Ground Distance Template Cursor

08-17-2012 10:13 AM
Status: Open
Labels (1)
Occasional Contributor

I would like to see "Ground Distance Template Cursors" built into ArcMap.

These would be rings or boxes that move along with the standard pointer regardless of the setting, (They would exist whether you were collecting a feature, using the hand tool, drawing a box, etc.)

The purpose of these would be to help visualize distances without using the measure tool.  User could set multiple rings, specify color, thickness and transparency.  User would also specify the radius distance (feet, meters, inches, etc) and ArcMap would handle whatever conversion was necesscary based on current map.  Also could specify an area... for example a two acre cursor.

These rings would scale dynamically as the map is zoomed in or out to always show the selected ground distance.

I think this would be very useful to visualize distances.... sometimes project criteria calls for us to digitize features from imagery.... may call for lakes > 1 acre and Rivers wider than 100'.  If we had these specialized cursors, then without using the measure tool, a user could tell at a glance if a feature met those qualifications.

Please consider this for future update.


Any progress on a cursor tool like this?  Unsure what the difficulty is in creating this....  Symbols can scale dynamically as we zoom in and out on a map.  Why can't we have a helpful tool do the same things for quickly visualizing distances without having to pull out the 'Measure Distances' tool?


Hi David,

Since this original idea already has some votes, I don't want to mark it as a duplicate and send users to the new one logged recently Cursor Rings to Visualize Distance‌  I do like the additional explanation provided in the new idea, and will copy it here:


Simple tool to toggle rings around cursor.

The radius/diameter of these rings could be managed through a dialog.

As user zooms in/out in ArcMap... the apparent size of the ring would change to represent the distance set. (Zoom in ring "appears" larger... zoom out it appears smaller..)



Sometimes while digitizing features from imagery we need to quickly visualize distances... for example is this river > 100'  wide... or is this pond > 2 acres.  Having these "template cursors" on would allow us to make that determination without ever needing a map scale or using the measure tools. Especially useful because when zooming in/out one can quickly lose a sense of scale.


Further Ideas for Improvements to the tool:

Multiple cursors at once.

Possibly a Square cursor.

Allow us to enter Area (sq feet or acres)

Choice of colors/thickness/transparency for these tools.

A quick toggle to flip these on/off as toolbar button or function key.

Optional small label identifying what each radius represents.

This one has been reviewed and I'll share it with the appropriate development team to see if it can be considered.  I'll close the new idea as a duplicate of this one.

Thank you!


David Cakalic‌ Here is a thought that was just shared with me - it will get you part way there and something to work with for now.

ArcGIS Pro has an editing grid that is always available: Enable the editing grid—ArcGIS Pro | ArcGIS Desktop .  You could turn that on and adjust the grid size to give you squares of a known area, which gives you a good, quick idea of areas when you're exploring your map.


Thanks for the tip Kory,

Unfortunately, we must continue using ArcGis Desktop (not ArcGis Pro) as we require tools/extensions/other software that are not compatible.

But your idea, did get me to think about another workaround… and maybe you could expand on that with your knowledge. I created a couple drawing shapes (one square, one circular) which are roughly 2 acres in area. Currently I drag the square one around with me as I pan through my raster (I’m looking for ponds/lakes that exceed two acres…. I’m using the shapes as a rough estimate of size ) If there was a way I could avoid having to drag them around and instead drop one of those shapes on demand at my current location as a size comparison,that could be useful.


Do you have Spatial Analyst?  It sounds like a much more efficient workflow would be to classify lakes/ponds as such and convert to features: An overview of the Segmentation and Classification toolset—Help | ArcGIS Desktop 

Then show which are greater than 2 acres.


No, we don't have Spatial Analyst.... not exactly sure how that tool works... but my use case is actually a bit more involved than classifying over imagery... it was just the most easily understandable without getting too verbose. I considered a fishnet as well, but I'd really like something to move around as needed... .and huge fishnet of 2 acre polygons is SLOW for the size area I need.

Currently I've got a clunky work around... but it works better than I'd expected:

  • Using a 3rd party macro creator, I created a macro that simulates me drawing a box on the screen (click-drag-release.)
  • I assigned that macro to a keyboard combo using AutoHotkey.
  • I use a Logitech G13 game pad which also allows me to record keystrokes... so I recorded one that performs a right-click and walks through the modification of the graphic rectangle to be roughly dimensions of a 2 acre square. (92m x 92m... a little big, but ok for my uses... its a template after all.

ArcMap doesn't let me define a keyboard shortcut to ACTIVATE the draw rectangle tool, otherwise it could be completely automated... currently I must:

  1. Activate the Draw rectangle tool (if I don't do this I risk accidentally changing some other settings...)
  2. Move mouse to middle of screen
  3. Hit a button on my G13 which
    1. Calls my AutoHotkey macro to draw a polygon for me
    2. Activates Right-click menu on the object (since my mouse is still over it) and goes to its properties.
    3. Walks through all the keypresses to change the size of the graphic element and hit ok.

BOOM!  Semi-instant 2 acre template at my current map location which I can drag around as a rough size comparison.

Why ArcMap never included ability to record these types of macros has always frustrated me... it could have saved hours upon hours of repetitive tasks over the years and been more accessible to everyday users than python scripting.


Note is is very similar to a string that was started just a few weeks prior in July of 2012.

"Dynamic scale bar for data view"

Perhaps there can be some cross exchange for points/ideas?



I would love to see this.  Configurable Concentric rings around the cursor are very valuable for data production with spacing requirements.   


This is a cool idea. I like it.


Did this ever become a tool? Cursor Rings to Visualize Distance‌  It would be wonderful to have this tool. For example, if you need to drawl in a new line route for a transmission line that has a right-of-way width of 50' (25' left & right of centerline "aka cursor") you can quickly see as you are digitizing point for your line the spacing between your centerline and all objects around you. The tool would give people the ability to see spacing/distance as they are actively digitizing in point, line or area features. This would save so much time on during the feature collection process. An editor would not have to stop and start their editing session every time they needed to check and make sure there is enough space between a house and the transmission their mapping in.