Monthly Archives: October 2009

Happy Halloween with ArcGIS Explorer

Halloween is just around the corner, and we couldn’t resist highlighting a couple of.. well… bewitching examples.

First, on the Google Earth blog there was a post about a pumpkin KML. We downloaded the KML, added it to Explorer, and gave it a little extra twist by switching to our World Physical basemap and using Swipe on the pumpkin KML to reveal a slice of it.

And then we switched to 2D mode for a different look.

And here’s another post on the GIS Education Community blog by Angela Lee that takes on a Halloween theme by displaying a layer package shared on ArcGIS Online to show a thematic map of US pumpkin production.


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Halloween Facts from Esri

Jack O lantern by Catherine Spisszak

Halloween is here and I thought you might find these facts using Esri Data interesting:

  • Bone Gap Village, IL has a total population of 262. 25.0% of the residents are under 18 and of trick or treating age.
  • 17.4% of the population in Tombstone City, AZ can trick or treat this year as they are younger than 18.
  • Bates City, MO has an index of 72 for purchasing a horror video/DVD in the last month, 28% lower than the national demand.
  • The index in Jasonville city, IN for buying a horror video/DVD in the last month is 201, 101% higher than the national demand.
  • Deadwood city, SD has an index of 93 for buying prepackaged, loose candy in the last 6 months, 7% lower than the national demand.
  • The index in Pumpkin Center, NC index for buying prepackaged, loose candy in the last 6 months is 104, 4% higher than the national demand.

For more information on Esri Data please visit

Happy Halloween!!

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Announcing the ArcGIS Data blog

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

Data Blog - Thumbnail

September and October sure went fast. We on the Mapping Center team have been very busy working on mapping projects, and have not spent as much time here–but we’re finding a balance and will be getting more good blogs done soon (several are in the pipeline). Continue reading

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Converting CAD Feature Layers in ArcGIS 10

Microstation and AutoCAD files are a supported GIS formats in ArcGIS and have been for many years.  CAD features classes are a valid source of ArcMap layers and are valid as input to most geoprocessing tools, including those that copy features from one feature class to another.  These data manipulation tools like COPY FEATURES, APPEND, MERGE and FEATURE CLASS TO FEATURE CLASS all have their own specific subtleties and use cases for moving features from one data set to another.  These tools automatically convert data from one data format to another and from one coordinate system to another; Shapefile to file geodatabase to enterprise geodatabase etc.  In the case of the read/only CAD feature class this means that you can use these tools with CAD as input to effectively convert CAD data to GIS data.  When working with CAD text to create geodatabase annotation the IMPORT CAD ANNOTATION tool is the way to go.

In ArcGIS 9.4 the context menu for a CAD layer in ArcMap guides you directly to the preferred tools to convert the CAD features to other GIS data sets.  Right-clicking on a CAD layer in ArcMap presents you with the choices Convert CAD Feature Layer or Convert to Geodatabase Annotation.  Other methods for copying and converting data are still available such as using copy-n-paste in an edit session or other tools like COPY FEATURES listed above.  In fact these new context menu choices direct you to the existing FEATURE CLASS TO FEATURE CLASS tool or the IMPORT CAD ANNOTATION tool in the as of CAD text.  The FEATURE CLASS TO FEATURE CLASS tool is preferred over the similar COPY FEATURES tool in that it includes a query parameter that is useful in filtering the CAD data that you want to convert.

The new CAD TO GEODATABASE tool replaces the obsolete IMPORT FROM CAD tool and combines the functionality of several existing tools to streamline the conversion of one or more CAD files into a geodatabase.

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ArcGIS Explorer system check utility updated

The ArcGIS Explorer online system check utility has been updated to include Windows 7, and is a handy tool to check to see how your system meets minimum and recommended system requirements.

Visit the ArcGIS Explorer download page and look for the system requirements link.

The link will bring you to the detailed system requirements information, which includes a link to run the online system check utility.

Run the utility and you’ll get a full report on your system.

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When the Sum is not equal to the parts

by Kyle Watson

Hello blog readers,

This is a story about “which side of the tracks” you are on and how demographic analysis comes into play.  More importantly how to identify certain anomalies when one side is completely opposite of the other – and the sum doesn’t equal its parts.

To illustrate this point let’s say we are a national franchising organization.  Hundreds of new applications come in a month each with three or four proposed sites.  Our commercial real estate group then gives us analysis, maps, and reports of newly proposed franchises.  We spec out the sites, they come back with the goods.  They hand us a “PASS/FAIL” report that tells us if we’ve met our initial criteria.

The initial criteria is always:

  • A 7-mile radius
  • Population of 250k – 350k
  • Average Household Income of $120k (+/- 20%)

So this is what we get back in a nice report.  If the three variables are not met – FAIL.  And we move on to different proposed sites.  If the criteria is met – PASS.  We further breakdown the area and continue with the suitability process.

