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Thread: ArcView? Is it really this bad?

  1. #1

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    ArcView? Is it really this bad?

    GIS Gurus, I am confused.

    I am the type of computer user who feels that if you have to open the owner's manual or a tutorial or consult help more than twice, the software should be scrapped. If you have to take a class to learn it, the developers should be shot.

    Having hired others to make maps for me for some years, I had not tried to use a modern GIS until this week. I bought a suplus computer from a city that had not cleaned off the software and there was ArcView 3.1. I thought, WOW.

    BUT, now that I have turned it on and tried to make it work, I am appalled.

    Is it still impossible to make a GIS useable? Having found some data to play with, I cannot find many individual commands and no procedures that are intuitive. I sank to the level of finding an on-line tutorial, which partly confimed that even basics are not intuitive, and partly failed to answer my questions.

    It would have been considerably faster for me to dig out the mylar and india ink to accomplish what I have been trying and failing to do today. I know you can't link an ink drawing to data, but as near as I can tell ArcView can't even take data directly from an Excel spreadsheet, which has to be the most common and easiest way to set up any simple database.

    Is this as good as it gets?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    arcview stinks at accepting spreadsheet or database data not it's own. You need to have the info in tab deliniated format for it to import. It's not a simple plug and chug process, in my experience.

    also, yes that is close to as good as it gets for now. One of the toughest parts of setting up a gis is setting up the queries. Once their setup or a simple user interface is developed, GIS is a breeze.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I cannot find many individual commands and no procedures that are intuitive. I sank to the level of finding an on-line tutorial...
    Did you actually think you could just jump on and use it?!! { Hee hee hee! } It's not a microwave oven!

    ArcView GIS is indeed easy to use, but it is not intuitive.

    Do the techies that you've hired know you are appalled at ArcView? I hope you paid them well, at least two-thirds of your chargeable rate, because they have valuable skills that have become intuitive for them!!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    ArcView 3.1? Can you even get tech support for that anymore? We're up past ArcMap 8.2 last I checked, and it doesnt support the old coverages that ArcMap relied on.

    As to intuitiveness, you shouldnt expect it, Lee. Sorry. This stuff is way past the old command line COGO mapping we learned in college. When software advances to the point that universities offer accedited masters degrees in its implementaiton and use, dont expect to open the box and *poof* analyze spatial data.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    GIS Gurus, I am confused.

    ... if you have to open the owner's manual or a tutorial or consult help more than twice, the software should be scrapped...
    It would have been considerably faster for me to dig out the mylar and india ink to accomplish what I have been trying and failing to do today.

    Ohhh the pain!!! I once worked with a guy who thought that computers them selves where a fad, and that GIS had no place in planning. Thank you for not being him. To maybe answer some of you questions, I have mixed feeling about 8.3, and I think that there might be much better programs out there, but I don’t think that any of them are in the same level as what you would want. So many things in our lives today require instruction manuals… heck my car tells me when my tire pressure is low, and that needs to be reset after I air it up. But it is these advances and learning opportunities that will allow our lives to be so much easier. My first job, the first thing that I did was to hand draw a bunch of maps. If the municipality had GIS at that time, those same maps could have been cranked out in far, far less time than required, and in such better quality. As for directly dumping information into GIS from an Excel sheet, if there is a common key such as a property ID number, it is a piece of cake. Just because you don’t understand the knowledge, does not mean you should fear it, for knowledge is not only powerful, it is the key to the future and to greatness. I know personally, I will never stop trying to achieve knowledge.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Ohhh the pain!!! I once worked with a guy who thought that computers them selves where a fad, and that GIS had no place in planning.
    The guy in charge of the county's "Automated Land Information System" feels the same way. He also feels that the public has no need to look at GIS info and the internet is a fad.

    Its great to have the key policymaker for digital mapping have that attitude.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man
    The guy in charge of the county's "Automated Land Information System" feels the same way. He also feels that the public has no need to look at GIS info and the internet is a fad.
    Its great to have the key policymaker for digital mapping have that attitude.
    Those type of people can be called "Luddites"
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    ArcView 3.x is very old. I think they are phasing out (or have phased out) tech support for it. ArcView 8.x is "windows based" and *is* "intuitive" -- if you know enough about maps, geography, blah, blah, blah.

    Some of the independent GIS systems have gotten together and are working on or releasing a "tool box" for readily transferring data between these various systems.

