Projection Files (.prj) for ArcGIS

esriI’m still reinstalling applications after building my new killer PC. I moved into the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) apps, and I installed Trimble Pathfinder Office. Pathfinder Office is a Swiss army knife of global positioning systems (GPS) software which is used to process data collected by Trimble Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers. Pathfinder Office has a data export module that I use to transform my GPS data in ESRI shapefiles.  I always customize my export properties so they create shapfiles with consistent attributes, units, and coordinate system properties.

One aspect of setting up the export coordinate system requires that you point to a projection file (.prj) on your PC or network corresponding to the coordinate system that you wish to use for your exported shapefile.

projection files required by Trimble export

This was always a simple step, because prior to ESRI ArcGIS 10, I just browsed to the C:\Program Files (x86)\ArcGIS\Coordinate Systems directory and then picked the appropriate .prj file.

In ArcMap 10.1 and higher, ESRI no longer installs the 4,000+ projection files as they did in earlier versions. They now use a virtual directory structure that is created by the user, typically something like:

C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\ESRI\Desktop10.2\ArcMap\Coordinate Systems.

A projection file can be saved in this directory by clicking the View menu –> Data Frame Properties menu –> Coordinate System tab, selecting the current data frame coordinate system or choosing a new coordinate system, and the clicking the gold star to add it to your favorites.

projection files in ArcGIS data frame properties

I primarily only use one projected coordinate system (NAD 1983 UTM Zone 14N) for most of my mapping, so it isn’t too big of a deal. Someone that uses a large number of coordinate systems would have to be patient creating all of their required projection files this way however.

projection files created in ESRI favorites

I am here to make your lives easier though. I still had a copy of ArcGIS 9.3, so I installed it along with the 4,011 projection files. I copied that coordinate system directory to OneDrive so it will always be available to me wherever I am. I am also making it available to you in the Downloads section of this web site.

ESRI Coordinate System Projection Files - v.9.3 - 2.16 MB


You can learn more about using coordinate systems in ArcGIS at ESRI’s web site.

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ArcView 3.x Extension: AddXY

AddXY - v.1.0 - 2.74 KB

AddXY (v1.0) is an ArcView extension that should work with ArcView 3.0 and later.  It adds the X and Y values of points (shapefiles or coverages) to their attribute tables.  It adds the X and Y values of polygon centroids (shapefiles or coverages) to their attribute tables.  It will add the X and Y value of a polygon’s labelpoint to its attribute table.  Due to a bug in ArcView, it does not work consistently with node coverages, so this has been removed. The X and Y columns in the attribute table should be created with the same names and precision that the ARC/INFO command “addxy” would create.

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An ArcGIS 9.x toolbox with scripts for defining projections

I still have a lot of spatial data that was created using ESRI ArcView 3.x, and I continue to use 3.x because I have a wealth of extensions that do the things I need to do.  One problem with creating shapefiles with 3.x is that projection files (.prj) are not automatically created along with the shapes, so there is no spatial reference.  I normally end up with a whole directory full of shapefiles without .prj files.  I finally broke down and searched arcscripts.esri.com for an easy way to define the projection of all of those shapefiles in the directories.  I ran across Batch Define Projection by Owen Evans, downloaded it, and tried it out.  Works wonderfully.  It creates a custom toolbox and includes a few different handy scripts, including a batch define projection.  Run the script, point to a bunch of shapefiles, choose your coordinate system, and you’re done!  Why didn’t I look for this a long time ago?  Highly recommended.

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