By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

At the Esri User Conference this year we showed, in our technical session on lessons learned in cartographic data modeling, a tool we’ve been using for a few years now.  It’s called ScaleMaster, and we initially developed it to examine the idea that different kinds of geographic data (roads, lakes, rivers, contour lines, etc.) have differing levels of sensitivity to map scale change.  The “we”, in this case, was a collaboration between Dr. Cindy Brewer of The Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Barbara “babs” Buttenfield of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and ESRI.  ScaleMaster worked well to confirm our suspicions, and we also saw some additional utility in expanding ScaleMaster a bit. Continue reading

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New Explorer SDK Enhancements (Build 410)

(submitted by Rob Dunfey, ArcGIS Explorer SDK Development Team)

The latest release of ArcGIS Explorer includes a host of enhancements to the API, creating new opportunities for custom task developers.  The custom task framework genuinely differentiates ArcGIS Explorer from other virtual globes, allowing users to plug in custom functionality directly into the main application.

The most notable of the API enhancements are changes to the View3D class. This class controls the main viewing window in ArcGIS Explorer (the window which displays the globe).  New methods and events on the View3D class now allow developers to render OpenGL graphics on top of the view. In the example below, we’ve drawn wind vectors using OpenGL.

If you step back and think about this, it really is a quite powerful feature. What you choose to draw to the globe is now only limited by your imagination. A new developer sample in the SDK illustrates how you can use these new methods and events to draw grid lines and symbols on top of the globe, but perhaps you will choose to render a Second Life avatar?  More usefully, you may want to display a unique watermark on top of the globe when viewing a particular layer, or incorporate the output from other specialist modelling software.

Other changes to the View3D class include a new property that enables your custom task to alter the vertical exaggeration of the globe surface, and a FlyPolyline method that will allow you to fly along a polyline. This is similar to the functionality available in the application when you right-click a result from the Get Driving Directions task.

We’ve also added methods and properties to the View and Layer classes to give developers greater control over the caching of layers.  Now when you add layers to ArcGIS Explorer with a custom task, you can use the new CacheType layer property to determine how ArcGIS Explorer caches the layer, just like when you add layers via the ArcGIS Explorer user interface. 

In addition, the new RemoveLayerCache method on the View class allows your custom task to delete a layer cache.  Using these new members in combination as a developer, you have far greater control of layer caching, and can ensure layers representing dynamic data sources remain current.

New methods and properties have also been added to the API to help developers work with results.  For example, the new AutoZoom property on the TaskContext will automatically zoom the observer to the location of any new results that are passed to the task context. Using this, and adding just a single line of code should make for more user friendly custom tasks. 

The new SetZoomPerspective on the Result class lets the custom task developer define the location from which a particular result should be viewed when zoomed to in the application. Again, this should make for more user friendly custom tasks.

We’ve also fixed a bug with the LocalLayer class so that it can be used to represent kml files stored on a web server. Previously it didn’t recognize the http prefix which meant this wasn’t possible.  Perhaps you want to build a custom task that searches the web for KML files and displays the KML files it finds in ArcGIS Explorer?  With this fix, now you can.

And finally, a number of constructor overloads have been added to the API which should make for less lines of code.

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Organizing layers with too many unique values

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

If you make zoning, soils, geology, or any of a number of kinds of maps where your data represent many different types of features, you can make use of some specialized functionality in the unique values symbology method in ArcMap’s layer properties symbology tab.  This functionality allows you to create headings within your layer’s symbols that will be shown in ArcMap’s table of contents and in your map’s legend.  Continue reading

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New Result View Properties

With the latest release of Explorer (Build 410) you may have noticed some changes in the behavior of results. Results can be used for many things, including navigation or as inputs to another task. You can zoom to a result by double-clicking it, and new in Build 410 is an automatic zoom feature. For example, whenever you use the Find Address or Find Place tasks, you’ll be zoomed to the result’s default view automatically. 

A new feature in this release is the ability to control the view property of each result. You can change the default view by zooming in or out, panning, or adjusting its tilt. The view property persists when you save your map or export a result, making it handy for creating bookmarks, or highlighting some geographic aspect about your result’s location. 

Here we’ve used the Find Address task to locate ESRI in Redlands, California. Explorer has automatically zoomed to the the result’s default view, shown here:

To change this view, first pan, zoom, and tilt to the desired perspective. Then right-click the result to open its context menu and choose Properties….

