Digitize Your Neighborhood with Community Maps

Access the sandbox editor

In this lesson, you'll learn how to create features for an area of interest using the Community Maps Editor sandbox. The sandbox version of the Community Maps Editor app is intended for practice and enables you to edit the map without permanently saving. Any changes made to the map will only be saved within your current editing session. To save and submit edits for addition to the Esri basemap, you'll need to use the standard Community Maps Editor app.

If you have not already joined the Community Maps Editor group as described in the Getting Started with the Community Maps Editor App video, follow the steps below.

  1. Go to the Community Maps website.
  2. Under Edit Features, click Sign in Editor App.

    Sign in Editor App button

    If you are already signed in to ArcGIS Online, the Community Maps Editor group opens in a new window, and you can skip the next step.

  3. If necessary, sign in to your ArcGIS organizational account.

    If you don't have an organizational account, you can sign up for an ArcGIS free trial.

  4. If you are not a member of the Community Maps group, click Join This Group.

    Join This Group button

    A confirmation message appears after joining.


    To join the group, you need to have an ArcGIS Online organizational or developer subscription account, with privileges to join an external group. If you receive an error message, check with your administrator.

  5. In the Community Maps Editor group, click Content.

    Group Content tab

  6. On the Content tab, click the Community Maps Editor (Sandbox) thumbnail.

    Sandbox app item thumbnail

    The Community Maps Editor (Sandbox) application opens.

  7. If necessary, click Approve to allow the application access to your account.
    Click Approve to allow the application access to your account
  8. Click Get Started to begin your editing session.

    The application opens to a map of the world.

    Editor sandbox app landing page

    You are now ready to start editing.


    After joining, you can return to the Community Maps Editor group through ArcGIS Online. When signed in, click the Groups tab and find the Community Maps Editor group. Inside the group, click the Content tab and find the sandbox app.

Create an area of interest

First, you'll create an area of interest (AOI) feature. The AOI feature will serve as your editing workspace, and all edits must be inside the defined area. Because you're editing in a sandbox session, your edits won't be saved. If you exit the sandbox, you will need to re-create the area of interest.

  1. On the left, click Find. Then search for Polk State College and press Enter. Click on Polk State College below the Search button.

    Find a location on the map.

    The map navigates to Polk State College, which is a public college in Winter Haven, Florida, United States.

  2. On the top toolbar, click Pan. Center the map on Polk State College.
    Pan button to center on Polk State College

    To make this location easy to return to later, you'll create a bookmark.

  3. In the Find pane, for Polk State College, click Bookmark.

    Bookmark a map extent.

    After the location is bookmarked, it can be accessed in the Find pane, under Bookmarks. Your bookmarks will be saved even if you close the application.

    Bookmark tab
  4. Close the Find pane.

    Next, you'll start drawing the area of interest using the New tool and Area of Interest feature type template.

  5. On the top toolbar, click New and click Choose.

    Choose the type of feature to draw on the map.

    The Choose pane appears. This pane provides feature type templates when creating new features.

  6. In the Choose pane, scroll down till you find Area of interest option, expand Area of Interest, and select Area of Interest.

    Choose the Area of Interest feature type.

    The Choose pane closes, and the upper toolbar now displays the Area of Interest (AOI) symbol on the Choose button.

    You can now create the AOI feature. The AOI feature designates the area that will contain the new features you'll create. The AOI should be a simple polygon that covers an area slightly larger than the campus you'll edit. In this case, you'll draw a simple box around Polk State College.

  7. To create features, click the map to add points.


    If the point you're trying to add flashes red and disappears, the edits are still loading. Wait for the progress bar to stop running and then try adding the point.

  8. Add points around the feature to create an area of interest that encompasses Polk State College. When the AOI is completed, double-click to stop editing.

    Draw the area of interest boundaries.

    When you are done editing, the Properties pane appears. You're required to name all AOI features, though these don't appear on the map. AOI feature names only provide a description in the editing session and help the Community Maps team validate edits.

  9. In the Properties pane, type Polk State College and click Ok.

    Name the area of interest.


    To learn more about creating features, you can view help documentation by clicking the Help and Feedback button on the left toolbar.

