General Computer Suggestions

  • Run GIS software on the largest monitor you can.  The map is the story; make it as good as you can.  Laptops have many good points; a big screen is generally not one of them.  Insure the map windows takes up as much of the screen as possible (menus and toolbars reduce map size) and consider enlarging the map and having scroolbars.  You are ultimately responsible for the quality of your graphics.
  • Use multiple monitors if possible.  You frequently will have the program, its help file, a web page for questions and data downloads, and something for documenting your results (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint).  It helps to have the most screen real estate possible.
  • Use multiple computers.  Although it is harder to share maps and data between two computers, often that is not a problem since you can run the help file or directions and they do not need to share the clipboard with the program.  You can use a laptop and a desktop, or two adjacent desktops in an empty lab.
  No Spaces in file names
  Do not start file names with a letter.  While starting with a number will generally work, there are times when it will fail, and the error message may not be very clear. 

File Downloads. 

  • Insure you pay attention to where you download files
  • You can set your browser to always ask, which helps you to organize the files, or understand that the files will probably all pile up in the Downloads directory. 
  • Problems with ftp data download?
File Extensions and Folder Options.  Insure that you understand about file extensions or types, and check the dialog boxes to insure that you are looking for the correct file types, or are saving as the correct type.

Go to Organize, Folder options, and pick the View tab.  Change your Folder options to make this easier: 
  • Uncheck "Hide Extensions for known file type".   Many GIS "files" such as shapefiles and worldfiles actually consist of multiple files with the same name and different extensions, and you may have to pick the correct one, which is very hard when they all look the same (sometimes the icon will be different, if Windows recognizes the file type, but often the files will all look the same). 
  • Display the full path in the address and title bars.
  • (Optional) Pick "Show hidden files and folders".  This may not be critical in Windows 7, but from long habit I want to see everything (what is now the User folder used to be "hidden" through Windows XP).

This is the view for Windows XP.  The view for Windows 7 is essentially identical.


File Compression

  • Types of compression
  • ZIP files: right click on the file in Windows Explorer, and then pick the "Extract all..." near the top of the list.  MICRODEM can do batch Decompression.
  • TAR and GZ: use 7zip or the Compress/Decompress option in MICRODEM (which uses 7zip), and is particularly effective for Landsat imagery.

Printing Help File

  • In the table of contents, pick the topic you want to print, right click, and select print
  • Pick to print just that topic, or all subtopics
  • For one of the courses
    • You will get the best results by printing one week's lesson topics at a time.
    • Lessons should be finalized before the week starts, but are likely to see minor updates until that point.

Word Reports, when you will be getting electronic edits from a colleague (or even if you will be doing extensive edits)

  • Do not wrap text around the figures.  When there are changes, this can act very unpredictably.
  • Do not use text boxes.  You cannot put a comment in the text box, and the comment winds up far from the text it tries to refer it.  If the editors puts the text inside the text box, it usually has to be resized, and then plays havoc with everything that follows.
  • Do not put figures side by side.

Unless the report will be your pride and joy and absolutely needs to look like it was professionally printed, KISS .  There are important parts to formatting (references and figure captions), and others are much less important in a learning environment.

Last revision 11/4/2017