fGIS - Menu Functions

Get fGIS now...click here


Menu Functions


Map Menu:

  • New Project: Navigate to the folder where you want to save the project name. Type in a name and click "Open" to create the project. Project files for fGIS have a ".ttkgp" file extension. (This is the same extension used by the TatukGIS® Viewer and Editor, both of which are also built with the excellent TatukGIS Developer Kernel. There are many differences between fGIS and the unique TatukGIS® products. You might, however, want to look at the TatukGIS Help PDF for additional insight into some of the common elements such as Properties and Search functions.)

    • The project file stores the relative path to any data layers that are added to the map. This can be useful if you choose to copy your project to a zip folder or CD, enabling another user to easily open the project on their computer if you've included the data files all in one folder or in the same relative arrangement of folders.

    • The first georeferenced layer that you add to a project will establish its base coordinate system (world space). All the layers added to an fGIS project must be in a common coordinate system if they are to line up.

    • The fGIS project file saves the paths to data layers, layer display properties, the last zoomed view, whether layers were turned on (visible), and other project parameters.

  • Open Project: Navigate to an existing project file and double-click the ttkgp file to open it. The project will resume with the last saved view. (You might want to associate ttkgp files with fGIS so you can open them by double-clicking through the Windows file manager. See Windows® Explorer Help if you do not know how to associate file types with programs.)

  • Save Project/Save Project As: Same functions as other Windows programs.

  • Add/Delete Layer, All Layers On/Off, Unhide All Layers:

    • Layers can be added/deleted with these commands, or you can use the buttons on the main toolbar.

    • If you have a lot of layers in a project, the All Layers Off command can be a shortcut if you want to selectively turn individual layers back on. On older computers, the view will redraw more quickly if fewer layers are turned on.

    • Unhide All Layers will redisplay loaded layers in the Table of Contents (Legend). Use the "Hide Layer" command in the Layer Menu if layer names are taking up too much space in a legend.

  • Zoom to Scale sets the screen view. The scale of a printed map is set through the Print function on the toolbar. 

  • Search will highlight all of a project's vector objects that contain attribute data that match the search criteria. Powerful Boolean search options are available.

Click the "Add Text" button to place your search criteria into the Search Text box. In this simple example, the map will be zoomed to a Wisconsin Public Land Survey Section located in Township 11, Range 06E, Section 24 (DTRS code 4110624). The data files for this example are available in the State_Park.zip project example.

  • Spatial Selection: Instead of searching on property attributes, use the Spatial Selection tool to choose objects from a variety of spatial parameters, including those

Building on the previous Search example (above), the following Spatial Selection would zoom to all Section objects within 5,000 feet of DTRS 4110624.

  • Bookmarks: Save views centered on designated X/Y values and zoom level.

  • Layer Projection Units: The two options are Meters (UTM, WTM, etc.) and Feet (State Planes, County Coordinate System, etc.). New projects will default to Meters.  This setting will only affect distance and area measurements and calculations.

  • Scalebar Units: The choices are feet or meters, which will affect the scalebar: e.g. or

  • Selection: Options allow a choice for color and transparency of selected objects. The settings are saved to the project file.

  • Background Color: The default background is white.

  • R-Tree Index: The Map > Use R-Tree Index command now saves (and loads) the Use R-Tree Index setting to the .ttkgp project file when the user saves the project.  The Use R-Tree Index command (unnecessary for small shapefiles) is now off by default. It can improve handling of large data layers but may cause a long pause when the index file is first created.

  • New Layer: Add a new point/line/polygon vector layer (for digitizing) here or right-click the work area and select "New Layer" from the pop-up window.

  • Export View will save the entire workspace view to a geo-referenced JPEG, TIFF, BMP or PNG format image (complete with companion world coordinate files). To save just part of a view to an image file, use the Export Image Tool in the toolbar. Choosing the Export View to Image command opens an options dialog. By increasing the output image size, multiple images in the view can be put into a mosaic. Output image size can also be increased if the view is intended for printing in a publication. Increasing the output feature size will increase the size of labels, points, and lines in the output image.

