GIS Tips – Never be youre own QA but if you do…..

Yes, I deliberately put that typo in, shame on you if you didn’t spot it….There is not much more that winds me up more than seeing a typo on a map, there is no excuse, no matter how busy you are it can be avoided. I have a new game though, thanks to the wonders of copyright and liability, I am finding that more cartographers and GIS technicians are putting their email addresses or phone numbers on their maps, allowing me to contact them and remind them of their err.

Where should you place your trash bags? Http://


Isn’t St Katherine’s Dock supposed to be wet & where is City Hall?  – Apple Maps

Get a GIS “buddy”

The easiest way to avoid typos or simple mistakes is to find a colleague who can give you 5 minutes of their time every time you make a new map. This is controversial, but in my experience, the best advice has always come from the people you really don’t get on with as they WANT to find your mistakes….it’s true – there is a certain Polish Geomatics manager out there that I have a real love/hate for, as much as we didn’t get on, she had an amazing eye for detail!!

Use a checklist

You’ve been doing GIS/Cartography/Geomatics/Geo-“something” for 5 million years, you don’t need a checklist….WRONG! Its these Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) traits that get it right, if you go to your sheet and check each item everytime, you may not catch the simple typo but you WILL catch that blatantly obvious feature which isn’t drawing. Try using or adapting the one below:


  • Template – Is the correct template being used?
  • License– Check all data used and make sure the correct licenses are displayed and at the correct font size (8pt minimum)
  • Line work – Look over figure in layout view at 25% to see if any template lines are not docked correctly to frame and docked correctly
  • Legend – Marquee select data frame using identify tool, are all features shown which should be in legend?  Are there features in the legend which aren’t supposed to be there?
  • Text – Is all text the correct size?
  • Spelling – Is all text spelt correctly? Are agreed terms being used?
  • Job request – Have all requests on job request been completed?
  • Project code & Figure number – Correct codes/numbers being used?
  • Date – Correct date being used?
  • Revision – Correct revision number indicated? Each new job request should have a new revision number
  • Data Source – Are correct data sources referenced?
  • Scale bar – Ensure this is 8pt and reflects scale of figure
  • Scale text – Ensure this is 8pt and reflects correct scale and page size
  • Coordinate System, datum, Spheroid –Are these all correct and do they use the agreed terminology (OSGB 1936 BNG, WGS 1984, WGS 1984 Zone 30N Complex etc)
  • Grid/Graticules – Are there at least 3 vertical and horizontal lines? Is the correct type being used? (WGS84 = Grats, OSGB36 = Grid)
  • Data frame – Are all features displayed clearly and where they sit on top of each other, are they clearly visible? Does the data sit on the map without looking distorted or off centre?
  • Inset map – Is the location correctly indicated?

Use a tool

In previous editions of ArcGIS it was possible to use the VBA engine to spellcheck your map – Here.  I haven’t tested this in ArcGIS 10.0 or 10.1  & assume it won’t work due to the removal of the VBA element, hence the cry for it to be added: see here. There are tools which can be bought like the appropriately named “Spellchecker 4.0” but don’t expect it to be cheap as they are an ESRI partner 😉 Spellchecker

At present I am not aware of any spell checker with QGIS, though I am sure that the QGIS community will point me in the right direction and remind me that it should be easy to put in……

Assumption is the mother of all……

Never assume that you have it nailed, always remember to take a 10 minute eye break and revisit your map/output one last time before you issue it, I guarantee that those fresh eyes will always spot something!!

Nick D

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