Create buildings

Once you have an AOI drawn, you can start creating features in it. Prominent features, such as buildings, should be created first. You should also review the area of interest to determine what new features could make the map more informative and useful.

  1. On the left toolbar, click Basemaps. Click the list view and choose the Editing View basemap.

    Choose the Editing View basemap.

    The basemap changes to satellite imagery. Currently, the campus of Polk State College only contains a landmark feature and a few walking paths.

  2. On the upper toolbar, click Pan and zoom in on the large square building near the southeast corner of campus.


    To zoom in on a specific area, press the Shift key and draw a selection box around the feature.

    Zoom in on the library building.

    The map zooms in to the building.

  3. On the top toolbar, click New and click Choose.

    The Choose pane appears.

  4. In the Choose pane, expand Buildings and choose Building.

    Building outlines are often straight edges, so to keep the traced building feature geometrically accurate, you'll turn on the Snapping tool. This tool displays hints to help you align corners and angles as you draw the feature.

  5. On the bottom toolbar, on the right side, turn on Snapping and Layer Hints.

    Turn on Snapping

    While editing, you can also turn Snapping on and off by pressing the Spacebar.

  6. Click around the building to trace the feature. Double-click the endpoint to finish tracing the feature.

    Digitized library building

    • If you make a mistake, click Undo to delete your previous actions.
    • To trace more precisely, left-click and hold to magnify the imagery.

    Magnify the corners.

    Next, you'll add detail to features using the Split tool. The Polk State College Library has three small protruding features that you'll trace.

  7. On the toolbar, click Split. Trace the three square features in the middle of the roof.

    Split button

    When you're happy with the feature, you'll save it as a named building feature.

  8. On the left toolbar, click Properties. For Building Name (Label), type Polk State College Library and press Enter.

  9. Close the Properties pane.

    The name is automatically saved when you close the Properties pane. After adding the Building Name (Label) property, the feature on the map is updated to show the label.

Create parking lots

Parking lots are another common feature on school campuses and take up large amounts of land. In addition, they're distinguished from other asphalt surfaces by their lines. You'll trace the parking lot features and then use the line tool to add the stall dividing lines.

  1. Using the Pan tool, navigate to the large parking lot in the center of the campus AOI. Zoom in to see the features clearly.
  2. On the top toolbar, click New and click Choose. In the Choose pane, expand Hardscape and select Parking Lot.

    The edges of the parking lot are both straight and curved. While tracing, you can switch between the straight line and curved line tracing tools.

  3. Add points for straight edges until you get to a curve.
  4. Click the Line tracing tool and choose Curved.

    Switch to the curved line tool.


    Alternatively, while tracing, you can press M to switch between the two line tools.

  5. Using the curved line tool, add a point to the opposite end of the curve.

    A yellow dot appears in the middle of the last two points. You can drag this around to create the shape of the curve.

  6. Reposition the yellow midpoint to shape the curve of the parking lot.

    Trace curves in the parking lot.

  7. Switch back to the straight line tool and finish tracing the parking lot.

    Because of the tree cover, it's difficult to see the entire feature. Use the snapping tools to get the lines as close as possible.

    Traced parking lot feature

    After the parking lot feature is created, you can add more detail by tracing parking lines.

  8. On the top toolbar, click New and click Choose. In the Choose pane, expand Lines and select Parking Lot Line.

    This parking lot contains many parking lines to trace, and manually tracing each line would be tedious, considering all parking spots are similar features. To streamline this process, you can draw a few lines, select them using the Select tool, and then copy and paste them to create new features. After pasting the features, you can adjust them to match the basemap.

  9. Trace one of the long vertical parking lot lines.
  10. Trace three individual horizontal parking lot lines.

    Parking stall lines


    These can be any three lines. Pick three that you can see most clearly with the least amount of tree cover.

  11. On the ribbon, click Select.
  12. Drag a selection box over the three lines to select them all.

    The selection also includes the parking lot and area of interest polygons. If you try to paste the line selection with other features selected, it will paste all of them.

  13. On the side panel, click Selection.
    Selection pane

    The Selection pane lists all the features that are currently selected. By clicking the x next to each group or individual feature, you can remove one or all from the selection.