  • WMF export in Map > Export View to Image dialog will create a WMF graphics at screen resolution. The vector layers in WMF images can be resized without loss of quality in drawing programs. WMF images are not georeferenced.

  • Export Legend will save the layers list (and any legend symbols you've enabled in the Properties dialog) to an image file. Use the legend image in fGIS maps printed with document or illustration programs.

  • Overview Map: This displays the Overview Map view. Using the right-mouse-click popup menu on the Overview Map, a layer can be added and the extent box color can be changed. The extent box can be used to change the extent of the main map view by left-clicking and dragging in the Overview Map view. The contents of the Overview Map are also saved to the project file. The Overview Map can also be used in the template files (.tpl) used with the Map > Print Map command.

  • Set Default Data Directory: This command will set the first directory that fGIS look to for data, rather than the fGIS installation directory.


Layer Menu:

  • Access Layer Properties through this menu or by double-clicking the name of a layer in the layer list.

  • Zoom to Layer will fit the full extent of the selected layer to the workspace. The other functions in this section will zoom to a shape, clear a selection or select the last shape digitized.

  • Move Layer: Change the order of layers here or by dragging a layer's name up or down in the layer list (i.e., legend or table of contents).

  • Hide Layer: Useful to save space in the legend (especially if you have loaded an image catalog with many tiles). The Map Menu has an "Unhide All Layers" command.

  • Use "Change Display Name" to give layers a descriptive label (rather than a "path:\file name") in the legend/layer list. Note: You can also change a display name by right-clicking a layer name in the map legend (when not in the Edit mode).

  • "Save Layer Properties to .ini file" is used to save a set of display parameters for a layer. A small text file ending in "ini" is added to the folder where the layer data resides. If you add the layer in a different project, the layer will display with the characteristic appearance defined in the ini file. (If you change the properties of the layer for a particular project, properties will be read from the project file rather than the ini file.) If you include the ini file with data that you send to someone else, they will be able to open the layer and see it with the display properties you saved.

  • Load .ini File: This command enables layer properties saved to an .ini file to be used for another layer. Users could create a library of .ini files and load them as new layers are created.

  • Show Shapefile Table is a database explorer/editor that shows the attributes for all the shapefile objects in a layer. Use it to search for a particular shapefile based on an attribute value. The tool is also extremely useful for updating or changing attribute values as elaborated below. The window can be made full-screen for easy editing of large tables.

  • To change a field value, check the Edit Table box. Navigate to the field you want to change, and use the backspace key to delete a value before typing in a new value. The changes are immediately saved to the shapefile attribute table.

  • If the shapefile attribute table contains any of the following fields, their values can be automatically updated with the Table/Update Shapes Measurements Fields command:

Area Fields: Acres or Hectares

Length/Perimeter Fields: Feet, Miles, or Meters

Point Coordinate Fields: X or Y

If the shapefile attribute table does not already contain fields with the above names, but you would like to add the data, then follow these steps:
1. Select the Layer.
2. Start Editing (right-click the work area and choose "Start Editing").
3. Click the Attributes Tool (the in the toolbar).
4. Click on the shape with the Attributes Tool. The attribute table (data dictionary) opens.
5. Right-click the UID column. Choose "Add Field". Type in ACRES, HECTARES, FEET, MILES, METERS, or (for points objects only) X or Y as the field name and designate the field as a number.
6. Stop editing and save changes.
Next, click "Show Shapefile Table" either from the Layers menu or by right-clicking the layer name. Initially, the new ACRES, HECTARES, FEET, MILES, METERS, X or Y columns are empty. Click Selection/Select All. Click Table/Update Shapes Measurements Fields. The new field values will then be filled in!