Below is an example PASS/FAIL map (of which I annotated to show the anomalies).  At first glance all criteria is a match, right? 


We take a more in-depth and determine that even though the average household income of the 7-mile ring is $121k, there aren’t any block groups in the surrounding area that are actually in the $121k range.  Here we are dealing with a real life situation where the north side of the proposed location (the working class Pontiac, MI area) and the south side (one of the most affluent areas in the U.S., Bloomfield Hills, MI) border each other back-to-back.  Polar opposites. 

The extreme differences in demographic makeup cause an anomaly, thus we can’t consider the 7-mile ring a uniformly, normalized area.  In this case the medians and averages for the ring don’t tell us the whole story.


This concept is often related to ecological fallacy.  Take, for example the linear graphic below.  This is a representative situation of the map above.  The average and median are not representative of any data considered.


Quite often when averages are skewed, medians are the next in line for analysis.  In this case neither help.  You could split the regions into a north and south trade area (which I did using the Draw Area tool in Business Analyst desktop), but this only reaffirms that one side is too low and the other is too high.  The common practice remaining is to expand your PASS/FAIL criteria.  You may need to add a second tier of demographic qualifiers (competitors, age, race, market saturation) before making a final decision.

I hope the above reaffirms the notion that unless you do analysis in an evenly distributed Utopian society, make sure you understand the data.  And add in some secondary checks to ensure you make the right decision.


Kyle – born in a Pontiac – Watson


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Answers to your questions about ArcGIS Online Groups

10/29/09–In a post last week, we answered some of the functionality questions we didn’t get to during our live training seminar. Today, we’ll address the audience’s questions about ArcGIS Online groups.

Can groups be private?
Yes. When you create a group, you decide to make it public or private. You can change the type of group later on if you want. See ArcGIS Online Help for information on creating and editing groups.

Can anyone create a public group?
Anybody who is registered for ArcGIS Online can create a public group.

Can anyone join a group or do you have to be invited?
It depends on how the owner has set up the groups. There are three types of groups:

  1. Public and open to membership requests. This means you can search and find the group, and you can request to join it, for example, Board Games.
  2. Public but not open to membership. This means you can search and find the group, but you can’t join it, for example, ESRI Maps and Data.
  3. Private. You need to be invited to these groups, and you won’t find them in searches (unless you are already a member).

Can you change a private group to a public group?

Can you suspend access for a group member?
You can remove members from your group. If you want to add members back in, you’ll need to re-invite them (or re-accept their request to join).

Can there be more than one group admin?
No, not at this time.

How does a group owner know when I have submitted a request to join his/her group?
The group owner will see a New Membership Requests link in the group you’ve requested to join.

See ArcGIS Online Help for more information on new membership requests.

If we search for groups, do we see both public and private? Or can we only access private groups by being sent an invitation?
No. When you search for groups, you only find public ones. You can only discover private groups by being sent an invitation from the group owner. 

If I want to add an organization to one of my groups, can I do so or does it have to be by individual name?
Currently, you have to invite users individually. See ArcGIS Online Help for details on inviting users to join your group.

Can group content be shared through a URL?
Yes. You can create URLs to share all the content that’s shared with the group or a specific set of group items. See ArcGIS Online Help for information on creating URLs. Be aware that only members of your group will be able to see the content (unless the items are also shared with everybody).

Can you cancel a membership to your group?
Yes. As the owner of a group, you can remove members. See ArcGIS Online Help for information on removing people from your group.

If you decline to join a group, can you join at a later time?
Yes, but the group owner will have to resend you an invitation.

Do you have to be a member of a group to access a group’s online maps?
Yes, unless the online maps are also shared with everyone. Shared with everyone means that anybody who visits ArcGIS Online, including people who are not signed in, can find and use the maps. See ArcGIS Online Help for information on sharing content.

When using a public group to encourage members to add content, how do you review completeness of new content?
Currently, there is not a way for group owners to review content before it is added by members. If you are concerned about the completeness or quality of group content, you may want to be conservative in accepting members. Alternatively, you can set up an invitation-only group.

If you create a map that you want to share to a group, I know you can send the URL by email to a member. Would you be able to secure it so that the receiving user cannot change it? Can you make it ‘read only’?
Other users cannot overwrite your Web map but they can create their own map based on changes to yours. When somebody opens your map, they have access to the same set of options you did when you created the map—add layers, change transparency, zoom in, and so on. However, if they want to save the changes, they save as a new Web map (entering a new title and tags) and your Web map is preserved as is.

Is there a registry which records which changes were done to the layers from the group?
No, not at this time.

