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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Glossary of Mapping Terms

The following is a list of popular terms used throughout our GIS, we hope the meanings given below will help you to understand the system.

  • Background (Map Background)
    The actual map to which layers can be added. A variety of map backgrounds can be seen depending on the map scale and chosen date. Various historical backgrounds are available from 1856 to the current day.
  • Check Box (re: adding a map layer)
    A small box which you click on, to add or remove a map layer. A 'cross' or 'tick' in a check box signifies the layer is loaded and an empty box means a layer is not loaded.
  • Clear Layers (Tool)
    See our map tools help page for further information.
  • Features
    The collective term for individual locations shown on map layers, which in turn can be displayed on the map. For example, a 'feature' could be a building, an area, a street, a road, or postcode etc.
  • Function
    One of the technical things the GIS can do. For example, our current system has a 'Search' function a 'Nearest' function and a 'Layers' function, all of which allow the user to find different information relating to maps.
  • Get Info (Tool)
    See our map tools help page for further information.
  • GIS
    Abbreviation for 'Geographic Information System'
  • Icons
    A symbol used to indicate the location of features on the map.
  • Key
    A set of symbols or icons used to differentiate between features on the map, the 'key' determines which symbol relates to a certain type of feature.
  • Keyword
    A word or phrase used to conduct a search. You can type a word or phrase into the search box which what you want to find, eg school, job centre. The search is designed to find results which contain the 'keyword' (in any order) and retrieve related records.
  • Layer
    A set of plotted points (features) which are superimposed onto the map background. This system can be likened to placing a sheet of tracing paper over the map to indicate additional information. Layers can be added and removed using the 'check box' (see above).
  • Loaded Layers
    The term used to describe layers which you have already added to the map by clicking in the check box.
  • Ordnance Survey
    Britain's national mapping agency 'Ordnance Survey' is the internationally recognised market leader, offering a wide range of map related products, from traditional walking maps to road maps, large-scale maps and digital products. Visit the Ordnance Survey website to find out more.
  • Panning
    The term used for moving around the map in any given direction. See our map tools help page for further information.
  • Print Map (Tool)
    See our map tools help page for further information.
  • Scale
    The map scale shows the ratio of the distance measured on the map compared to the actual measurement on the ground. In the UK most map scales are metric and are shown, for example, as 1:50,000 which represents a scale of 1cm equal to 50,000 cm. Please see our map tools help page for further information on adjusting the map scale.
  • System Requirements / Technical Issues
    In order to use the GIS system your PC will need to be set up in a certain way and meet specific system requirements.
  • Tools / Toolbar
    The area below the map pane where tools and buttons are located. Clicking on different tools enables different mouse functionality.
  • Zooming (Via Map Tools)
    See our map tools help page for further information.