  • Use the "Populate" button to change the contents of Text Fields with whatever text you type into the Search/Populate text box. In the example above, all the Layer values have been renamed "PLSS_Section".

  • Using the Selection > Copy Selection to Clipboard command on the Shapefile Table dialog will copy the selected records to the clipboard in tab delimited format. This format can be pasted into Excel.

  • The Filter checkbox on the Shapefile Table dialog will filter the table for the value in the input box for the selected field. For example, to locate all records with an ACRES value of 640, type 640 in the Search field, then Search with Filter enabled.

  • The filtered records can be highlighted (selected) on the map with the Selection/Update Selection to Shapefile menu command. This can be very useful in tandem with the main menu's Layer/Export Layer command (below).

  • The number of selected records and the record total are displayed on the Shapefile Table dialog (not available if Field/Sort commands are in use).

Additional information about this tool can be found or by clicking the Help button in the tool's menu bar.

  • Image Transparent Zones: Users can set the borders of digital orthophotos and the backgrounds of DRGs to transparent using the Image Transparent Zones dialog. 

  • The "Export Layer" function can clip out a part of a vector file. The portion saved can be selected by a number of parameters, including a designated extent or filter based on a query statement. The exported layer will be saved as a shapefile. The Layer > Export Layer command uses the selected layer in the legend.


Edit Menu:

  • If accessed from the menu bar, the Edit Menu has the appearance shown above-left (some choices will be gray and unavailable, depending on what you are doing). You can also access the Edit Menu by right-clicking the work area. If you do, an Edit Menu like the one above-right will appear at your cursor. Note that the fGIS status bar turns red when the program is in the edit mode.

  • Start/Stop Editing: When you start editing, choose the appropriate digitizer or editing tool from the tool bar.

    • If you are digitizing a complex object, but the control point jumps away from the leading position, undo the last action to remove the error and then hold down the shift key before clicking the correct leading position. Always try to digitize polygons in a counter-clockwise fashion, so as to give the polygon's vertices a clockwise winding. This is essential for the Splitter Tool and other polygon editing functions to work properly. Use Polygon Functions>Fix Polygon Winding if needed to give vertices a clockwise winding.

    • You can modify an object's data attributes table only when you are in the edit mode. Hit the object with the Attributes Tool to open its data table. Right-click the left column to make changes or add field names. Double-click the right column to adjust field values.

    • You must click "Stop Editing" and save your work before you can switch layers or make property changes in the legend/layer list.

  • Close Shape: Sometimes a polygon shape is left "open-ended" when using the Edit Points tool OR sometimes the user doesn't want to double-click a final point when using the New Shape tool. The Close Shape command closes the polygon shape and enables the Attributes tool.

  • Undo/Redo: Same functions as other Windows programs.

  • New Shape: Selects the digitizer tool and readies fGIS to create another shapefile object.

  • Delete Shape: Works only with selected objects in the active layer.

  • Save Edits/Abort Edits: Same functions as other Windows programs.

  • Polygon Functions: (For details, see the Polygon Editing Tutorial.)

1. Subtract Polygon: The geometries of all polygons that overlap the selected polygon will be subtracted from the selected polygon.  This makes it possible to append polygons to existing polygons or fill in holes between polygons.

2. Fix Polygon Winding: Clockwise wound polygons work best with Split Shape Tool, Append Polygon Tool, and Subtract Polygon command. Use Fix Polygon Winding to give vertices the correct order.

4. Drill Polygon: The geometry of the selected polygon will be subtracted from the geometry of any polygons that it overlaps. In this manner you can cookie-cutter-in new polygons.

5. Delete Part: Individual parts of multi-part polygons can be deleted.

Note: Subtract Polygon and Drill Polygon commands only work with shapes that are selected with the Pick tool.

  • Union Selected Shapes: Merge multiple objects in the active layer while in the Edit mode. Use the Pick Tool and Ctrl key to select multiple objects. This command works for lines and polygons.

