Tag: ArcGIS Online

Using the Operational Navigation Charts from ArcGIS Online

In a previous post we showed you how you could connect directly to ArcGIS Online from ArcGIS Explorer to view additional content found there.

Another interesting service is the Operational Navigation Charts (ONCs). This service presents a digital version of the charts at 1:1,000,000-scale. The ONCs were produced by the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The map includes over 200 charts across the world, excluding parts of North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania where charts are not publicly available. Here’s what the coverage looks like:

Connect to ArcGIS Online like we described in our earlier post and open the Specialty folder. Choose the EVC_Topo_World globe service.

Here’s what the service looks like around the Strait of Gibraltar.

If you want to learn more, see the World Topographic Map information on the ArcGIS Online Resource Center.

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Exploring more of ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online is tremendous resource of ready-to-use map and globe services that can be accessed directly using ArcGIS Explorer. Explorer’s default globe and the additional maps and layers that you add from the Data tab on the Explorer Resource Center are all powered by ArcGIS Online.

You can also connect directly to ArcGIS Online and discover additional services not currently included on the Explorer Resource Center. Here’s how…

First, make a direct connection to ArcGIS Online. From Explorer choose File > Open, then click Servers. Create a new connection by choosing ArcGIS Server.

 Enter the URL to ArcGIS Online. Note that in the graphic below the final “s” is cut off in the input box. The complete URL should be http://services.arcgisonline.com/arcgis/services. You don’t need a user name or password.

Once you’ve established the connection, you’ll see something like this – the list of all available data services from ArcGIS Online.

If you look closely you’ll note the different icons that distinguish and organize what is available.

When you first connect globe services will be a little faster to draw since these don’t need to be projected and most are already cached. Map services will take just a little bit longer to display when you first connect, but will be just as fast once you’ve connected and generated local cache.

To add a service just double-click. Here we’ve chosen to open a NASA cloud cover service. Try adding one or both of the layers in the service.

Now that you know how to add ArcGIS Online services directly, we’ll take a closer look at others in upcoming posts.

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ArcGIS for AutoCAD Build 200

ArcGIS for AutoCAD Build 200 was released a few weeks ago. The free download introduces a new way for AutoCAD users to participate in ArcGIS workflows. In addition to accessing map services hosted on ArcGIS servers, AutoCAD users can now work with standard AutoCAD objects and attribute field values as feature classes.  Here is a brief overview of what’s new and what you can do with the product.


Map Services

Build 200 improves the performance of map services and extends support to include cached and password-protected maps. A new palette now functions as the main console for interacting with map services.  The map service palette includes a toolbar for toggling between multiple maps in the same AutoCAD drawing.

The toolbar includes new interpretations of commands from Build 100 as well as a few new ones. It is now possible to disconnect a map service and convert it on-the-fly to a static raster image for working off-line or archiving purposes.


Also included is the ability to save and edit a list of favorite map services.  The software ships with a preloaded list of ArcGIS Online maps available free to ArcGIS customers.


Projections and coordinate systems

The map service palette includes heads-up information about the coordinate systems you are working with. The coordinate system published with the map service and the coordinate system assigned to the AutoCAD drawing are displayed for easy reference.


AutoCAD users can also import coordinate systems from the library of ESRI .prj files that ship with the software. ArcGIS for AutoCAD will project map services on-the-fly. The only caveat is the hosting server must have a geometry service running and be accessible.  As a measure of redundancy ArcGIS for AutoCAD will also look on the user’s local machine for an ArcGIS Server geometry service in the event one is not found on the host server.

Layer Controls

Layer controls have also been added for maps services published with this capability.


Feature classes

Build 200 introduces a new way for AutoCAD users to author and exchange feature class information with ArcGIS. A dedicated palette functions as the main console for managing feature class definitions.  The palette uses a toolbar for working with feature classes individually. 


Also included is the ability to import entire feature class schema from another AutoCAD drawing. This can be useful for distributing standard schema to other users tasked with enabling feature classes in existing drawings. Another possible workflow is to use the Export-to-CAD tool in ArcGIS 9.3 (or higher) to export feature classes from an existing geodatabase to an AutoCAD drawing in order to save time and ensure fieldnames and data types conform to your GIS standards.

ArcGIS for AutoCAD feature classes are essentially standard AutoCAD objects and attributes.  The Feature class palette simply provides an interface to specify the object types and properties that qualify as members of a particular feature class. AutoCAD users may recognize them for what they are: AutoCAD selections sets. ArcMap users will recognize them as Definition Queries. Developers may be surprised to discover that no custom object data are used to accomplish this: it’s really that simple. 

