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Month: August 2011

ArcGIS 10 – Turn Off the “Feature Construction” toolbar.

ArcGIS 10 – Turn Off the “Feature Construction” toolbar.

I’ve been doing a lot digitizing recently and for the most part ArcGIS with version 10 is finally a viable way of doing it.   There has been one thing bothering me though and that’s the “Feature Construction” mini-toolbar.   It pops-up as you edit but more often than not it’s been getting in my way.

Get out the way! ARGHHHH!

So I did some searching in the help file and wouldn’t you know it I can  turn the toolbar off or better yet with one key move it.   There are so many keyboard short-cuts and functions in ArcGIS I can’t honestly keep track of them.   But with this I’m a little embarrassed I’ve gone on so long without finding out how to get rid of the damn thing.

  • So to move the mini-toolbar with press TAB to move it or SHIFT+TAB to remove it from your site.
  • Or click on Editor –> Options and under ‘General’ uncheck the “Show minitoolbar” option.

Stupidly easy isn’t it?   Well first of all there is a lesson here, check the help file if you can’t figure it out.   I also did at the same time a google search which got me to a new blog I hadn’t been to before!

ArcGIS Desktop 10 Help “The Feature Construction Toolbar”

Or…. do some creative google searching and find blogs like this one:“ArcGIS 10 Annoyances – Feature Construction Mini-Toolbar” –> Lots of comments on the end of this post, shows me that I’m not alone in my ignorance of this ‘feature’.

The awful mess of Local Plan Maps online.

The awful mess of Local Plan Maps online.

UPDATE: I‘ve just added an idea along these lines to the site


UPDATE1: I found this discussion the Planning Advisory service website

This post is really a rant disguised as something a bit more thoughtful and it’s based on the idea that whether you like it or not Planning policy and a planning department’s decision will at some stage impact on you personally if you live in the UK.

We live in a democratic society and part of being a responsible citizen is taking part (or at least choosing not to!).   Planning policy is important and I think most would agree with that, we might however argue on priorities.

In my view part of the local authority’s work is to educate its residents as to the rules/regulations and codes by which we are governed.   Not just because they have to, but because taking people to court when they do something wrong is very expensive, time consuming and ultimately counter-productive.   Surely it is in everyone’s interest to easily find out what their Local Plan is and how it applies to their property?

So I’d like you to do something for me (if you have time and patience), it’s an experiment if you live in the UK (although feel free to join in if you are based elsewhere).

  1. Visit your Local *Planning Authority’s website (or try
  2. Find your Local Plan’s maps (you know, the one they use to help decide on Planning Applications! Green Space ,retail only etc…)
  3. Now using your home or work address try and figure out what land designations apply to your land or nearby.
  4. If you like post the results (not necessarily the detail but whether you can or not) below as a comment.

Easy yes? Or was it a horribly confusing mess?

Okay, if you managed that go to a neighbouring authority’s website and try those steps above again?  Are you still there anyone?  Or have you given up?

If like me you are in the planning/architectural business the process can be time consuming and very inconsistent.   Some Planning Authorities have great web mapping of their local plans, and others just have PDFs.  Sometime back the planning portal was on to a great idea of hosting authority’s Local Plans as well as the text but this was abandoned.   It wasn’t well implemented but they were on to something, it’s a shame Planning Authorities are no longer encouraged to improve their online presence.

So what’s been the point of this post?  Well it’s really a request: can the Local Planning  Authorities improve the quality of their local plan maps and clearly sign post it for users?  Or better yet create a centrally managed mapping site for the UK or at minimum the regions (I know, I know they don’t exist).

There are many good reasons to do this, the present government’s push to simplify the planning process and the potential cost savings of having only one supplier of web mapping.    I know there’s an issue of differing systems across the UK MapInfo vs ESRI for starters.   But perhaps the centrally managed local plans site can manage these issues rather than the policy planners?

The discussion can fit in with OpenData issues as well, for instance if the Local Planning Authority’s don’t have the resources to put their local plan maps online, I could do it yes?   Certainly this is what is all about!  Well no, because I’ve asked some of them and they’re worried about Derived Data and licensing issues in regards to their Ordnance Survey mapping bases.

So has anyone any thoughts?

UPDATE: I‘ve just added an idea along these lines to the site


UPDATE1: I found this discussion the Planning Advisory service website*Your local planning authority might not be the ones who collect your bins!

Digitizing the Informal

Digitizing the Informal

I’m doing some digitizing for a project in the office, basically I’m plotting the entire road network in a city environment.   This sounds easy doesn’t it? Just plot the thick black lines and you’re done.   Well this is a country with a hot desert environment and a poor quality road network.   To compound matters there is a high water table, and places where there is no underground sewer network.

satellite image of informal road network
Informal Road Networks - but how do you record them?

The upshot of this is there are many informal road networks, even in the ‘developed’ neighbourhoods.   It’s quite easy sometimes to make a good guess as to the line of a road based on the housing.  But the road accessing a particular development can be erratic taking account of features and circumstances I cannot see from my satellite image (soft sand for instance).   What’s more how am I to know that this is a permanent road?   Sure it looks fairly set now but come the next season it will all change.

My general approach is to first establish what kind of project I’m working on and what information is required for the job.   Here I am choosing to acknowledge the existence of these informal tracks, especially the ones that look heavily used.   I’m also ensuring that the lines I’m creating have appropriate information about the feature for instance: “informal, access, unmade”.  I’ll also add some meta data to ensure anyone in the future who finds my work knows what satellite image I digitized from and what date I plotted it and for what purpose.

So fellow GIS professionals (particularly the ones that like to digitize) how do you digitize yours?  I’d really appreciate your insight if you could leave a comment or dm me on twitter that would be great!