The data frame displays a collection of layers drawn in a particular order for a given map extent and map projection. The table of contents on the left side of the map window shows the list of layers in the data frame.
Each layer in the data frame is used to display information from a dataset (such as a feature class or an image file). The table of contents lists the drawing order of each layer.
You work with features, rasters, and layers within the data frame in ground units (using feet, meters, and so on). When you create a map, it contains a default data frame listed in the table of contents as Layers (you can rename it if you want).
In data view, the display window is the data frame—showing the map layers of the active data frame drawn according to their order in the table of contents from bottom to top.
Working with additional data frames
While in many maps, you'll only need one data frame, you can add more data frames by clicking Insert > Data Frame on the main menu. You can remove a data frame by right-clicking the data frame name in the table of contents and selecting Remove.
The active data frame
When your map document contains more than one data frame, you will have one that is the active data frame; that is, the one you are actively working with. The active data frame name is shown in bold in the table of contents. To make a data frame active, right-click on its name in the table of contents and select Activate.
Moving layers between data frames
When you have more than one data frame and add layers to the map, they're added to the active data frame. You can move layers from one data frame to another by selecting them and then dragging them into the target data frame.
Navigating in the data frame and working with its layers
The Tools toolbar is one of the primary ways that you interact with geographic information displayed in the data frame. It contains tools for working with the contents within the active data frame, for example, to pan and zoom your map, to identify features, and to measure distances.
Functions on the Tools toolbar
Allows you to zoom in to a geographic window by clicking a point or dragging a box.
Allows you to zoom out from a geographic window by clicking a point or dragging a box.
Allows you to pan the data frame.
Allows you to zoom to the full extent of your map.
Fixed Zoom In
Allows you to zoom in on the center of your data frame.
Fixed Zoom Out
Allows you to zoom out on the center of your data frame.
Allows you to go back to the previous extent.
Allows you to go forward to the next extent.
Allows you to select features graphically, by clicking or dragging a box around them. You can also use the Select By Polygon, Lasso, Circle, and Line tools to select features using graphics drawn to the screen.
Unselects all the currently selected features in the active data frame.
Allows you to select, resize, and move text, graphics, and other objects placed on the map.
Identifies the geographic feature or place on which you click.
Triggers hyperlinks from features.
Triggers HTML pop-up windows from features.
Measures distances and areas on your map.
Finds features in the map.
Allows you to calculate point-to-point routes and driving directions.
Go To XY Location
Allows you to type an x,y location and navigate to it.
Open Time Slider Window
Opens a time slider window for working with time-aware layers and tables.
Create Viewer Window
Allows you to create a new viewer window by dragging a rectangle.
In addition, right-clicking in the data frame displays a context menu of data navigation tools.
Interactive panning and zooming using basemap layers
Smooth, continuous panning and zooming can be turned on and are productive, especially when using basemap layers.
Improving display performance
You can use a number of approaches to ensure better drawing performance of your data frames. Here are a few of the approaches you can take:
Data frame properties
Each data frame is a geographic window for displaying GIS information. Data frames have properties that define the context for displaying and working with the data they contain. To view and set properties of a data frame, follow these steps:
- Right-click the data frame's name in the table of contents (or the data frame on the layout).
- Click Properties and click the various tabs to view and set data frame properties. You can set and review various properties under each tab on this dialog box.
The coordinate system is one of the most important properties because it defines the map projection for the data frame. Typically, the coordinate system of your data frame is determined by the coordinate system of the first dataset you add to your map. All other added datasets will be projected on the fly to match the coordinate system. You can review and set the data frame's coordinate system from the Coordinate System tab on the Data Frame Properties dialog box.
In addition, other properties can be set from this dialog box. These include adding grids and graticules; setting the full extent of your map window when you click the Full Extent button; creating and managing a feature cache to boost performance across a network; and setting appearance properties such as the position of the data frame on the page, borders, and background.
See Working with data frames in page layouts for how to use many of the tabs on the Data Frame Properties dialog box.
Setting the map scale of your data frame's map display
You can set a specific map scale at which to view data in your map frame using the Map Scale drop-down list on the main menu. Type in the desired map scale or choose one from the drop-down list.
See Working with map scales to learn more about working with map scales in ArcMap.
Map navigation using bookmarks
Bookmarks provide a way to locate specific areas on your map that users can navigate to easily. When you are using ArcMap and find an extent that you want to mark, you can add a bookmark to your map that will make it easy for others to find it later on.
See Using spatial bookmarks for more information.
Working with the data frame tools
The Data Frame Tools toolbar is available for working with data frames. You can open this toolbar by clicking Customize > Toolbars > Data Frame Tools on the main menu.
Using these tools, you can rotate your map contents in the data frame and use a collection of your own places (My Places) for map navigation. See Using My Places for more information on using place-names to navigate around your maps.
Common data frame tasks
Here are some common operations and links to more information on performing each:
|Common tasks||Where to go for information|
Setting or changing the coordinate system
Controlling the map extent
Zooming and navigating a map
Creating an inset or reference map
Customizing the appearance of a data frame on the layout page
Changing the extent used by the Full Extent button
Improving the performance of map display