The benefit to AutoCAD users is they can continue creating features as they always have using existing CAD standards. The objects will automatically participate in the feature layer as long as they reside on the layer, color or other combination of properties associated with the feature class. And this is completely configurable by the user.

The benefit to ArcGIS Desktop users is that ArcGIS 9.3 (or higher) reads them as named feature classes in the CAD dataset.  Simply drag and drop them into a Geoprocessing tool such as Feature-Class-to-Feature Class and you have just seamlessly converted CAD data, including feature attributes, to a geodatabase without building a complex definition query.

Feature Attributes

ArcGIS for AutoCAD and the geoprocessing tool Export to CAD now attach feature attributes directly to the AutoCAD entity; more on this in another blog.  This makes it possible for ArcGIS for AutoCAD to leverage the standard AutoCAD properties pane to view and edit these values.  A GIS workflow that requires AutoCAD users to view and edit feature attributes is now identical to working with standard AutoCAD entities. Simply select the AutoCAD entity and edit the values. You can also populate multiple entities belonging to the same feature class with a common value by selecting more than one feature.



ArcGIS for AutoCAD is aimed at improving interoperability between ArcGIS and AutoCAD.  Build 200 is an integrated toolset for referencing, authoring and exchanging GIS information between AutoCAD and ArcGIS.  It is a better alternative to less-efficient methods of sharing data that use feature-based translation or conversion to a shape (SHP) file as an interim format.

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Two BIG initiatives from ArcGIS that will benefit *all* Business Analyst users. :-)

 by James Killick

I’m just back from the Esri Business Partner Conference + Developer Summit in Palm Springs, CA. For the many of you that didn’t get a chance to attend: you should know there are some great things coming down the pike from ArcGIS that will be of benefit not only to GIS users, but to all of you ArcGIS Business Analyst users too. :-)

One of the beauties of the fact that the Business Analyst products are built on ArcGIS is that users get to rise with the tide of this great platform that Esri has developed over the last 40 years.

Here are two great new features in ArcGIS that you’ll be able to take advantage of in the very near future:

(1) Share and publish maps with your colleagues using ArcGIS Online

Use case: you’ve done a bunch of analysis using Business Analyst desktop and now you need to get the map in front of your (non-geeky) colleagues or execs. Using the new Sharing and Publishing features of ArcGIS Online [coming later this Spring] you can quickly upload you map to the ArcGIS Online “cloud” and share it securely with your colleagues via a simple web-mapping app. Think of it like Flickr only with interactive maps instead of static photos – and just like Flickr you can share information publicly or with just a select group of people. Here’s a screen shot of some typical shared content. Notice the “View in Browser” button:


(2) Creating Powerful 3D Mapping Presentations using ArcGIS Explorer 900

This will enable you to supercharge your presentations and make you look like a rock star to your execs.  ArcGIS Explorer is Esri’s 3D Globe app – many of you might compare it to Google Earth. A tremendously useful feature of the new 900 version is now you can use it to create superb, animated, 2D or 3D presentations.

Use case: you need to give a board room level presentation of your proposal – e.g. where your retail outlets are and potential locations for filling the gaps, or perhaps where you need to consolidate.

In just a few minutes you can share the information from your Business Analyst desktop and build an interactive presentation in ArcGIS Explorer. The presentation can tell the story you want to tell while still providing interactive control to further explore. Here are a few screen shots:

The screen shot above shows some data displayed in a 3D map on ArcGIS Explorer.
From this tool you can build presentations. The presentations can include interactive maps and globes, custom map layers, titles and overlays, embedded photos and videos, even slides from a PowerPoint. When you’re done creating the presentation you simply click this button:

And then, just like in PowerPoint, you go into presentation mode:


For more information on ArcGIS Explorer 900 you can stay tuned by linking to the ArcGIS Explorer blog.

Keep your eyes peeled. This is great stuff.


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ArcGIS Explorer at the 2009 ESRI Federal User Conference

ArcGIS Explorer 900, the forthcoming release of ArcGIS Explorer, was showcased a few hours ago during the opening plenary presentations at the 2009 ESRI Federal User Conference in Washington, D.C. ArcGIS Explorer was introduced by ESRI president Jack Dangermond with slides, and ArcGIS Explorer product manager Bern Szukalski showcased some of the new features and capabilities of Explorer, and how they’re related to other new features that will be delivered with ArcGIS 9.3.1.