In the View Properties dialog box choose Location and click View. You’ll see the view properties, including a camera. Click the camera to capture the current view snapshot, and store it as a property of the result.

Now whenever you double-click the result (or right-click and choose zoom), the view you just saved will be the default view.

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Tips from tech support (Part II)

In this post, Hanna Schneeweiss shares some of the most common ESRI Knowledge Base articles used by her group of support analysts.

The Knowledge Base articles below address some of the most frequent inquiries that ESRI Support receives about ArcGIS Server. These articles, along with the related information on these topics in the Server Help at, offer answers to commonly asked questions about the ArcGIS Server installation and configuration.

The Knowledge Base articles are grouped into the categories Problems, How To’s, FAQs, Errors, and Bugs.


How To’s




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Working With MapCaches


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New Layers Tab on Resource Center

Among the new features in Build 410 is the revamped ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center. The Resource Center now includes a Contents tab that provides easy access to both maps and layers.

What’s the difference? Well choosing a map will replace your existing map; in other words it’s like opening a new document in ArcMap or Word. Choosing a layer will just add the chosen layer to your existing map, just like adding a layer to ArcMap. Just click on the thumbnail or name. Click description to view more information about each map or layer.

Previously, to add a layer you needed to connect directly to the ArcGIS Online servers using a provided URL, user name, and password. Based on your feedback, we’ve redesigned things so that adding layers is easier than ever before.


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We’re back from the International Cartographic Conference in Moscow, Russia

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

For those of you who may not have heard of the ICC, it is the meeting of the International Cartographic Association (ICA). The ICC happens every two years, moving from continent to continent — for example the 2009 meeting will be in Santiago, Chile. Representatives from national mapping organizations, university cartography programs, and of course venders and solutions providers from around the world come to the ICC to share the latest research in many areas of cartography. The conference sessions are based on and organized by commissions which are groups of people who work on specific areas of cartography, like generalization, mountain cartography, or Internet maps. Each commission has a research agenda and its members present papers and have commission meetings at the ICC. Many commissions also opt to have meetings in the years between the ICC meetings. The <a title=”ICA homepage” href=”” ICA website has a <a title=”link to list of ICA commissions” href=”” complete listing of all the commissions; if you’re interested in participating, please email the commission chairperson. Continue reading

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Tips from tech support (Part I)

Hanna Schneeweiss leads a group of ESRI Support analysts who specialize in ArcGIS Server. In this post she shares some of the questions that her team uses to quickly diagnose ArcGIS Server issues.

Here are some general questions that might help you to diagnose a problem before contacting ESRI Support. ESRI Support analysts will be happy to provide any further insight and help as needed. The answers to these questions will help them troubleshoot the issue if a support incident gets created.

  1. Did you get any errors during the initial installation or Post Installation? Are there errors in the Event Viewer logs?
  2. Can you log in to ArcGIS Server Manager? If not, what error are you getting?
  3. Can you connect to your ArcGIS Server with ArcCatalog? If not, what error are you getting? Is this the same if using the connection to administer your services, versus the connection to use/consume services?
  4. If you’re having trouble connecting, can you connect with a different user account?
  5. Have you verified that the user account you’re using is part of the required user group agsadmin or agsusers?
  6. Can you connect to the services using both a local connection and an Internet connection? Just one? Neither?
  7. Are the latest Service Packs installed for ArcGIS Server and/or ArcGIS Desktop?

The ArcGIS Server Development and Support teams share information about the software release and the feedback you send in through Support. If you submit a software bug, software enhancement, or request for documentation, Support works closely with Development to ensure that information is logged into our software defect tracking system and is accounted for during the planning of future releases.

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Verbal scales

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

Verbal Scales - Thumbnail

A verbal scale is also referred to as a “word statement” or a “scale expression”, and in the ArcGIS software, it is one of the options for inserting “scale text”. It is offered in the form of a relationship between map distance and ground distance stated in standard units that we understand for both sides of the relation. For example, if we say that a map that is “one inch to the mile”, we understand (at least in the U.S.) the units on both sides of the relation. This is the same as a map that is 1:63,360, but for many map makers and map users, we will often translate this mentally into “one inch to the mile” because we can intuit that more easily (figure 1). Continue reading

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