As a Mapinfo Professional trained user starting ArcMap for the first time I was comforted by the presence of some familiar looking buttons for map navigation and standard functions like saving and printing.
However as soon as I tried to open a layer for the first time this is where things started to feel a little less familiar. Being used to opening a Tab file from the File menu and expecting to do the same with a Shape file I found this was not the case. The solution is to use the Catalog window typically docked on the right hand side. Having gotten used to the Catalog which is basically an explorer window where one can drag and drop files into the ‘Map Window, sorry ‘Data Frame’.
Yes some of the terminology is different and some features and functions work a bit differently and are located in different places. I found the help excellent and the ability to search for features means that if you know what you want to do, you should be able to find the tool or function to do it and with useful instructions including information on fields/parameters which are made interactively available.
The Catalog window gives access to a number of file types including shapefiles (*.SHP), MXD’s (Map Documents) which are like workspaces and Geodatabases including features etc.
You will probably want to invert the scroll wheel setting on the mouse for zooming in and out as I find the default setting counter intuitive, however this could be a result of what I am used to. To invert go to Customize->ArcMap Options->General and Select Roll Forward Zooms In.
Once you spend a little time acquainting yourself with the interface you will wonder how you ever got by without Geodatabases, Topologies or Model Builder. So make the investment, take the plunge and don’t look back, you will be glad you did.
By Nathaniel Meyer