The context was set by demonstrating the new ArcGIS Online search that can be used to find GIS data. Bern started off by opening an ArcMap document missing some desired layers, then typing in keywords to search for and find needed data via ArcGIS Online. The data could be previewed, and then added to ArcMap from the search results with a single click. Shown below is the search page (on the right) and the search results (on the left).

The ability to create layer packages was then highlighted, a new feature of ArcGIS 9.3.1. Layer packages encapsulate ArcMap cartography and data (or URLs to services, if a service layer) in an easy-to-share share package. To create a layer package in ArcMap, just right-click a layer and choose Create Layer Package.



Jack Dangermond explained that layer packages can be shared in a variety of ways; they can be E-mailed, published onto CDs or DVDs, or placed on network drives. Bern showed another new way to share – via ArcGIS. He logged in to his ArcGIS Online account, then added his newly created layer package to other items he’d added previously. All ArcGIS users will have their own ArcGIS Online account, and have space available to share their data with others.


Shared data can be of many types, from source data to complete maps and layer packages, and even links to Web maps. These can be organized and shared publicly, or within groups that can be created and managed to allow public access or restricted access within specific user communities. Below are some of example groups that were demonstrated.


The demonstration then moved to ArcGIS Explorer 900, the forthcoming new release of the product. The new ribbon-based user experience was highlighted, as well as other features that improve its ease of use.


One of the shared layer packages was opened in ArcGIS Explorer, and showed how ArcMap cartography is captured in the layer package and can now be displayed in ArcGIS Explorer. ArcGIS Explorer has always been a great way to view and publish GIS services, but now it’s also great for providing broad access to GIS data via layer packages created using ArcMap. ArcGIS Explorer 900 has an integrated 2D/3D display, and the layer package was opened in 2D mode.


The display was switched from 2D to 3D. Bern explained that the layer package he had just opened contained 3D content, and when opened in 2D mode it was draped on the map. But when the display was toggled to 3D mode the data was shown as extruded 3D polygons.


Also demonstrated was the new Basemap Gallery. These allow users to quickly switch basemaps without having to change or reorder any other operational layers they may have added. These new basemaps also include Microsoft Virtual Earth streets, imagery, and hybrid maps, which will be available to all ArcGIS users.


The demonstration concluded by showing an ArcGIS Explorer presentation. Explorer 900 includes tools that allow users to create presentations for briefings, meetings, educational use, and more. The full-screen presentation mode allows layer visibility and popups to be toggled, yet allows full control of the application at any time during the presentation. Presentation mode also allows various types of rich media to be incorporated, and the demonstration included streaming videos, live Web cams, and flash animations.


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Using ArcGIS Online via direct connection

The ArcGIS Explorer default map, and maps and layers you can discover on the Explorer Resource Center, are created using ArcGIS Online services. Behind the scenes these have been authored using ArcGIS Desktop, and are powered by ArcGIS Server.

We’ve chosen a subset of all of the available ArcGIS Online services to include on the Explorer Resource Center, but you can connect directly to ArcGIS Online and shop around for more. Here’s how…

Go to File > Open, and choose Servers. You’ll see a list of the available connections you can make across the top. Choose ArcGIS Server (since the ArcGIS Online services are ArcGIS Server based) and type the following connection URL:


You’ll see a list of all of the available services, many of them organized into folders.


At the bottom left of Open Content you’ll see a link to the Help on Opening Content that includes a legend describing the icons you’ll see:

Since Explorer is a globe, the globe services will be optimal. Many of the listed services are intended for use in ArcGIS Desktop, but any services you find will work just fine.

In this example, let’s click to open the NASA CloudCover_World, and choose Space:


We’ve just added a cloud cover layer to our map. There lots of content to choose from, so try browsing for others you may find of interest.

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Learning about ArcGIS Online updates

We recently completed a two-part post on managing your Explorer cache. In Part I we noted how the content available at the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center is delivered via ArcGIS Online. We also talked about the fact that ArcGIS Online content is updated often, and explained how to manage and refresh your cache to ensure that you’re always looking at the most recent content.

If want to know when ArcGIS Online content is updated, there’s an easy way to do so.  The ArcGIS Online Blog provides information about all changes and updates, and includes RSS feeds to which you can subscribe. We’ll also keep you posted here.