    You can manipulate the database for 8.x in Excel or Oracle or what have you.

    My professor who had been in GIS for like 20 years or whatever and did everything in 3.x typed most commands in via DOS. He loved 3.x. It has some features that they have not successfully transferred to 8.x. But it isn't at all intuitive for someone used to a windows environment. My class in environmental GIS was also taught in 3.x, I think partly because this was another "old timer" but the book we used was for 3.x so maybe environmental stuff just needs the capabilities of 3.x that didn't translate into 8.x. I am not sure.

    There are quite a few free GIS's out there, if you want to try some out without spending the big bucks it would take to get a current copy of ArcView. The top of the line version is something like $10,000 or $15,000 for a single license of the latest, greatest ArcView and if you are using a server-based system you may need multiple licenses. That isn't going to happen for me. I will soon be burning GRASS with gissix -- a linux thing -- to a disc. When I figure it all out, I would be happy to help you out. In the mean time, I can give you some links to free gis stuff, if you are interested.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    My college buddy( who after his undergrad in Planning did MBA- left the planing field altogether-) told me something which he was told by someone else.

    "Whenever in trouble- Introspect".
    So whenevr i get stuck i just check whether I'm operating properly.
    You may have done so I hope but i still suggest 'Just go step by step.'
    I think the very conceptof GIS requires a step by step aproach. As mentioned by michaelskis there are ways of getting the excel data into arcview. One way is the common ID. You can try using MS Access data also. There are table connect commands too.
    As more and more advances are taking place( esp with ESRI- MApobjects and ArcIMS) its definitely becoming easier to use the maps and add the information.
    I am a GIS consultant and no expert really, Im sure that with one gppdprogrammer who knows your requirement and under your guidance you can develop interesting map data sets and even query them.
    Its my personal experience that very useful interfaces can be designed once the data sets are connected and the maps are made more informative.
    In anycase Im sure if your maps are right and the supporting information correct then there should be no problem in creating useful GIS datasets presentations.
    Do try again and again with a fresh mind.
    I never read the whole manuals myself. Only when in doubt i read it to confirm whether what I'm thinking is possible and then with me and my programmer we just do it.

    Thanks lee for raising the issue. I almost itched to take on a new user name or even a footer message by the title" Map Maker", "Digital Mapmaker".
    My close interactions with the policy makers out here involve heavy discussions and ways and means to convince them about the digital maps and also the GIS component .Im happy to say that its creeping in slowly into the planning world now. Thanks to the E-governance initiatives.

    Michele this GRASS is that open GIS free software thing?
    I've heard about it a lot.MAybe its time for me to check it out.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  10. #10

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    Thanks for all the thoughts.

    I am no Luddite (although one should read the history of that period before being too harsh: the "lower classes" of England had been forced off the land at bayonet point, put to work in factories in positively hellish slums, and then were being told that they were no longer needed there either - what was left for them?), and it is clear to me that GIS is a useful tool.

    It is equally clear to me, however, that the developers of this software could have written it for the end user instead of for other "techies." I don't say this to disparage techies. I say it simply to state the obvious: which is that more people will benefit from GIS if they can use it themselves, to help draw their own conclusions. And this, by definition, has to include people whose learning style is not sequential.

    Michele: please give us all a report on GRASS when you have figured it out.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    I had a one day training session in Arc 3.1
    That is all the formal training I have gotten.
    I loved to work in 3.1, although they have just installed ArcMap for me and I am drouling to get started. The issue is that the date out is only as good as the data in, so unless you have the ability to create a great working data dictionay then it is usless in having the program.

    I truely have PMS (Pretty Map Syndrom) about GIS. I Love IT! And no I don't expect to use it without training.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian martini's avatar
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    I initally learned GIS on the 3.x series. Didn't like it everything seemed hard to do, even 'simple' procedures. Then I tried out teh 8.x series, and MAN! there's a huge difference 'tween the two. 8.x is really much more intiuitive, but you still have to know how to properly query what you're looking for. It's not that big an issue once you get used to it. I do prefer 8.x over 3.x, no doubt abou that.

