This year marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that would bear his name. A recent post by George Dailey on the GIS Education Community Blog takes a closer look using ArcGIS Explorer.
ArcGIS Online provides an easy way for GIS users to find and share useful content and resources, including maps, layers, and tools. These include a wide variety of specific file types unique to ESRI products, and you can view a complete list of supported content in the ArcGIS Online Help.
There’s lots of content from ESRI and other users that you’ll find on ArcGIS Online, but not all can be used directly in ArcGIS Explorer. For example, an ArcMap map document (MXD) can only be opened in ArcMap, and can’t be used in ArcGIS Explorer. GIS users will know and understand these differences, but for beginning ArcGIS Explorer users it may be a challenge to explore (no pun intended) all of what can be found on ArcGIS Online.
To make things simple we’ve established two ArcGIS Explorer groups that offer an organized subset of what’s shared by ESRI on ArcGIS Online and that represent a core set of useful maps, layers, and tools for ArcGIS Explorer users. Here’s how you can find those groups.
First, go to the ArcGIS Online home site.
You’ll see Search featured on the page, and you can enter keywords to find shared content that matches them. But we want to find the ArcGIS Explorer groups. So click the pulldown to the left of the input box and choose Search for Groups and enter AGX or ArcGIS Explorer:
The results returned will include the two ArcGIS Explorer groups established by the Explorer team; the ArcGIS Explorer group and the ArcGIS Explorer Labs group.
The ArcGIS Explorer group includes a collection of ready-to-use maps and layers. Most of these are ArcGIS Explorer map content files (NMC files) and can be opened directly in ArcGIS Explorer.
Click the Contents tab to see what’s available.
The ArcGIS Explorer Labs group is a place where you can find a wide variety of add-ins (EAZ files) that extend Explorer’s capabilities. These are created by members of the ArcGIS Explorer team, and may represent capabilities that find their way into the core product. Then again, maybe not.
Though unsupported, these add-ins are fun, interesting, and useful, so check them out. Click the Contents tab to view them.
We’ll cover how you can use what you find on these groups in upcoming blog posts.
A recent GIS Education Community blog post offers a lesson on climate change using ArcGIS Explorer. The downloadable lesson was created for Earth Science Week and uses data from the NASA Earth Observation Web site.
The new ESRI Mapping for Everyone site provides a variety of information and resources for users interested in learning more about Web mapping applications and ArcGIS Explorer. With lots of samples, examples, and downloads, it’s a handy single destination to learn more about how GIS makes it easy to create and share maps.
Code snippets are a very useful feature of Visual Studio. We’ve added some key snippets to the ArcGIS Explorer SDK – the kinds of things that are simple but that you end up writing frequently, or that you might forget. Even some of the team members forget this stuff and have been pleased to be reminded of the snippets, so we know that you’ll find these very useful.
For example, it’s easy to forget how to get hold of the application objects when coding from scratch, so we added a code snippet for every one of the static members that allow you to drill in to the ArcGIS Explorer object model. It’s also easy to forget that including the SuspendDrawing method call in a Using statement will ensure the drawing is resumed correctly; so we added a code snippet for this. These snippets are available in both Visual Basic and Visual C#, and you may have accessed them by right-clicking in the code window and choosing Insert Code Snippet, then Explorer:
BUT there is an even easier way to do this. To get a reference to the currently active View, just type “active” in the code window; you’ll see the intellisense in Visual Studio listing the activeMapDisplay keyboard shortcut to the ‘Get ActiveMapDisplay from Application’ snippet. Just hit Tab and the snippet is inserted.
If you forget what snippets are available, or want to look up a keyboard shortcut, you can use the Visual Studio Code Snippet Manager to browse the Explorer snippets including their keyboard shortcuts.
Here’s a table of Visual Basic and Visual C# code snippets currently in the SDK for your convenience.
Code snippets are not just for VB and C# code though, they are also useful when you’re working declaratively with application conditions. These are pre-defined application states that can be used to determine when Buttons, DockWindows, and Galleries are enabled or disabled. For more information see the ArcGIS Explorer application conditions SDK Help topic.
You can set an application condition for a new customization when you create it using the New Item wizards which are part of the ArcGIS Explorer Tools for Visual Studio. For more information see the Visual Studio tools for ArcGIS Explorer SDK Help topic.
Open the Addins.xml file in your add-in project and for the XML element describing the add-in class. You will see an attribute named condition with a text string indicating the application condition you picked (note that if you chose the Always option in response to When should the Button be enabled, there will be no condition attribute at all in your XML).
Changing an application condition is easy to do by making use of the XML code snippets. Right click in the XML file and choose Insert Code Snippet, then Explorer. You will see a list of all the application conditions you can apply; choosing a condition snippet will add the correct text string to the XML file.
Note that the application conditions XML code snippets do not have intellisense and keyboard shortcuts – that’s something we’re working on for a future release. Let us know what you think of the snippets, and what kind of snippets you’d like to see in the future.
ArcGIS Explorer Labs is a place you can find and access add-ins and other resources that the ArcGIS Explorer team publishes. Many of these add-ins are prototypes of what may eventually be added to the core product, some may not be, and all are unsupported. Nevertheless they do work, and we think you’ll find them useful and interesting and that’s why we’ve made them available.