  14. In the Selection pane, remove all selected features except the three horizontal lines.

    To identify listed features, hover over the item in the Selection pane. The corresponding feature will be highlighted in orange on the map.

  15. On the ribbon at the top, click Copy and click Paste.
    Click Copy and Paste icon


    You can also use the Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste lines. For Mac users, these shortcuts are Cmd+C and Cmd+V.

    Paste parking lot lines.

    After the new features are pasted, the lines change to green.

  16. Move the copied parking lot lines next to the original lines. Then, in the Paste pane, click Paste.
  17. Repeat the copy and paste process until you've added all the lines in the row.

    As you create more complete features, you can redo the selection to copy and paste as much or as little as you want. For example, once you've finished one parking row, you can select the entire row and paste it over the other parking lines. When you're done, you can deselect the lines or choose another feature template.

Create landscape areas

To add special detail for a school campus, you can create a variety of landscape features that make the campus distinctive and beautiful. For this lesson, you'll focus on the west side of the Polk State College campus, which includes large grassy areas, a water body, walking paths, and more. In cases like this, you want to start by drawing the largest, underlying layer. Since the largest and most prominent landscape feature type in this part of campus is grass, you'll trace a large grass area and then add other features on top of it.

  1. Click New and click Choose.
  2. Expand Landscape and click Grass.

    For this feature, you want to clip the new grass area to the existing parking lot that you created in the previous exercise. This will make sure that the grass and parking lot features align with no gaps or overlaps.

  3. On the right, click the Cut/Trim tool and make sure Trim is selected.

    Clip features from other features.

  4. Add a point to the northwest corner of the grass area and draw a straight line to the east toward the parking lot. Click the next point so it is past the west edge of the parking lot and snapping to its north edge.
  5. Add the next point somewhere along the south edge of the parking lot where you want to draw the eastern edge of the grass.
  6. Zoom out and continue to draw the complete grass area on the west side of campus.
  7. Double-click the first point to finish drawing the feature.

    Digitize grass features on campus.

    When the grass feature is created, notice it will be trimmed to the edge of the parking lot so the features don't overlap. You can now create other landscape (and hardscape) features inside this grass area. You'll start by adding the lake on the southwest edge of campus.

  8. Click Choose and choose Pool / Fountain / Water in the Landscape group.
  9. Click the Cut/Trim tool and choose Cut.
  10. Zoom in to see the lake more clearly.


    If you want to see the imagery more clearly through the landscape (grass) feature, you can click the Layers tool and adjust the transparency of the Landscape layer.

    To create the lake feature, there are a few options. Depending on the shape of the lake and the level of detail desired, you can click the Line tool and select a Straight, Curved, or Freehand line (see below). In most cases, a mix of straight and curved lines works best to get a good level of detail.

  11. Trace the lake, using the M key to switch back and forth between straight and curved lines. Double-click or click Complete to finish.

    When the lake feature is created, it will be cut inside the grass so the features don't overlap. Now, you'll create another landscape feature, the beach volleyball courts east of the lake.

  12. Use the pan tools to pan east to the sandy rectangular area.
  13. Click Choose. In the Landscape group, choose Sand.
  14. Zoom in to see the courts more clearly.

    In the imagery, you can faintly see the shadow of a fence around the courts.

  15. Trace the volleyball court, making sure it is being cut from the grass area.

Create sports fields

Another important feature type on many school campuses is the sports facilities, including football fields, baseball fields, and swimming pools. These often represent important landmarks on the campus and a source of pride for the school. For this campus, a prominent baseball field and two soccer fields are visible in the imagery. You'll start with the baseball field. Most baseball fields have the same components: the infield grass and dirt, the outfield grass, and the dirt warning track around the field. To make sure all the parts align, the easiest way to create a baseball field is to create the largest area first, and then cut the other components into that area. From the imagery, you can see that there is a dirt warning track around the entire field. Inside the track is the grass of the baseball field. Inside the grass is the dirt of the infield. Inside the dirt is the grass of the infield, and then the dirt pitching mound. You'll draw the features in that order, and then add some detail.

  1. On the ribbon, click Choose. In the Landscape group, click Dirt.
  2. Click the edge of the dirt behind home plate and start to draw the edge of field with a straight line.
  3. Trace around the outside of the dirt track using the straight line and curved line tools.

