Plot files in ArcGIS

Plot files in ArcGIS

I wondered if you could share some of your experience with plot files in ArcGIS. I've been trying to make these, as I have a good expeirence with them from autoCAD (every drawing is exported to a PLT file, which stands by if another copy is wanted later on).

In arcGIS, I saw there is only options to export to PRN or RTL, but no PLT (which is a HP designed file, if I'm not mistaking).

Both PRN and RTL save the maps (containing vector and raster features) horridly, making the maps produce from them very discolored and messy.

From what I've deduced from the Internet, PRN is usally for documents, so it's probably not meant for rasters, hence the poor capabilities.

(for all those who want to ask: Saving only as a MXD isn't much good, as the layers can be changed over time, moved to different locations, and anyway, handling MXD can be done only by GIS trained personnal while printing plot files can be done by any given secretary).

Any thoughts? Has something in this field advanced in ArcGIS 10 (I'm in 9.3.1)??

We now save all of our maps as pdf. Yes there is no control over the print scale, or actually better said as the final user has a lot of control and the file has little to none. However in practice this turns out to be better for us than saving hpgl/rtl and postscript files. PDFs are:

  • device independent for printing. We don't have to have the same HP plotter we had 10 years, or even 5 years ago, to print that old map and get a faithful reproduction (we've been burned by this badly).

  • scale independent - sometimes good, sometimes bad. It can be very useful and important to reprint a map at smaller or larger scale than was originally designed for.

  • device independent for reading. Any modern computer, and many older ones, can open and view our maps with a minimum of fuss as quality pdf readers are avaible on all platforms. Previously we had to keep track of and install software for this on each machine (which hopefully still worked on the current OS).

  • you can look before you print! (see previous bullet)

Strategies for counter acting the "it's not to scale!" problem:

  • use a scale bar (0|------|500m) but not scale text (1:50,000)
  • put the intended page size as text in the map composition ("Scale is 1:250,000 when printed at 24"x36")
  • "this box is 100km to side"
  • (Adobe Reader) educate users to mouse over the bottom left to make note of the document size, and to de-select the default "scale to fit page" option
  • etc.

On balance, I'm very happy to be free from plot files, though it did take a few years to get the kinks worked out.

According to this reply on the ESRI forum you can't, but if you have a printer driver that creates PLT you could print a file using that.