprise by searching ArcGIS.com online maps and data published by Esri and the GIS community. All this is possible from a convenient compact window you can expand or permanently dock inside the application.

Viewing item descriptions
Pausing on the map document displays its item description.

Searches can be refined progressively. For example, you might first search for all feature data, then restrict the search just to polygon data, then shapefile data, then data for a particular location, so your resulting search string feature polygon shapefile lets you focus quickly on a specific set of data. You can immediately drag search results into your map or a model. You can also click the path shown in the search results to be taken to the location of the data in the Catalog window.

Configurable indexing lets you choose exactly what is searched and automatically assemble and prepare the metadata used in the search. You can search based on name, path, smart built-in keywords, and descriptive metadata. You can also immediately edit the descriptive metadata for items you find to, for example, add tags to make them easier to find next time.

Learn more about the Search window