Adding Excel Lat Long Coordinates into ArcGIS

Excel lat long coordinates

If you have a list of Excel lat long coordinates in a spreadsheet, giving them locations can be a daunting task for those starting in ArcGIS.

So that’s why we’ve made this easy-to-follow tutorial to guide you in the right direction.

You can take any GPS locations or any lat long coordinates from a spreadsheet and import them as points.

Let’s look at a quick and easy approach at transforming an Excel table into geographic data in ArcMap.

How to add lat, long coordinates from an Excel spreadsheet into ArcGIS

In these quick steps, you will learn how to add latitude and longitude coordinates from an Excel spreadsheet into ArcGIS.

Some of the steps you can safely omit. For example, if you’re coordinates are already in decimal degrees, you can skip step #1.

Step 1. Convert degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees

Decimal Degrees

* Please note you can skip this step if your coordinates are already in decimal degrees. Don’t know what decimal degrees are? You can read our article about Degrees/Minutes/Seconds (DMS) vs Decimal Degrees (DD)

If you have latitude and longitude coordinates in degrees/minutes/seconds, you will have to prepare these columns in decimal degrees. You can either do any of the following to put them in the correct format:

  • First, you can use this online decimal degrees converter from the FCC and enter in each degree, minute, and second in the correct boxes.
  • Secondly, you can use the following conversion formula = Decimal Degrees = Degrees + (Minutes/60) + (Seconds/3600)

All column headers should have no special characters and should be kept to a minimum.

Step 2. Ensure the data frame is set to your geographic coordinate system

Check settings

In ArcGIS, right-click the “Layers” data frame in the table of contents. Then, select properties for the data frame.

In the coordinate system tab, expand geographic coordinate systems. Because GPS receivers use WGS84, click world and then select WGS 1984.

Now, the data frame is set to WGS 1984 geographic coordinate system.

Step 3. Add Excel lat long coordinates table to ArcMap

Excel Spreadsheet

Now, add your excel data to ArcMap (file > add data).

Navigate to your Excel spreadsheet and double-click the sheet with the lat long coordinates.

This will add the Excel table to ArcGIS and appear in the table of contents.

Step 4. Display XY Data

latitude longitude

Right click the table and select display XY data.

  • The X field should equal longitude.
  • The Y field should equal latitude.

When you click OK, this will create an “event layer” on your map. But this is just a temporary layer that you need to make permanent.

Step 5. Save as feature class

Save to file

As mentioned in step 4, when you create an XY event layer, ArcGIS doesn’t save it to memory. Before you close your ArcGIS session, you need to create a feature class or shapefile.

So right-click the event layer and export data (data > export data). Next, click “use the same coordinate system as the data layer”.

Save the file. At this point, you permanently create a spatial file from an Excel spreadsheet.

Recap: How to Import Excel Data in ArcGIS

1. Convert degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees
2. Ensure the data frame is set to WGS 1984
3. Add Excel table to ArcMap
4. Display XY Data
5. Save as feature class

When you follow these quick 5 steps, you turn an Excel spreadsheet with latitude and longitude coordinates into spatial data.

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