    It truely is a bummer that a single license costs $10-$15k though. Thats a really hard pill for a smaller or even moderate sized community to swallow. I realize that it does cost quite a bit ot produce a program like this, but damn! There has to be a way to lower the price. I'd love to see a shareware(ala Linux) version of GIS come about to try and break up the monopoly ESRI has.
    You're more boring than you know.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by martini
    It truely is a bummer that a single license costs $10-$15k though. Thats a really hard pill for a smaller or even moderate sized community to swallow. I realize that it does cost quite a bit ot produce a program like this, but damn! There has to be a way to lower the price. I'd love to see a shareware(ala Linux) version of GIS come about to try and break up the monopoly ESRI has.
    You can get a version for $1500 without all the bells and whistles. (You can get a "student version" of that one for $250 if you are studying it in a class.) And I think there is an intermediary version for an intermediary price. But I learned on the high end one with all the bells and whistles and I know for a fact that ESRI has done something that even the folks who teach it consider unethical: the tool you need for properly converting the most common free dataset is ONLY available with the high end one.

    This is such a huge issue that there are a combo of free tools and inexpensive ($100 to $200, I think) tools available to help bridge the gap. But those are "techie", non-intuitive methods and not a "one button" solution and the free ones in particular tend to be a partial solution. You get the data converted but it is no longer "smart" data -- it can end up being just a "picture" without all the topology and stuff attached to it. This has a very limited use.

    GRASS is one of those things developed by the US government -- I can't remember "who" (Army Corps of Engineers, maybe?) and it is totally free -- not just gratis but libre, which is to say that you can get the code and modify it. Some people prefer it to ESRI's products. It is not yet fully compatible with XP. I didn't want to go to XP but I needed a laptop to go to GIS school and I couldn't find a laptop with the right specifications that didn't come with XP. Sigh. And hubby had just bought a book about how to install Red Hat, too, darn it. I have thought about uploading a different OS to my laptop but I am really not that techie. I have no love of technology or what have you. I just learn what I need to know to DO stuff. Period.

    I am not at a good place (mentally) to find my bookmarks and stuff for free GIS but I will try to do that and post more info soon. I want to sign up for the GRASS users list. I am on a couple of GIS lists but they are not chatty people. My brother in law assures me that there is daily traffic on the GRASS users list -- just what a sociable person like me needs in order to get oriented properly. (I got 2 answers to my question on some list and they were each like 2 sentences long. Do you bozos understand the concept of "hand-holding"???!! Sheesh. I swear they all have Asperger's -- but let's not go there.)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Some free sources at Geocomm http://software.geocomm.com/

    Free GIS http://freegis.org/index.en.html

    Official GRASS site http://grass.itc.it/

    Maptech’s Mapserver http://mapserver.maptech.com

    Open GIS Consortium http://www.opengis.org/

    Opensource CMS http://www.opensourcecms.com/ (not sure if this belongs here or not -- it is a "content management system", whatever that means)

    Spatial Focus is a GIS consulting firm that prefers to use free (open source) GIS and here is their free gis webpage: http://www.spatialfocus.com/this_site.html

    TIGER map server: http://tiger.census.gov/cgi-bin/mapbrowse-tbl

    Environmental GIS for the Neophyte (informational source) http://ice.ucdavis.edu/local/gis/

    BASINS (Better Assessment Science Integrating Point and Non-point Sources) this is a watershed-specific free-GIS. It seems to meet a unique need. I know water is a whole other animal, what with my vast knowledge (that “water flows downhill”) from taking Intro to Hydrology: http://www.epa.gov/ost/basins/

    And, last but not least – the solution for a dork like me who wants GRASS but has an XP machine:
    Bootable Linux CD with GRASS GIS preinstalled: http://www.gisix.fukengrueven.com/

  15. #15
    Member Hipockethipy's avatar
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    Ockams Razor

    I think the main reason you are having problems doing much in ArcView is because they made it that way, intentionally. ArcView is a 'view only' application that does not allow the manipulation of data. It allows you to become somewhat familiar with the Arc interface, file structure etc, but if you want the full works you would need to buy 'ArcINFO' or one of the other ESRI products other posters have mentioned. ArcVIEW can be downloaded free from ESRI's website.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hipockethipy
    I think the main reason you are having problems doing much in ArcView is because they made it that way, intentionally. ArcView is a 'view only' application that does not allow the manipulation of data. It allows you to become somewhat familiar with the Arc interface, file structure etc, but if you want the full works you would need to buy 'ArcINFO' or one of the other ESRI products other posters have mentioned. ArcVIEW can be downloaded free from ESRI's website.
    It is a little more complicated than that. I cannot tell you the various names but all the "arcview", "arcinfo", etc. have been recycled for their latest product and it is extremely confusing. They wanted to keep the name recognition and completely blew it as far as making it clear what you mean when you use their various "names".