  • Select Last Shape: Useful for selecting a shapefile just created, either to drill, subtract (polygons) or delete the object.

  • Copy or Paste Selected Shape: Shapes can be copied from other layers to the layer being edited. Line objects can only be pasted into line layers, polygon objects into area layers, etc. The shape is copied in WKT (Well-Known Text) format so that users could create or edit a shape in a text editor and paste it directly into the layer. To see the format, copy the shape and paste into a text editor.

  • Set Snap Distance: The system default distance is 15 pixels. Values greater than 35 are not recommended. (Select the layer to snap to on the fGIS toolbar.)

  • WTM Location to Lat/Lon: Copies the lat/lon of the position clicked to the Windows clipboard. This tool works only with Wisconsin Transverse Mercator data sets.


Utility Menu:

  • "Load Library Layer" simplifies selecting GIS layers. If you have a large collection of  enterprise GIS data, the naming conventions often result in cryptic files names. What's more, the layers might be stored in many folders (which also have code names). You can solve the problem of remembering what's where by creating a DBF file with a common alias for each layer and a path to each file. Once you create such a table, just use Load Library Layer and click a shape layer in the table. fGIS will add the layer to your map's table of contents.

Here's an example of a DBF file containing paths and plain language file names:

You can use Load Library Layer/Add Env Variable to set a path to each folder, or you can use Notepad to do the same by creating a file named "env.txt" in your fGIS program folder. Here's a sample environment text file for the first two folders shown above:

In this example, the shapefiles can be found on the user's E:\ drive in the path as shown. Once the Library Layer file is set up, just click once on the layer you want, and fGIS will load it.

Users can also to select a different env.txt file instead of the one in the /fgis directory by using the Env > Set Env File command on the Load Library Layer dialog. The default env.txt file can also be set in the language.ini file.

The Load Library Layer dialog can optionally load an .ini file specified in the INI_FILE field of the Layer Table. This field can use environment variables for the path.

When a new Env file is selected with the Env > Set Env File command and the project is saved, the new Env file name will be saved to a file named fgis.ini and used as the default Env file.

In the Load Library Layer dialog, layer display names can be specified in a field named "Alias" in the layer table, however the names stored in a .ini file will take precedence.


WISCONSIN FORESTERS NOTE: The fGIS distribution zip archive includes an "env.txt" file and a "layrdata.dbf" file, which are based on the layout of the Wisconsin DNR dvgislib data store. The env.txt file assumes that your Wisconsin DNR GIS data is on your local computer in the following path: "C:\GIS_DATA\dvgislib\wi_tile\". If your data is in a different path (such as a Regional tile), you can edit the env.txt file (use search and replace in Word) to reflect the path you use. Do not use spaces or the dash (-) character in folder or file names! If you open layrdata.dbf with Load Library Layer/File/Open command and the shapefile is present, then it will load in fGIS when you click its row in the data table.

Keep in mind that the Wisconsin Regional library tiles do not contain all the layers present in the full Wisconsin tile library directory. If a layer is not present on your local drive, you will get the following message:

  • The Shapefile Projection Utility converts shapefiles between Geographic (lat/lon), UTM NAD83 and WTM NAD83 coordinate systems. In the following example, a Geographic Census TIGER shapefile is converted to a UTM Zone 15 file:

Be sure to organize your shapefiles into folders with logical names. If a source file has a coded name, you might want to change it to plain language as shown in the Output Shapefile above. (Avoid the use of "-" or other non-standard characters in file names and directory names.)

Wisconsin UTM zones numbers are here. Worldwide UTM zones are included in the fGIS Shapefile Projection Utility.

  • The Convert Utility interprets unit measurements, translating a value from one unit to any other. Selecting the Convert Utility starts Josh Madison's Convert program (more information about Convert can be found in the convert_readme.txt file in the fGIS system folder). Exit the Edit mode before using Convert.

