How do I import a text waypoint file into ArcView?

Step 1: From text to Excel

At this point, you need to have a text file of your waypoints. If you haven't downloaded waypoints from your receiver yet, then here are some instructions for doing so.

What we need to do now is import that file into Excel so that we can make it into a .dbf file. Start Excel. Now go to File - Open, change Files of type: to 'All Files (*.*)' and open your file.

This starts the Text Import Wizard:

Text Import Wizard

You'll probably want to leave the file type as delimited and just click on the Next button.

Text Import Wizard 2

On this screen, you'll choose the delimiter for your file. Common delimiters are comma and tab. Sometimes there are space-delimited files as well. You will have a chance to correct errors once you have your file in Excel, so things don't have to be perfect now.

Step 2: Cleaning your file in Excel

There is no way to give a step-by-step process for cleaning up your data. Data formats vary widely. However, here are a couple of commands that may prove useful and an endpoint to shoot for:

Text to Columns is a useful command if your import wasn't perfect. In the screenshot below, the Northing and Easting data is in one column and needs to be separated. The command to use is Data - Text to Columns which will open a wizard much like the Text Import Wizard that you've already used.

Text to Columns

In the same screenshot above you can see that there are text characters in the position data. You can perform a Find and Replace function to remove them:

Excel Replace

This example shows a replacement of 'N' with nothing, effectively removing the N from the front of the northing positions. In the same way you can replace a 'W' with a '-' to get negative eastings.

In the end, what you want are columns for easting and northing positions and whatever other data you want associated with the points. You need to have a row of headers also:

Type North East
Waypoint 40.7922 -77.8681
Waypoint 40.81.9 -77.8410
Trackpoint 40.7924 -77.8679
Trackpoint 40.7922 -77.8681

Step 3: Export the data from Excel

Once your data is formatted correctly, place your cursor on the top left cell ("A1") and then go to File - Save As. Set the file type to 'DBF 4 (dBASE IV) (*.dbf)' and give it a name.

Save As

When you click Save you will get a dialog box telling you that your file "may contain features that are not compatible with DBF 4" and asking if you want to use the format anyway. Click 'Yes'. Now you can close Excel. Ignore it's warning that there are changes to your file.

Step 4: Import the data to ArcView

Open ArcView with a blank project. Click on Tables and press the Add button. Navigate to the directory containing the database file and open it up.

Add Table

The result is a table with the headers that you specified. Make a note which columns contain the easting and northing measurements.

Arcview New Table

Create a new view. Then go to View - Add Event Theme:

Add Event Theme

Choose the easting column for X field and northing for Y field, then hit OK. The result is a new theme with your data in it. Lastly, convert the theme into a shapefile with Theme - Convert to Shapefile and then you can manipulate your new data as you wish in ArcView.

Convert to Shapefile