We’ve made some changes to a number of those add-ins, and those changes will require you to download the updated versions if you want to continue using them. The updated add-ins are:
- Bing Search
- Find Nearby
- Find Nearest Address
- Find Weather Station
- Find GeoNames
- Street Viewer
The older versions of these will no longer work due to changes in the underlying service connections, so just grab the latest versions of these from ArcGIS Explorer Labs.
Explorer’s new presentation capabilities are a powerful and very popular feature of the latest release. Like PowerPoint you can create “slides” of your geographic information that you can show and share with others. But better than PowerPoint, the presentation mode uses ArcGIS Explorer so you can navigate, click features to show additional information, toggle layers on and off, and more – all using actual data that may be dynamic or coming directly from your enterprise.
In a previous post we covered an example shown during the ESRI User Conference plenary, and you can view the video of the presentation online to get an idea of what you can do.
You can enhance your Explorer presentation with graphics to create titles, add additional information, and more. And like the presentation shown at the User Conference you can even include PowerPoint slides. Here’s how.
First, open your PowerPoint presentation like we have below:
Next, choose Save As, then Other Formats.
From the list of formats, choose PNG as your Save as type:
Note that you’ll have the option to save all of your slides as individual PNGs, or just the current slide. We want to add just one of our PowerPoint slides to Explorer, so we’ll click Current Slide Only.
Now that we’ve saved our slide from PowerPoint out as a PNG file, we can add it to ArcGIS Explorer as an image overlay. Image overlays show up in our contents and can be used like any other layer. Choose Add Content, then Image Overlays, and browse for the PNG file you just saved from PowerPoint.
You’ll see the image overlay on your map, and can position it in a variety of ways. For PowerPoint slides we recommend the centered or one of the fill options, shown below.
Now your PowerPoint slides are part of your contents, and can be used like any other layer in your ArcGIS Explorer presentation.
A recent GIS Education Community blog post details a downloadable ArcGIS Explorer project with information on the ongoing California wildfires, including a live Mt. Wilson Web cam showing the current conditions.
Using the ArcGIS Explorer SDK you can create add-ins using Visual Studio that connect to and execute geoprocessing services. With SDK capabilities such as TrackPoint, TrackLine, and TrackPolygon, users can create geometries on the map which can be packaged with other parameters as inputs to the geoprocessing service. When the service has finished, outputs from the service can be displayed on the map, used in popups, and more depending on what is appropriate for the type of information returned.
The drive time analysis sample included in the SDK Help shows a working example of a DockWindow add-in being used to call a geoprocessing service and add the results to the map. Here’s an outline of the steps using the drive time analysis sample to illustrate some specific points.
First, make sure you have a supported development environment and the ArcGIS Explorer SDK installed. The SDK can be obtained from the ArcGIS Explorer download page and you can download and install Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Express Editions for free.
Next, use the ArcGIS Explorer DockWindow project templates to create an add-in with a dockable window.
In Visual Studio add a web reference to the project and enter the URL of the SOAP endpoint of the geoprocessing service that you want to work against.
This will create an API to connect to the geoprocessing service and program against it. If you have not programmed against a SOAP API before, refer to the Using SOAP to access ArcGIS Server Web Services Help topic for an introduction.
The information you need to pass in and receive back from the service will depend on the geoprocessing service that you are working with. If the service has input parameters, work out if this will be determined automatically by the add-in or if it will be chosen by the ArcGIS Explorer use scenario, and then think how you will gather this information from the user.
Also look at the output of the service and work out how you want to display this information in ArcGIS Explorer. For example, the Drive Time Analysis sample lets the user to click on the map using the MapDisplay.TrackPoint method and the resulting Point object is used to pass starting coordinates to the GP service. Here are some more tips on dealing with some of the different geoprocessing service types:
- The GPBoolean, GPDate, GPDouble, GPLinearUnit, GPLong, GPString types can be mapped to equivalent .NET value types such as Boolean, DateTime, Double and so on – for example if these types are input to the service, add a NumericUpDown control to the DockWindow to allow the user to determine a numeric value.
From the GPFeatureRecordSetLayer type you can access attributes and shapes of a recordset of results. The shape from the recordset can be converted to an ArcGIS Explorer Geometry and added to the Map as a Graphic or Note. The attributes from the recordset can be formatted into content for a Note popup, or shown in a form or on the DockWindow; a similar approach can be taken with the attribute data represented by a GPRecordSet.
Services returning URLs to other documents or images can be incorporated into the content of the popup of an ArcGIS Explorer note or view. An example was shown during the User Conference plenary session.
Finally, program against the service to pass in information and display the result in Explorer using the input and output types you worked out in the previous step. Consider using a BackgroundWorker if the call to the service may take a while and your intended workflow means that the user can continue working while the call to the service is made. If the user must wait for the result, consider using a ProgressHelper to inform the user of progress, as shown in the Drive Time Analysis sample.
Whether you’re learning the basics of the latest release or looking to create your own add-in using the SDK, the ArcGIS Explorer Community offers a wide variety of useful information. These include this blog, the Explorer Gallery, a Media Gallery, peer-to-peer discussion and help forums, and the Knowledge Base.
Just go to the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center and click Community.