Typically, you'll use convert by (1.) copying a value from an attribute table (click a cell to make it active, then right-click the value and copy). In Convert, (2.) drop the value to be translated into the Input box and read the converted value in the Output box. Use the tabs in Convert to choose the input and output units. The two steps are shown below using a square meter area value from a Wisconsin DNR PLSS section attribute table, changing it to acres.

  • The Join dBase Table to Shapefile Utility can join a dBase table to a shapefile's attribute table based upon a common field from each. The common field names do not need to be identical. The common fields should, however, contain the same type of data.

    The join is performed in a one-to-one relationship manner only. Only the first record from the input dBase table in a one-to-many relationship will be joined in the output shapefile.

    The join process may take several minutes for very large shapefiles and dBase tables.

    Note: Microsoft® Excel tables can be easily exported as dBase files for use in fGIS.

  • Join Access Table to Shapefile: The Join is a "live" join to the database. The joined fields are visible in the Layer Properties, Attributes Tool, and Search dialogs.

The Sort Shapefile function can improve the quality of an Access table join: 

  1. This function will sort the selected shapefile by the selected attribute field and output it to a new shapefile. The new, sorted shapefile should be added to the theme (legend or table of contents) in order to take advantage of it for the Access table join in (b).

  2. Access table records are now sorted by the join field prior to creating the join.  The join works best if there is a one-to-one relationship between the records in the shapefile and the Access table, AND if the records in each dataset are sorted by the same field.

An Access table join (created via the Utilities > Join Access Table to Shapefile dialog) can be saved to and reloaded from the project file.

  • Diagram Designer: Diagram Designer is the print layout module/technical illustration program. Access it either through the Utility Menu or through the prompt when using the Export Image Tool. Detailed instructions about using Diagram Designer are here.

  • Lat./Lon. Location to WTM: The Lat/Lon Location to WTM utility is a "Go To" utility that works with WTM, UTM or WGS84 data. If requisite shapefile layers are loaded, it can also serve as a Public Land Survey System locator.

    This Public Land Survey System section finder is specific to users with data that contain a DTRS* or DTRSQQ attribute field. Type in the lat/lon of a location and click GO to zoom to that PLSS section. A large red dot is placed at the designated coordinates. The layer containing the DTRS reference data must be specified. The Section, Town and Range information for the lat/lon coordinates are copied to the Windows clipboard.

    This tool works with either UTM zones or WTM (Wisconsin Transverse Mercator) data. UTM users can modify the language.ini to display "UTM" text instead of WTM and place their UTM zone at the top of the projection list. For example, if your data is in UTM zone 16, add the following line to the [frmLatLongToWTM] section of the language.ini: 



    The dialog checkboxes by Latitude and Longitude add "-" signs to the input coordinates to designate locations in the southern or western hemispheres.

    The WTM location to Lat./Lon. command (from the view's right-mouse-click popup menu) will also utilize whatever projection is selected in the Lat./Lon. to WTM form (WTM or any UTM zone). Again, UTM users can modify the language.ini to display "UTM" text instead of WTM, or to place their UTM zone at the top of the projection list.

    *The DTRS code is a seven-digit number that uniquely identifies all PLSS sections in Wisconsin. A ‘2’ in the first digit indicates a range direction of West. A ‘4’ in the first digit indicates a range direction of East. The second and third digits contain the township number (0 through 53). The fourth and fifth digits contain the range number (01 through 20 West, 01 through 30 East). Digits six and seven contain the section number (01 through 36). See the "Section_lines" shape (actually a polygon layer) in the State_Park.zip example.

  • Import XY Text Table to Shapefile: This command will create a point shapefile from a comma delimited or tab delimited text table with XY coordinates in decimal degree format.

The text file should be laid out in the following order: ID, X (longitude), Y (latitude), Text. The first row of the table should contain field names (which can be substituted for the "ID, X, Y, Text" variables). Text containing spaces should be enclosed in double-quotes. See an example text file here.

