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Gulf of St. Lawrence: Labeling marine water bodies
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Examples of city points symbolized based on their importance.
The marine water bodies on this map are labeled using a variety of placement rules and sizes.

What: Maps that include coastal areas, large portions of the earth, or the entire globe should often include the names for the relevant water bodies on the map. Too often these names are omitted from GIS maps because there has traditionally not been a GIS dataset that contains the information required for labeling, especially at larger map scales. This is no longer the case since we have created a named marine water bodies dataset that you can add to your map expressly for the purposes of labeling marine water bodies.

Why: Often a maps show land area near a large water body, such as a large lake, ocean, sea, or gulf, it is as important to label the water body as it is to label the land. Labels for water bodies provide map readers with a spatial reference they need to place the mapped area in their minds. Additionally, one of the important geographic characteristics of coastal places, which may very well be related to the phenomena on the map, is that they are near large bodies of water.

How: You can use the features of the named marine water bodies dataset to provide the needed labels on your map. You can create label classes based on the size, type, and shape of the water body assign rules that will best display of the labels. Another reason to use the marine water bodies dataset is though we usually remember the names of major water bodies like oceans and major seas, most of us do not remember where the lesser water bodies are or how to spell their names. Once you have used this dataset for a few maps you will find the ways that you like to use it best and then save layer files to make them easy to re-use.

To create labels like the ones shown in the above example:

  1. Download and extract the Named Marine Water Bodies dataset; and add it to your map.
  2. To reduce the amount of work in the next steps, interactively select just the features in the map’s extent, create a selection layer from them, and remove the original layer. This will reduce the number of label classes you need for your map.
  3. We are basing the label placement strategies on the type and size of shape to be labeled. We will set up the label classes based on symbology that we will not actually use on the map.
    1. Open the layer properties for the named marine water bodies layer and click on the Symbology tab.
    2. Set the symbology type to Categories: Unique values, many fields.
    3. Set the first field to LabSize and the second field to ShapeType, then click Add all values.
    4. Apply the symbology and close the layer properties dialog
    5. Open the label manager and highlight the Named Marine Water Bodies Layer in the list on the left, uncheck the item in the list on the right, and click Add. (Refer to the image below to get an idea what you should be seeing in the Label Manager) In the message box that appears, click Yes.
    6. Close the Label Manager.
    7. Open layer properties for the named marine water bodies layer and change the symbology type to Single Simple, and set the color and outline color to "No Color" and set the outline width to zero. Click OK.
    Label manager showing the sham symbology used in steps 3a-g.
    Label manager showing label classes based on unique values symbology (that won't actually be used to draw the polygons.

  4. Set up the labeling properties using the Maplex Label Engine. For efficiency, set all the properties for one label class, then copy them to the other classes, after that only a few class-specific changes will be needed. Once we placed the labels, we converted them to annotation and made edits to move the labels into final positions. Using the Label Manager with Maplex allowed us to set the labels up so that the editing involved the least amount of work. Here are the steps we followed:
    1. Set the label field to Name.
    2. In the first label class (1, Oblong as shown above, which will have the largest features) we set the color of the text symbol to a dark blue and used the following RGB value: 69, 128, 179.
    3. We set the text symbol to be 14 point italic with a character spacing of 66.
    4. We changed the label placement to Straight.
    5. We unchecked the Stacked Option.
    6. In the Label Manager’s label classes list, we right-clicked on the label class we just set the properties for and chose Copy Parameters.
    7. In succession, we right-clicked on the other label classes and chose Paste Parameters.
    8. In the second label class (3, Oblong), we changed the text size to 12 points and set the character spacing to 24.
    9. In the third label class (4, Oblong), we changed the text size to 9, and set the character spacing to 33.
    TIP
    • The reason we chose to use the Straight placement option instead of Curved in Step 4d is because we ultimately converted the labels to annotation. The next task was to edit and refine the placement of the text, often that meant editing the baseline of the annotation. Maplex can produce curved annotation elements with complex spline baselines that are difficult to edit. Experience taught us that is easier to convert that curved anntoation to straight and then back to curved again, giving us a very simple two-point spline baseline which was much easier to work with. Creating straight annotation in this case saves us the trouble of an extra conversion step.

