It seems I’ve gotten old, the last time I seriously used a GIS was about 15 years ago, and that was MapInfo and I used it for mapping out locations and that’s about it. Before that it was a DOS based system.
Recently I have wanted to do my own project for my local county. I installed GRASS and QGIS and downloaded some shapefiles from the local county government to play with. Except now I’m really confused. I’ve tried reading the Wiki page on shapefiles and don’t really understand it.
My problem is that when I open my data, for instance roads, all the roads are the same line weight and I can not find out how to change that. Even when I go to make my own shapefile I can seem to only have one type of point or line, if I try and change one they all change color or size. Gotten to be really frustrating.
When I started to read up on shapefiles, it almost seems that each file can be one, and only one type of feature, which really makes no sense. This can’t be correct is it? I can’t need one file for highways, one for state roads and another one for dirt roads can I?!
My project that I’d like to do is take an old county atlas, one done in the 1870s, and redo it digitally. The problem is that this atlas was not done by professional surveyors, but rather buy people walking along with a measuring wheel and taking people’s names who own the property. So while the map works, it’s not a great representation of the real world. I can however, warp the map and shift it to work well enough. Since a lot of the roads haven’t changed much it’s easy enough to put a point at an intersection. The point isn’t to have the new map be exact, but rather be able to look up a name and say, oh, near that intersection and go from there.
About a year ago I made an excel index of all the names in the atlas, thousands of them. I would have thought, and hoped, that I could import the spreadsheet, sans coordinates, select the name and place a point in a new shapefile. However, it seems that ArcInfo, which I have access to at work, doesn’t operate this way. Asking in some GIS forums didn’t help as they said I would need coordinates to start out with. Is there a way to create a shapefile without having and coordinates? I’d rather not have to retype in thousands of names. I have other spreadsheets where I do have some coordinates, but even if some are blank I can’t get the import to work.
This can’t be that difficult can it? I must be missing some sort of basic knowledge.