Click "Import" to create the point shapefile. The Import XY Table to Shapefile dialog adds the new shapefile to the view after creating it.

Additional data values can be added to the new shapefile's attributes with the Join DBF or Join Access Table Tools above.

Hint: If you use a simple program like Waypoint+ to download waypoints from a Garmin GPS receiver and save them as comma-delimited text, the "Import XY Text Table to Shapefile" utility in fGIS can create a GPS waypoints shapefile layer. You may need to project the GPS lat/lon coordinate shapefile to UTM or WTM to align with your other layers.

  • The Image Catalog Utility dialog (Utilities > Image Catalog Utility) will load all layers in an image catalog and optionally hide them all upon loading. The DNR uses image catalogs to load groups of DRGs. There are also commands to Turn On/Off & Hide/Unhide all image layers as a group.

  • See instructions for the 3D Viewing Utilities here.

  • Hyperlink Utility: This tool changes the function of the Pick tool to display the file specified by the filename in the Hyperlink field for the shape selected. Images, text documents, web pages, etc. can be used.

  • Search for Township/Range/Section: This tool requires that an appropriate Public Land Survey System layer with a DTRS attribute is loaded.

  • Utilities > Routing Utility: The Routing Utility will locate addresses (using the From text and the Find Address button) and find the best route between two addresses (using the Find Route button) in the Routing Layer. The Routing Layer is typically a Road shapefile based upon the US TIGER roads data. Such a layer is available in the State_Park.zip fGIS sample dataset and for WI from the DNR. See dialog for more help. (Attribute names shown in light gray text in the dialog window, set for US TIGER Census road layers, may also be edited.)

  • Utilities > Live GPS Utility [BETA]: This utility will display the GPS location for a GPS receiver outputting NMEA format data connected to the COM port. The location can optionally be snapped to a line layer to correct for moving features. This utility has not been tested with moving GPS receivers. See the dialog for more help.

  • Utilities > Clip Shapefiles: Use this dialog to clip line or polygon layers to the boundaries of a polygon layer. Point layers can NOT be clipped using this dialog. To clip out point layers, select the points using the Map > Spatial Selection dialog, then create a new shapefile of the selected points using the Layer > Export Layer dialog.

  • Utilities > Merge Shapefiles: This dialog can be used to merge multiple shapefiles into a new one. All fields from all input layers will be included in the output shapefile.

  • Utilities > Buffer: Select a point, line or area object and create an area shapefile file around it at a designated radius or width. The following example creates a one-mile circular buffer around the point "WRPQ-AM":

The Buffer utility can also be used to create buffers around multiple selected objects or all the objects in a layer. The buffered area will initially be displayed with solid gray fill, which can be changed through the Properties dialog.

  • New Shapefile Field Manager dialog to retrieve default attribute table settings. These settings are stored in a file named fgis.ini that is stored in the same directory as fGIS.exe. The New Shapefile Field Manager dialog can also be accessed from the Utilities > New Shapefile Field Manager command. An example fGIS.ini file to be used with the New Shapefile Field Manager is included (open it in Notepad or other text editor).

  • Utilities > Repath Project File: This dialog is useful for modifying a project file after data, projects, or directories have been moved.

  • Utilities > Generate Cruise Points: Select an area object and fill it with either random or systematic points. The generated points are saved as a shapefile, which can be used in fGIS or transferred to a GPS unit for navigation. Other GPS software such as DNR Garmin Tool or OziExplorer would be needed to upload the points to a GPS receiver.

Random Grid Points

Systematic Grid Points




Help Menu:

  • F1 will take you to the Help Index.

  • About fGIS shows basic copyright information. The file "license.txt" in the fGIS program folder provides additional details.

fGIS Help Index     top     home
- Copyright © 2007-2011 ForestPal.com -
Web Statistics