Essential vocabulary


Depending on your data and choice of location type, you may be able to take advantage of the aggregate functionality when adding data. Aggregating data is a method of summarizing it so that it is easier to analyze and explore. If you aggregate your data, ArcGIS for Office creates an Excel PivotTable and adds it as a worksheet to your existing Excel workbook. For example, you can aggregate office location data to show the total number of employees in each state, as opposed to the individual office locations that might span multiple cities in a single state.


ArcGIS provides an online infrastructure for making maps and geographic information available throughout an organization, across a community, and openly on the web. By signing in to your ArcGIS organization, you can access ready-to-use maps and apps, or create maps that help you tell a story. With ArcGIS for Office, you can combine your business data with data from ArcGIS to create detailed maps that help you analyze your data visually and make better decisions. ArcGIS also allows you to share your maps and map layers within your organization or with colleagues in the field.

For more information, see About ArcGIS for Office.


Areas are enclosed polygons that represent the shape and location of homogeneous features such as states, counties, parcels, and land-use zones.


Attributes are fields and values for a single feature or nonspatial record. They are typically stored in a database or service, such as a feature service. Attributes are used to classify and filter data in data-driven visualizations.


After you've added your Excel data to a map, you can update the values in your spreadsheet and insert or delete rows and columns, and the map automatically refreshes to reflect the changes. Changes are also reflected automatically in pop-ups.


A basemap provides a geographical context, or background, for the content you want to display in a map. With ArcGIS for Office, you can choose from several basemaps hosted on ArcGIS. These basemaps include many options that combine road, aerial, and topographic data with a variety of symbology. If your organization makes them available, you can also access basemaps in your ArcGIS organization.


Clustering in ArcGIS for Office refers to grouping point features that are within a certain distance of each other into one symbol. This is different from grouping, in which features are grouped by a user-specified category and styled accordingly.

Coordinate system

Coordinate systems provide a framework for defining real-world locations.

In ArcGIS for Office, you can choose between World Geodetic Survey 1984 (WGS84), Web Mercator, and several other supported coordinate systems. You can also import a custom coordinate system from a map or feature service hosted on ArcGIS.

A geographic coordinate system is used to find locations on a globe or sphere. WGS84 is a common geographic coordinate system in which every location on the earth is specified by a set of numbers (coordinates). Coordinates are often expressed as latitude and longitude values.

A projected coordinate system is used to translate locations on a globe to locations on a flat surface, such as a monitor or paper map. Web Mercator is a common projected coordinate system in which locations are identified by x,y coordinates on a grid, with the origin at the center of the grid. Coordinate values in the Web Mercator system generally have 6, 7, or 8 digits to the left of the decimal, and the units are meters. If you are unsure which coordinate system you should use, contact the originator of your data or the person who collected it.


A set of values represented by the letters x and y that define a position within a spatial reference. Coordinates are used to represent locations in space relative to other locations. Coordinates are often shown in latitude-longitude pairs, where x-coordinates range from -180 to 180 and y-coordinates range from -90 to 90, or as values with 6, 7, or 8 digits to the left of the decimal point. When using ArcGIS for Office, these value pairs are often composed of the values from two columns in your data.


Geographic features are representations of things located on or near the surface of the earth. Geographic features can occur naturally (such as rivers and vegetation), can be constructions (such as roads, pipelines, wells, and buildings), and can be subdivisions of land (such as counties, political divisions, and land parcels). Geographic features are most commonly represented as points, lines, or polygons. In ArcGIS for Office, data you have added is often referred to as features on the map.

Feature service

A feature service is a collection of geographic features. Each feature in the collection has a location, set of properties, map symbology, and pop-up. You can search for feature services on ArcGIS and add them to your map. When you add a feature service to your map, it becomes one or more layers in the map.


Grouping is the process of placing features in user-specified categories and styling them accordingly.

Heat map

When you have too many points on your map to interpret patterns or make sense of the information, consider using a heat map. A heat map represents point features as density using colors. Areas where colors are the most intense indicate the highest point density.


A layer is the way in which ArcGIS for Office visually represents geographic datasets. A layer is rendered as a map, and each layer has a legend. A map can contain multiple layers. On a road map, for example, roads, national parks, political boundaries, and rivers may be considered different layers. When you add Excel data to a map, ArcGIS for Office creates a layer and displays it in the layer list. Once the layer is created, functionality such as determining visibility, configuring style, and setting transparency is enabled.


Lines represent the linear nature of a feature. For example, the length of a road is the primary interest, while the width of the road may be of secondary interest, so the map displays the road as linear, but the width can be added as an attribute.


A map displays geographic data and allows you to explore and interact with that data. You can add Excel data directly to the map and combine it with additional content from ArcGIS Online.

You can then save the map in the worksheet or create a map slide in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Map service

A map service is a prestyled collection of map cartography organized by location and scale. You can search for map services on ArcGIS and add them to your map. When you add a map service to your map, it becomes one or more layers in the map.


The values in the selected Divided By attribute are used to divide the value of the attribute used to style the map to create ratios. Normalization ratios are useful when other factors influence the numerical values you are classifying and displaying. For example, population can be influenced by each county's size, so you can divide population by area to standardize the data. Data normalization is also useful for providing a meaningful comparison if the values in the fields do not use the same units of measurement.


Shift a map image relative to the display window without changing the viewing scale. Panning a map can also be thought of as moving the map image in the display window so you can see different parts of the map.

PivotTable (Excel)

A PivotTable is an Excel tool you can use to create worksheets that can be sorted, filtered, and rearranged dynamically to emphasize different aspects of your data. In ArcGIS for Office, a PivotTable is used when adding aggregated data. PivotTables can also be used as input for adding Excel data to a map. A pivot table will not be added to the Add data wizard if it contains a nonnative data type, has a hierarchy, or has more than one row label. Nonnative data types are typically generated by third-party Excel plug-ins and do not directly conform to normal data types stored in a relational database management system (RDBMS). For more information, see Overview of PivotTable and PivotChart reports.


Points represent discrete locations of geographic features too small to be depicted as lines or areas, such as well locations, telephone poles, and stream gauges. Points can also represent address locations, Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates, or mountain peaks.

Polygons or areas

Polygons are enclosed areas (many-sided figures) that represent the shape and location of homogeneous features such as states, counties, parcels, and land-use zones. Polygons are often called areas.

Table (Excel)

In Excel, a table is an item specifically created by the user of the workbook (and is not equivalent to the spreadsheet). To see if there are any tables in your spreadsheet, click the Name Manager button on the Formulas tab on the ribbon. For more information, see Overview of Excel tables.

Web map

An ArcGIS web map is an interactive display of geographic information that you can use to tell a story and answer questions. For example, you can create a map that addresses the question, How many people in the United States live within a reasonable walk or drive to a supermarket? The map can contain layers showing neighborhoods within a 10-minute drive or 1-mile walk to a supermarket, and for context, a topographic basemap that includes cities, roads, and buildings overlaid on land-cover and shaded-relief imagery. You can search for web maps on ArcGIS and add them to your map. When the web map is added to your map, the individual layers in the web map become layers in your map.

Worksheet (Excel)

A worksheet is the primary document you use in Excel to store and work with data. A worksheet is sometimes called a spreadsheet. It consists of cells organized into columns and rows. A worksheet is always stored in a workbook.