  17. #17
    Member Hipockethipy's avatar
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    Indeed you are right, I was thinking of ArcEXPLORER. I used ArcINFO and ArcVIEW at Uni, but can't remember much. We use Mapinfo, which I prefer anyway. If I recall, at the time, ArcINFO was more dos based, for digitising maps while ArcVIEW was the more user-friendly windows based application for manipulation post digitisation ? Perhaps all this has changed ? But then again perhaps I didn't learn much

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    It would take some serious research for me to untangle and explain the history of names for ESRI products accurately. This is my best "off the top of my head" memory and I do not claim it is error-free:

    Originally, Arcview or Arcviewer was just a map viewer. By the time 3.x came out, it was a GIS. I think ArcInfo was the data catalog, which was a separate entity from ArcView. I am not sure exactly what ArcEditor did.

    Now, ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo are different "levels" of the same ArcGIS software for 8.x -- ArcView is the $1500 version. ArcEditor is the intermediary version. And ArcInfo is the high end ($15,000-ish) version. ArcReader is the free download for just reading maps. The ArcGIS family of software now contains both the data manipulation capalities and the data catalog, in an intuitive windows-based environment. There are additional products, like ArcIMS or ArcSDE for server systems. The ArcGIS products are "desktop" software -- and a lot of GIS professionals wouldn't really view them as a GIS at all. (Long story and we can go there if you really want to stupidly give me an excuse to run my mouth. It doesn't take much.)

    So, whereas "in the old days", ArcView and ArcInfo were completely different products with totally different functions, they are now kind of like the difference between Quicken and Quicken Deluxe: ArcInfo is the exact same software as ArcView but it has more conversion tools and "bells and whistles". And costs about 10 times as much.

    Part of the reason ESRI is so attached to these names -- and never mind how confusing it makes it -- is because the Arc part of the name references a giant leap forward in GIS software and has to do with the way the software 'thinks'. If I recall, ESRI invented this giant leap forward. And I understand them wanting to keep the Arc part in the name -- it revolutionized the industry. But I think they would have been better off with something like ArcGIS Basic, ArcGIS Pro, and ArcGIS Deluxe instead of recycling old names for products that are still in use and not likely to completely go away altogether any time soon.

    If I recall correctly, summer of 2002, ESRI was still offering some tech support for ArcView 3.3 but none for 3.2 or 3.1 and they had set a date for phasing out the tech support altogether for this older product. However, the national forest service and some other biggies still use this software and it would be incredibly expensive and time consuming to convert to the new software. With going to a different platform altogether -- converting to a windows environment -- there is no easy means to translate all that old data to the 8.x environment. Additionally, 8.2 lacked some of the topology of 3.x. That supposedly was being fixed in 8.3, but 8.3 was not out yet when I was in school and I haven't used it. I don't really know if they fixed it or not.

    There is an enormous investment in data, training and experience of personnel who have been with these organizations for years, etc. and the conversion would be a nightmare. Data represents about 60% of the overall cost of a GIS and your people and their expertise are the key ingredient in making this work. The software is a negligible investment compared to the importance of those two. And ESRI is shooting itself in the foot by including the conversion tool for the most common data source ONLY with the high end ArcInfo 8.x. If you could spend $2000 and have the basic essential tools you cannot live without, more folks might go this route. In my opinion, reserving that essential tool for its high end product that individuals cannot afford and a lot of small to mid-sized government entities also cannot afford amounts to blackmailing its customers. Fortunately, what that means is that it gives away a market to other, smaller fish and may be the means to break ESRI's near-monopoly of the American GIS market.

    In that vein, I did find the blurb about the interoperability announcement:
    ------
    GIS Vendors Launch Interoperability Initiative

    Aiming to advance the continuing evolution of open standards and enterprise interoperability, four prominent GIS vendors recently announced a major initiative to improve interoperability among their products. Open GIS Consortium (OGC, www.opengis.org) members Autodesk (www.autodesk.com), Intergraph (www.intergraph.com), Laser-Scan (www.laser-scan.com), and MapInfo (www.mapinfo.com) announced that they would work together to facilitate data sharing and access using Oracle (www.oracle.com) Spatial, an open enterprise database technology.