    About the Named Marine Water Bodies dataset:

    • Fields:
      • Name: Common name for the water body
      • LabSize: This is an integer field for five classes of label sizes. These were assigned by hand, based on a geographic coordinate system. A value of 1 identifies the features that should be assigned the largest labels. These numbers also accommodate some cultural importance, that is significance or notoriety were also considered, so size or area was not the only considerations in determining this ranking.
      • Type: This is an integer field with a coded value domain. The Type field is ultimately a semantic feature type—rather than one based on geographic properties. On world maps, this can be used to assign label properties. For example, oceans have horizontal text, aligned to the graticule, while passages might be curved inside the feature.
      • ShapeType: This is an integer field with a coded value domain that identifies the general shape of the feature: roundish, oblong, long, pronged, snakey, skinney, etc. This field and the Lab_Size field were added using a sample Geoprocessing script tool, Add Size and Shape Field to support Polygon Labeling. Shape type is one factor cartographers use when deciding how to orient a label relative to its feature. These shape type values can be used as the basis for labeling classes. The shapes types can vary based on the projected coordinate system, so project your data, delete the ShapeType and Lab_Size fields and run the tool again to create the values that will work best for your map.
      • Lab_Size: This is an integer field that contains size class values based on a binary progression classification and a Winkle-Tripel projection. A binary progression means that classes are created by dividing the data range based on area in half, creating the first class from the largest values. Then the remaining data range is divided in half, creating the next class from the larger values. The process continues until all the classes are created.
    • Usage: This data set can be used to support the manual or automatic creation of labels for named marine water bodies. Depending on the map, label classes can be based on area, feature type, shape type, and/or the size of label you want. Most often some combination of these will serve best. Generally, named marine water bodies do not overlap, and topologically they tessellate. There are some exceptions; two are included in this data set. The first is the Sargasso Sea, which is a historical water body and doesn’t often appear on modern maps. The second is the Bermuda Triangle, which is an infamous region of water. These are distinguished by their LabSize value being set to a negative number, making it easy to use definition query to exclude them.
    Where is the "named marine water bodies dataset" posted by Vincent Launstorfer on Jan 15 2008 6:41AM
    Hi!

    Interesting, but where can you get the "named marine water bodies dataset" in order to try out the script?
    Where to find named marine water bodies data set posted by Aileen Buckley on Jan 15 2008 8:00AM
    You can find it right here on Mapping Center -- click on the ArcGIS Resources tab at the top of this page and then click on the Data tab on that page. The named marine water bodies data set can be downloaded from there.

    Aileen
    Import/Export "named marine water" between geodata posted by Vincent Launstorfer on Jan 28 2008 7:35AM
    Hi,

    I found the "named marine water" database, stored in a Personal Geodatabase. However, this dataset is in Winkel_Tripel projection and you are not supposed to Export/Import Feature Class from one geodatabase to another Geodatabase if the Datasets do not share the same Spatial Reference.

    I just read this in the ESRI Webhelp on the subject: "If you are copying a feature class into an existing feature dataset, either in the same geodatabase or in another geodatabase, the spatial reference of the feature class and feature dataset must match. If they do not, you will not be able to copy the data" in the http://webhelp.esri.com/arcgisdesktop/9.2/index.cfm?TopicName=Copying_feature_datasets,_classes,_and_tables_to_another_geodatabase

    What are you supposed to do? You could just open this Feature Class in an ArcMap project, with projection on the fly, to avoid import/export between geodatabases... But how can you permanently import the "named marine water" into a project geodatabase?

    Thank you
    The Project tool posted by Charlie Frye on Jan 28 2008 7:52AM
    Use the Project tool to transfer the data in the marine water bodies dataset into your database.

    One thing to watch out for is that if the XY Domain for your target workspace and coordinate system does not encompass the world, some features will be omitted (versus clipped). The way to handle this problem is to:

    1. Create a polygon that fits just inside your study area (or the XY Domain)
    2. Use the Project tool to copy that polygon over to the Marine Water Bodies geodatabase
    3. Then use the Clip tool on the marine water bodies dataset.
    4. Finally use the Project tool to move the clipped marine water bodies into your geodatabase.
    Feature Dataset vs. Feature Class posted by Peter Kasianchuk on Jan 28 2008 8:11AM
    I would like to add a bit of clarification on terminology if I may: an independent, 'stand-alone' feature class can be copied between geodatabases with no need to re-project or change spatial references. If the stand-alone feature class is to be imported into a Feature Dataset, then it must share the same spatial reference - this rule applies both within a single geodatabase or between geodatabases. Sometimes the ArcGIS Desktop Help uses words such as "Dataset" in an imprecise manner.
    posted by Vincent Launstorfer on Jan 28 2008 9:09AM
    I just made an Export to Geodatabase (single) and it worked, I mean copied and reprojected the feature class, and this was not impossible (as stated in the ESRI Webhelp documentation). However, I had to open the original "named marine" dataset in my ArcMap project to make sure the datasets match because I was sure of the reprojection process.

    I had an experience where I changed the spatial reference of a Feature Dataset within a File Geodatabase and all my feature coordinates where screwed up! Now, I am very careful...

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