    Trace the warning track around the baseball field.

    The entire field is encased in a dirt polygon. The next step is to cut the baseball field into the dirt.

  4. Click Choose and expand the Sports menu. Choose Baseball Field. Zoom in to the infield and trace the baseball field inside the dirt area.

    Add the infield grass of the baseball field.

    The next step is to cut the infield dirt into the field.

  5. Change the feature type back to Dirt and trace the infield, starting along the straight third base line.

    Trace the dirt infield.


    It's easiest to draw the curve along the outfield in three curved line segments. Finish the area by drawing a straight line across the home plate circle area. You'll add the full circle later using a stencil.

    Close the infield dirt feature.

    The next step is to cut the grass infield into the dirt.

  6. Change the feature to Baseball Field and trace the grass baseball field inside the dirt area, starting on the third base line.
  7. Continue to draw the outside edge of the baseball infield, switching from straight to curved line as needed, until you complete the baseball field area. Again, finish the area by drawing a straight line across the home plate circle area, such as below.

    You'll complete the infield dirt by drawing a circle for the home plate area. To draw a circle, it easiest to use a stencil.

  8. Change the feature type to Dirt.
  9. On the sidebar, click Stencils. In the Polygon Stencil group, drag the Circle Polygon onto the map, centered on the home plate area.

    Circle stencil

    The circle stencil is a little too large. Before you resize it, you want to lock the aspect so it stays in a circular shape. If you resize the shape before locking the aspect, it can become elongated and oval shaped.

  10. On the lower ribbon, click the Aspect button. The aspect of the shape is locked when the button is filled green.

    Lock the aspect to preserve the circle.

  11. Resize the circle to match the home plate area.

    To complete the infield, you can now add the pitcher's mound.

  12. Drag another Circle Polygon stencil onto the map and center it on the pitcher's mound. Resize the circle and click the check mark button to complete and save the circle.


    To merge the separate infield dirt features that you created into a single feature, select those features (and just those features) using the Select tool and then click the Merge tool.

  13. On the toolbar, click Basemaps and choose Existing View to see the baseball field.

    Baseball field vector view

  14. Change the basemap back to Editing View.

    For a finishing touch, you can add field lines.

  15. On the ribbon, click New and click Choose. Expand Lines and choose Sports Field / Court Line.
  16. On the toolbar, click Stencils. In the Sports section, click Baseball Field and drag the stencil onto the map.
  17. Resize the stencil until the ends of line reach the edge of outfield, and then click the Complete button.

    Baseball field line stencil

    The soccer fields nearby also can be created using stencils.

  18. In the Stencil pane, under Sports, click Football Pitch (Soccer) and drag it onto the middle of the soccer field.
  19. Rotate and resize the lines until they match the imagery. Use the Generic Circle stencil to create the circle in the middle of the field.
  20. Add another Football Pitch (Soccer) stencil to the second field.
  21. Switch the basemap to Existing View and check the features.

    Digitized line features on vector basemap

Create points of interest

The final step to complete your school campus is to add points of interest (POI) for label purposes. At a minimum, you'll want to make sure the school name is being labeled properly. If the school name is already labeled properly in the Existing Map basemap, you can leave it as is. If the school name is missing or incorrect, you can add a new POI where the label should appear. You can also add other POI features if you want to label other features on the campus (for example, sports field or staff parking) that don't have name properties to label (such as buildings). For this school campus, you want to update the name to be more specific to the campus using a new POI.

  1. Click New, click Choose, and choose Points of Interest.
  2. Click in the middle of campus. In the Properties pane, type Polk State College (Winter Haven) and click Finished.

    You can add other POIs as needed. The labels may not display in the Community Maps Editor app, but they are visible in the Properties pane when a feature is selected.

To finish the Polk State College campus, you can continue adding buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and other features. If you want to try digitizing another feature, draw another AOI and keep practicing. The Community Maps Editor app can be used to add features around the world. Remember that this is just a sandbox version.

Edits made to the Community Maps Editor app are reviewed weekly and added to the Esri basemap on a monthly basis. For more information about the Community Maps Program, check the home page and group.

You can find more lessons in the Learn ArcGIS Lesson Gallery.