    <SNIP>

    A white paper and information about the interoperability kits is now available at www.intergraph.com/gis/interop/oracle.asp or www.autodesk.com/isd.
    -----

    For the full article:
    http://www.geospatial-online.com/geo...l.jsp?id=74192

  19. #19
    Cyburbian GeoTech's avatar
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    What about MapInfo??

    Our municipality uses MapInfo Professional for GIS/Mapping purposes. I think it works great, having used both programs. I think ArcView can be complex for most users, and is the most costly GIS program. Does anyone else have an opinion on MapInfo?

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    Oracle (www.oracle.com) Spatial, an open enterprise database technology.
    I quite agree with Michele that many advances are being made in the other softwares ti include the graphic/spatial content. Oracle spatial is a big leap as i say from the guys on the other side.( not on the GIS side).

    GeoTech, I've heard that MapInfo is much easier to use and smaller in size and many other aspects also. Let me tell you that I have been a hardcore ESRI user since the past seven years or so.
    But now i feel that its time for me to check out the other softwares too.

    As far as Arc View is concerned I agree to what has been mentioned earlier that its basically a viewing and presentation tool. frankly most of the data we do out here is directly converted from the dwg/dxf into arcview without even checking/building the topology in Arc Info as we used to do till some years back. Using this and some excel based data we develop the GIS sets and take some useful maps out.

    On the whole I still think that ESRI did definitely take some big leaps forward in this field. I am still a fan of theirs and their wide range of extensions( they may be confusing), research and applications worldwide. ( now aren't they the Microsoft of the GIS world? Tha speaks for the monopoly bit).
    But I can also tell you that India ESRI is quick selling its packages and sometimes the whole expensive ARcGIS package to many govt. departments( these guys have a lot of money to spend on IT). LAter on these departments get stuck with unopened packages/extensions and then really are not open to other softwares. That way theres a lot of work to do for guys like me.
    So before I go further I think i'll start looking further into GRASS and related stuff.

    AS far as Lee's original post, I think ARc View is not that bad afterall.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Doitnow!!
    LAter on these departments get stuck with unopened packages/extensions and then really are not open to other softwares. That way theres a lot of work to do for guys like me.
    The office my husband works in has an unopened box of ArcView. We joked about me offering the IT guy my services as a paid consultant to help them set it up. They have No Clue whatsoever. lol.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    Shhh!
    I cant resist telling you that last year I started working on aproposal for a large government programme for application of GIS. Did the ground work, developed the model. got the local ESRI guys to send the proposal, followed it up, specified the diftwares required.

    Then some gap.
    ESRI guys took over, other local consultants took charge, bypassed me, left me in the lurch adn lo behold when i meet the ESRi guys after some months they give me the good news.
    The whole ARcGIS package sold at 72,00,000 INR ( somewhere around 1,44,000 $) to these guys. Of course they offered some concessions ( i think almost fifty percent) so it finally cost around half of what i mentioned above.

    So I immediately ran to the officers and asked about the softwares. They led me to the shleves where the large carton having many unopened packages were lying.

    I wish them all the best and hope that one by they open, understand and apply the various arcview extensions( ARc SDE, et al...)

    Just one more example that i wanted to share with you all.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    now I know who you are. God, I'm slow.

    My husband is in the American military. He is really an infantry guy but has an office job at the moment. He works on computers all day most of the time and I am not sure what they were thinking when they bought this stuff. I can't imagine what they had fantasies they would do with it. And no one up there knows the first thing about how to use it. And I am not enough of an IT person to really help them set it up where it would be useful in any kind of meaningful way -- assuming that security issues wouldn't prevent it altogether from the get go.

    I have some vague idea of what kind of information my husband processes but I also know that if it is classified, well, there are serious restrictions on who can see what, etc. Can you imagine trying to set up some kind of server system under those circumstances? (EDIT: Never mind -- you likely *have* set up stuff under those circumstances.)Too bad I can't think of some excuse to have them write it off and send it home with hubby for my use. They do that sometimes with some kinds of old equipment that is "obsolete".

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Users finding the Arc suite of software difficult may obtain benefit from one of the online courses offered at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). There are several introductory as well as advanced courses.

    http://campus.esri.com/

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    ArcView is up to version 8?? We're still using Version 3!!
    I don't dream. I plan.

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    Last post: 03 Apr 2004, 2:07 AM