How to import point (vector) data from Excel to ArcMap

This post is meant to help less experienced ArcMap users with a common work flow. Here I am using ArcMap 9.3.

Goal: to import point data from Excel into an ArcMap project.

Data: here I am using a table of point data with the format

ID                Latitude (Digital Degrees)                 Longitude (Digital Degrees)

The Longitude row was converted to positive/negative  values (-180 to 180 degrees) from data in the format 0-360 degrees using the Excel formula: =if(A1>180.0, A1-360, A1) .

Step 1.

First we save the Excel Worksheet in the Excel 1997-2003 .xls format to ensure compatibility. Then we can open this file in ArcMap using the ‘Add Data’ button (a black cross on a yellow background . Alternatively you can select ‘Add Data’ from the File menu. Note that you should also select the worksheet (Sheet1$ for example) by double clicking on the Excel file.

Step 2.

The Excel worksheet should have appeared at the bottom of the  Layers List. If this list isn’t present go to the Window menu and select Table of Contents.

Right click on the Table that you have just imported and select ‘Display X,Y Data’. This will allow us to convert the Table into point data.  Make sure your ‘Y Field’ corresponds to you Latitude/Northing column and your ‘X Field’ to your Easting or Longitude column.

If there is a message stating ” Unknown Coordinate System” click ‘Edit’ and then ‘Select a predefined coordinate system’. Choose the correct system for your data. In my case it is:

Geographic Coordinate Systems > World > WGS84

Having applied the coordinate system choice, we can finish the ‘Display X, Y Data’ process.

Step 3.

Your data should now have appeared in the Layers List/Table of Contents and in the Data Frame. These data are not yet saved: they are temporary. Right click the Layer that you have just displayed (using step 2). Select Data> and then Export Data to save the file as a Shapefile or similar.

Hey presto! You have loaded a Table into your map and saved them as a point layer.

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