Adding Excel Lat Long Coordinates into ArcGIS

Excel lat long coordinates
Excel lat long coordinates

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

If you have GPS data from the field or a long list of Excel lat long coordinates in a spreadsheet, giving them locations can be a daunting task for those starting out in ArcGIS. 

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

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

1 Convert degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees

Decimal DegreesIf you have latitude and longitude coordinates, you will have to prepare these columns in decimal degrees. Use this online decimal degrees converter or the conversion formula below.

Conversion formula:

Decimal Degrees = Degrees + (Minutes/60) + (Seconds/3600)

Please note: column headers should have no special characters and should be kept to a minimum.

2 Ensure data frame is set to your geographic coordinate system

Check settingsIn ArcGIS, right-click the Layers data frame in the table of contents. Select properties. In the coordinate system tab, expand geographic coordinate systems. Click world and select WGS 1984.

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

3 Add Excel lat long coordinates table to ArcMap

Excel SpreadsheetNow, add your excel data to ArcMap (file > add data). Navigate to your Excel spreadsheet and double-click the sheet with the lat long coordinates.

The Excel table will be added to ArcGIS and appear in the table of contents.

4 Display XY Data

latitude longitudeRight click the table and select display XY data.
The X field should equal longitude.
The Y field should equal latitude.

Click OK. An event later will be created with your points.

5 Save as feature class

Save to file

This XY data will not be saved in memory once ArcGIS is closed. To save the points data, you need to create a feature class or shapefile.

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

Save the file and you have just created a spatial file from an Excel spreadsheet.

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

Follow these quick 5 step guide and turn an Excel spreadsheet with latitude and longitude coordinates into spatial data.

13 Comments on Adding Excel Lat Long Coordinates into ArcGIS

  1. good stuff. One question, you say: Ensure data frame is set to WGS 1984. Is there some reason I can’t use a data frame based on State Plane for our area? Or do DecDeg need to first come in via WGS 1984 and after I get the lat long populated, I can then convert to State plane. Thanks

  2. Absolutely, you can use your state plane coordinates if that’s how the data was collected.

    This article assumes the data was collected in lat, long coordinates. The first step is to set it to WGS 1984, after you’d project the data to State Plane, UTM or whatever projection.

  3. Hi, your link for the converter does not appear to be working for me. Would you have another suggestion for it? Very useful article!

  4. I followed through with these steps but when I import the excel document and hit “Display XY Data” the X and Y field do not have any options in the drop down menu. Do you know why this is the case? I have been trying to figure this out for hours now and believe it is a simple error on my part. Any assistance you provide would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Hi Kevin. I am not too sure why the X and Y field aren’t appearing in the drop down. I haven’t seen that happen before. Were you able to solve the problem?

  6. I have been having a problem with all my values being imported at zero, zero coordinates even though they are the appropriate values in the attribute table.

  7. A couple of things come to mind:

    1. If the coordinates are in decimal degrees in the spreadsheet, than is it also set up in shape file when you create it? So it would be a in the geographic coorinate system such as GCS WGS 84. Also be careful with degrees, minutes and seconds

    2. Sometimes ArcMap is fussy with the field type? Is it a number format? It’s also fussy what the first row is. No special characters, numbers at the start, etc

    3. If all of this fails, create a new xlsx file. Copy and paste only where the values are into the new spreadsheet. Try to add that in ArcMap.

    Test out these 3 and hopefully that will work. If not, make sure all the decimal degrees in the cells make sense and there are no erroneous values

  8. I have followed all of the steps. I can see the layers in the TOC (points are supposed to be green), but the points themselves are not showing up on the map. How do I get them to show up on the map? Thanks!

  9. Hi Taya
    When you right-click the layer and ‘zoom to layer’ are they in any geographic space?

    If they are in the wrong location, that would be a matter of setting your projected or geographic coordinate system when creating your data

    If there aren’t any points in the map, typically this is an issue with your spreadsheet/table. A couple of things to check –

    -The coordinate field is ‘number’ format.
    -In the table itself, there are no wildcard, spaces and field length are not beyond the maximum length
    -The headings do not contain wildcard, spaces, start with a number, and should be less than 10 characters in length

    When you add the sheet to ArcMap, do all the fields appear?

  10. I’m having the same problem as Hogan. I’ve done this before and had issues with the Excel data not being formatted correctly, so I made sure all of the numbers were formatted as such. Still, the projection is not accurate and it is not bringing in any associated data from the table (name, id, etc) of the events after they map. I’ve tried updating the projection a couple of different ways, but the events still draw in random space. I checked the latitude and longitude to make sure the values were correct for my hemisphere, etc. Any other possible recommendations for something that could be going wrong? I’m at the point where I’m willing to just make a whole new spreadsheet and hope it’s an issue with that file.

  11. If the data is in lat, long then is it being set to WGS or the correct coordinate system? If they are in the wrong location, is there supposed to be a negative symbol for the coordinates that are in decimal degrees.

    Check for if there are spaces at the start of a coordinate. When you add the table to ArcMap in the table of contents, when you right-click and open attributes does it have data? If nothing, then this means that one of your columns might have a symbol, or something.

    If you do have data, and coordinates appear in the wrong location… Try to use just one row of test data. Create a new tab. Copy and paste the values (so no formulas) for the header and first row only. Again, follow my tutorial and see if that works.

    If this doesn’t work, zoom to your location where you think the data should go… Write those XY coordinates down in notepad. Switch the test data tab with the one record with those coordinates from notepad. Follow my tutorial in the article. If this doesn’t work, then check the coordinate system again.

    I’ve always managed to add lat, long coordinates, but it takes a bit of trial and error to know which rows or records are giving you the headache.

    Hope that helps!

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