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Your Cache Portfolio – Part 1

You should see your investment advisor about investing cash, but in this two part post we’ll cover how you can best manage your investment in Explorer map cache. Under most circumstances cache and how it is managed are completely internal to the application. But knowing a little more about it will help you make the right decisions about managing your own cache, and in making decisions about how you connect to services. 

We’ll begin by covering the implications of cache as it pertains to the default map, and other maps and layers you can access from the Content tab on the Explorer Resource Center.

Behind the scenes the default map and other maps are powered by ArcGIS Online, a large repository of online content and services that can be used in ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Desktop, and ArcGIS Server. The ArcGIS Online services are powered by ArcGIS Server, and use ArcGIS Server’s caching capabilities to streamline performance, and reduce client/server overhead. The ArcGIS Server 9.3 Help describes caching as follows:

Map caching is a very effective way to make your ArcGIS Server maps run faster. When you create a map cache, the server draws the entire map at several different scales, and stores copies of the map images. The server can then distribute these images whenever someone asks for a map. It’s much quicker for ArcGIS Server to hand out a cached image than to draw the map each time someone requests it. Another benefit of caching is that the amount of detail in the image doesn’t noticeably affect how quickly the server can distribute the copy.

The bottom line is that caching is a feature of ArcGIS Server that makes things better for you – the ArcGIS Explorer user.

When you first connect to a service you communicate with the ArcGIS Online’s ArcGIS Servers. Cache is “handed out” to Explorer, and you’ll see the Streaming… progress bar at the bottom of the map.

What’s happening is that cache is being transferred from the ArcGIS Online servers to Explorer, where it’s stored locally. This is somewhat similar to how bits and pieces of internet sites you visit are stored in browser cache to optimize performance when visiting the site again.

Once local, the next time you visit the same location Explorer doesn’t even have to communicate with the server. It knows that it already has the cache it needs and simply uses it from local storage, resulting in best performance and minimizing client/server communications.

In an earlier post we blogged about how Explorer’s default startup map and other layers you find on the Resource Center are regularly updated. To see these updates in areas that you’ve already visited you will have delete your local cache since Explorer knows you’ve already been there, and doesn’t fetch new cache from the server.

But now that we said that, it’s not entirely accurate. There were many changes in ArcGIS Online services in recent months that were automatically propagated to all Explorer users. That happened since we changed the ArcGIS Online server URL string to indicate a migration from the 9.2 version of ArcGIS Server to the 9.3 version. As a result of that change, new cache was pushed out automatically. But unless ESRI does something on the back end, some changes may be made to ArcGIS Online services that you’ll need to refresh your cache to see.

To refresh your cache, just go to Tools > Options > Cache and choose Disk Cache. Check the option for All Caches and click Delete Caches.

It’s a good idea to periodically refresh your cache, and good practice to make it part of your housekeeping activities.

In Part II, we’ll cover how to have your cache refresh automatically when connecting to services.

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ArcGIS Online infrastructure updates scheduled for tonight

Tonight (Friday, October 10, 2008) from 6 p.m. to midnight PST, ArcGIS Online will undergo some system upgrades to improve existing infrastructure. During this time there may be some 1 minute service interruptions. If you’re using Explorer during this time you may notice very brief periods of not being able to connect to the default map or other maps and layers available on the Explorer Resource Center.

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Explorer maps – always on the update

The ArcGIS Explorer default map, and other maps and layers found on the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center, are regularly updated. These services come from ArcGIS Online and updates are managed by the ArcGIS Online team. ArcGIS Online also offers a variety of map services available for ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server users.

Some of these changes are subtle (but still important) and others are dramatic. Here’s one that we noticed earlier today when taking a look at one of the demonstrations shown during the User Conference plenary.

During one of the demonstrations we took a look at a bridge near Phoenix. In the Explorer default map the imagery showed a bridge still under construction. We added a more recent local raster file of the same bridge, now completed, and used the swipe tool to examine both during the demonstration. Here’s a screen shot from that demonstration showing the bridge in the default map on the left, still under construction, and the newer local raster file with the bridge completed on the right.

If we visit that same area now we’ll see that the Explorer default map has been updated, and shows the now-completed bridge.

The imagery in Explorer’s default map is updated quarterly, and you may have noticed some other updates to the cartography in the Topo, Boundaries & Places, and Streets services. You can learn more about services on the ArcGIS Online Resource Center by visiting the Directory of Services. Select one and click to learn more about its source(s), update frequency, and more.

Updates and changes are also posted on the ArcGIS Online Services Blog.

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