What type of security is available so only your group members can access the data?
You can set your group to private which means only people you’ve invited to join your group (and who have accepted) will find your group and have access to the data and maps. If you are looking for this level of security, you should only share your content with the group and not everybody.

Is there any way I can see the list of groups available?
Currently, you have to search for groups by entering at least one keyword. Searching with the term group is a pretty good way to see what’s available. In a future update, you will be able to see all available groups by using an empty search string. (You can do this now to see a list of all content.)

Can you track user hits on groups?
No, not at this time.

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Getting Started Tips

The latest issue of ArcWatch, ESRI’s e-magazine for GIS news, views, and insights, publishes an article by ArcGIS Explorer product manager Bern Szukalski with information on getting started, providing tips and pointing out some great resources. Even seasoned Explorer users will find the resources useful.

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ArcGIS Desktop and VBA?

There’s been some confusion from about VBA support…

First let me say that ArcGIS Desktop 10 does support Microsoft VBA however 10 will be the last version with VBA support.  Developers with existing VBA customizations should use the 10 release to migrate to Python, add-ins, or, in rare occasions, to custom ArcObjects components.

Previous to 10, VBA runtime was installed by setup.exe for ArcGIS Desktop. At 10, the VBA runtime is installed by setup.exe of the ArcGIS VBA Resources setup.  For Beta go to the ArcGIS Desktop DVD or DVD image that you downloaded and find the “ArcGIS Desktop VBA Resources for Developers” setup from the DVD setup menu, or under the SDK_VBA folder.  This setup will install the VBA Runtime and necessary files for VBA support in the ArcGIS Desktop application.

Once you have VBA installed you’ll need to get a free VBA 10 authorization file.  If you are a concurrent use beta tester, you’ll need to request a new license file through ESRI Customer Services.  For single-use beta testers, use the beta 1 authorization file provide on the ArcGIS Desktop DVD under the authorization_files folder. To request a Concurrent Use VBA license, login to the Resource Center, open the Support page and click the Request a Beta License File link under Other Support Resources.

Summary – If you need VBA support in ArcGIS Desktop applications:

  • Install ArcGIS Desktop
  • Install ArcGIS VBA Resources
  • Obtain a license for VBA

Update August 26th 2010

If you have requested the authorization number for VBA, it would have been in an e-mail from ESRI Customer Service. It will also be visible in the Authorization and Provisioning section of the Customer Care site. If you cannot locate this information, contact Customer Service.

Note: The VBA authorization number is not automatically included with your ArcGIS installation media. The primary contact on your account needs to contact your customer service representative directly, by email, for an authorization number.


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DO NOT PUBLISH (CR130655): Making the overview control leaner

At 9.4, we’ve put in a lot of effort to try and reduce Web ADF applications’ session size and startup time. Despite the progress we’ve made, there is always room for improvement. We’ve often come across situations where there is no magic recepie to get more performance and either functionality or flexibility needs to be sacrificed. In such situations, the onus is on you, the developer, to decide whether that trade off is acceptable.

The Overview Control presents just such a dilemma. It looks simple and innocuous, but it adds overhead to the application’s startup time and session size. In this post, I’m going to describe how you can reduce the performance impact of the Overview Control. There are many options to consider -

1) Simply don’t use the Overview Control. If having an overview map is not critical to your user’s workflow, consider removing it from your application altogether. It will save some precious time at application startup, and also make the session size slightly smaller. You can do the following

2) Reduce the number of map services that are included in the Overview Control. By default, every map service in the application is also included in the overview. More the number of map services, more time it takes to fetch each individual map and then fuse them together into one image. Usually, including only the largest map service (in terms of it’s geographic footprint) in the Overview Control is good enough to provide a context for the extent users are viewing. To prevent unnecessary map services in the Overview Control from slowing down your application’s startup, you need to simply remove the <managed-bean> reference to it’s OverviewFunctionality.

3) Use a static image with the Overview Control. This is really the most efficient option if you absolutely require an overview map. All you need is an image that you can use as the overview map. The image should represent the geographic area covered by the full extent of your main map. You could use the ArcObjects API or ArcGIS Server’s SOAP API to generate this image. Alternatively, you can let the Overview Control generate this image and then you can save and reuse it as a static image. You can get the URL of image that the Overview control generated either by inspecting the Page Source or by using Firebug. Use the URL to download the image to disk. They downloaded image will just be named “mimedata” without any file extension. You need to rename the file and give it an extension based on the Overview Contro’s image format (PNG by default). Open this image in a viewer to make sure it is not corrupted. Place this image in your application’s WAR file, and point the Overview control to it using a relative path. In the example below, the image is called “ov.png” and I have put it in the WAR file under a folder called “images”.



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