Using ArcGIS Earth’s Draw Features

Blog Post created by DPustam-esristaff Employee on Jun 27, 2017

Draw features have seen major updates since ArcGIS Earth’s initial release in January 2016. Users can now draw as well as edit points, lines, and polygons on ArcGIS Earth’s interactive globe. Draw features are simple and easy-to-use drawing tools in ArcGIS Earth that allow you to depict a point of interest, plan a route, or highlight a designated area. This is especially helpful for people in communities such as education, science, utilities, oil and gas, and defense and intelligence that use the ArcGIS Platform to capture and share information both internally and externally to their organization.


Draw Tools Highlighted on ArcGIS Earth’s Tool Bar


As an example, let’s travel to Hawaii to see how we can use ArcGIS Earth draw features to capture and visualize data.

Type ‘Kilauea Volcano’ into the search bar at the top right of the globe and ArcGIS Earth will fly you to the volcano. By default, ArcGIS Earth uses Esri’s World Geocoding Services to find the location.


ArcGIS Earth Search

The Kilauea Volcano, on the big island of Hawaii, continues to erupt and spew lava into the ocean, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Volcanologists are constantly on alert, gathering and analyzing data that might explain Kilauea’s behavior. They collect samples, monitor instruments, record notes, make sketches, and take pictures.


Working with Points

We can use the point features in ArcGIS Earth to represent monitoring instruments. To draw a point, select the draw tools indicated by a pencil icon to the top of left of the application. Selecting the pencil opens the drawing options for all draw features. Selecting the point option changes the pencil icon to three dots. The icon is highlighted in blue for the draw feature that is currently active. This is a typical behavior for the tools in ArcGIS Earth and makes it easy to know which tool is active at the time.


Selecting “point” opens an additional pane full of options to customize and tailor the feature. Once a point is selected, another pane opens that allows labeling, changing symbols, setting color, font sizes, altitude, and much more. Additional information such as text, links, and images can also be styled in HTML as shown in the example below.


Each time a point is created, the feature is automatically added to the Table of Contents under a default folder labeled My Drawings. Right clicking on the folder, will allow you to give the folder a more meaningful name such as Sensor Locations or Sample Points. Users can choose to group information together in this way. Double-click on a selected point feature in the TOC to fly its location. You can edit the feature’s properties by right-clicking on it and selecting properties from the context menu. When complete, individual or grouped features can be saved out as a KMZ file and shared. Get creative, add some additional points to represent sample locations, add color, text, pictures and links to your points!


Working with Lines

As you can image, to navigate a path to an active volcano like Kilauea would be no easy task. From time to time the instruments will need to be inspected and more samples taken. Demarcating the safest path to the volcano would be a good way to keep other colleagues safe and on track. To draw the path, select the line option from the drawing tools. A path can be drawn starting from the Hawaii National Park to the east to an office near the volcano. Click at each vertex in the road to get a line that closely matches the intended route. A double click of the mouse will finish the line. (TIP: ArcGIS Earth allows you to select your own basemap, if you haven't already, try changing your basemap to OpenStreetMap).


Safe Route to Instrument

The volcanologist also wants to help colleagues get a good idea of the terrain. You can tilt the globe by holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse to adjust your view. (TIP: You can also use the W and S keys on the keyboard). Select the View tab on the Draw Features pane and click on Snapshot Current View. Once set, when the feature is clicked on the TOC, the camera will automatically zoom to that view.


Terrain in ArcGIS Earth defaults to ArcGIS Online World Elevation Service.  One of the highly popular features of ArcGIS Earth is the ability users have to select their own elevation as well as basemap content.


Working with Polygons

Polygons are also simple to create in ArcGIS Earth. In the example below, a polygon is selected from the Draw Tools menu to represent the outline of a crater. An image was added to the feature, using the image function on the info tab. All draw features have this capability. Try adding an image of your own!



Some other useful hints include using Undo and Redo or keyboard shortcuts to control the editing process, and right-clicking the layer properties in the table of contents to reopen the Edit panel to start editing again.



The Smithsonian Institute Global Volcanism Program provides a network linked KML feed that contains their Weekly Volcanic Activity Report. The KML includes updated reporting on volcanoes such as Kilauea.  (HINT: If ArcGIS Earth is set as your default application for reading KMLs, downloading this file immediately launches it on the globe). It is a great research source to use for this scenario! Explore ArcGIS Online and search for Kilauea to add additional authoritative content from Esri’s Living Atlas.


ArcGIS Earth draw features are simple and easy to use for highlighting point of interests, planning routes and more. Look out for more enhancements to the draw features soon!


ArcGIS Earth is free to download and use, try it today!