Tag: Explorer Desktop

Social Media and Geo-Services: Real-time modeling of the disaster situation in Haiti

During recent disasters and major events, we’ve seen more and more that communities and agencies are adopting social media as an important channel for sharing information. This has perhaps never been more powerfully demonstrated than in the case of the Haiti earthquake.

Monitoring Social Media streams

One of the social media tools being used heavily in the Haiti disaster relief effort is Twitter. Just by monitoring keywords such as “haiti” and “earthquake” at search.twitter.com, we can see how it’s being used: requests for personal assistance, connectivity and outage notifications for telecommunication and utility services, relief effort status updates, missing person broadcasts, sharing pictures, and of course support agencies (and others) broadcasting donation information. 

Many Twitter messages also include links to other social media sites such as Flickr and YouTube, so different types of media, news and information can be shared across all of these networks and around the world very quickly.

The value of Geolocation

By adding geolocation to social media, or by consuming services that provide geolocation information, we can use GIS to build a visual model of what’s happening in real-time (or at least close to real-time). For example, geotagged or geocoded Twitter messages can be added to the map to determine exactly what is happening and where.  Flickr and YouTube provide GeoRSS feeds that allow you to add the latest images and videos to the map for a specific location. Other geo-services such as the USGS feed of recent earthquake activity can also be added to the map to help identify the areas that have been impacted the most. 

When we put all of these services together, we can start to build a powerful model of what’s happening in real-time.

Messages from Haiti

[ Click here for a full-size image ]

This video illustrates how you can use ArcGIS Explorer, the Twitter Add-in, social media and other services to build this type of model.

Links and more Information

Although this example is for Haiti, because social media and geo-services are constantly being updated, it’s possible to build a model like this for almost any disaster situation.  

Here’s a list of what was used in this scenario:


Data sources and feeds

Please share any similar work with us in the comments, Resource Centers or ArcGIS Online, or leave a comment linking to examples you’ve shared elsewhere.

Visit ESRI’s disaster response and assistance site to request help and locate other resources or to contact the ESRI Disaster Coordination team.

- Nick & AL

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How to use ArcGIS Explorer Add-Ins

11/05/09–Add-ins are used to extend ArcGIS Explorer’s capabilities and can be created using Visual Studio and the ArcGIS Explorer SDK. The ArcGIS Explorer team has published a variety of ready-to-use add-ins that you can download from the ArcGIS Explorer Labs group.


See the ArcGIS Explorer blog for a closer look at how you can use add-ins from the ArcGIS Explorer Labs group.

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ArcGIS Online in the news

11/03/09–ArcGIS Online maps, tasks, and APIs received some good press coverage in October. Here are excerpts from a few of the articles:

From the ESRI press release, ESRI Brings GIS to the Public with Mapping for Everyone Web Site

ESRI has launched a Web site that allows users to create maps for free with simple geographic information system (GIS) tools. Called Mapping for Everyone, the Web site includes tools that cover a range of mapping needs, such as embedding an interactive demographic map into a Web site, creating custom applications using Web Mapping APIs, and using a 2D/3D globe viewer on the desktop. Read the full article


The Make a Map application on the Mapping For
Everyone Web site uses map layers from ArcGIS Online.
It was built with the ArcGIS API for Flex.

From the ESRI press release, ESRI ArcGIS Powers New Recovery.gov Map

The United States Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board recently launched the redesigned Recovery.gov Web site with a new interactive Web map based on ESRI geographic information system (GIS) software. The dynamic map shows where American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds have been awarded as well as recipient information. Read the full article

ArcGIS Online provides the basemap and the API
for the new map on the Recovery.gov Web site.

From the ESRI press release, DOI Demonstrates Climate Change with ArcGIS Explorer

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently signed an order to establish a coordinated strategy within the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) to improve response to climate change. During the press conference announcing the order, DOI staff used ESRI geographic information system (GIS) technology to demonstrate the current and future impacts of global climate change. Read the full article

The US Department of the Interior uses ArcGIS
Explorer with imagery from ArcGIS Online to
demonstrate climate change

From the ArcWatch article, Create and Deploy Rich Interactive GIS Web Applications

Using ArcGIS Web Mapping APIs, you can offer users rich maps and GIS capabilities similar to those in desktop mapping applications but with Web benefits. For example, you can design applications that offer compelling graphics and an intuitive interface with a consistent user experience across multiple browsers and platforms. Applications built from Web Mapping APIs often perform better and display better maps than traditional server-side applications. In particular, applications that avoid round trips to the server by processing locally on client machines can also improve server performance. Read the full article

Lots of organizations are creating GIS Web
applications with the ArcGIS Web Mapping APIs


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Using ArcGIS Explorer groups

9/24/09–In a previous post, we offered some tips on how to create groups. We gave a few examples of great groups that users have already created in ArcGIS Online, including two from the ArcGIS Explorer teamthe ArcGIS Explorer group and the ArcGIS Explorer Labs group. To learn about how these groups are used, see Using the ArcGIS Explorer group on AGOL in the ArcGIS Explorer Blog.

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ArcGIS Explorer groups on ArcGIS Online

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.

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Updated add-ins on ArcGIS Explorer Labs

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
  • Select-O-Matic
  • Street Viewer
  • Wikipedia

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.

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Achieving smooth transitions with adjacent services

In your ArcGIS Server application you might have reason to work with adjacent map and image services. This is most often occurs when you want to display your authoritative data for a small area while using a public service (ArcGIS Online, Bing Maps, or Google Maps) for the surrounding area. This is very common when viewing your services in ArcGIS Explorer. For example, you may have recent aerial photography for your area, and you want to blend it with the basemap imagery available in ArcGIS Explorer. This can present a challenge because your service may include a white collar around the map. The discussion below focuses on how to remove this white collar for different service configurations.

Dynamic map services

The example below is a dynamic map service containing aerial photography for Jefferson County, Kentucky shown in ArcGIS Explorer.

Original dynamic map service in ArcGIS Explorer 

With this dynamic map service, ArcGIS Explorer is requesting a JPEG image because the service contains so many colors. Since JPEG does not support transparency, you get a white collar around the image. To clip the white area out of a map service for your desktop clients (ArcMap, ArcGIS Explorer, etc.), simply create a feature class that represents the boundary of your data. Then you can use the Data Frame Clipping capability as described below.

  1. In the ArcMap table of contents, right-click the data frame and click Properties.
  2. Click the Data Frame tab and then check Enable under Clip to Shape.
    Enabling Clip to Shape
  3. Choose Outline of Features and choose your boundary layer.
    Choosing the clip outline
  4. Click OK to all the dialogs.

After updating your map document you need to restart your map service for the changes to take effect. Then the map service will display in ArcMap or ArcGIS Explorer nicely without a collar as in the example below.

Clipped dynamic map service in ArcGIS Explorer

Image services

When dealing with image services you could run into the same white collar around your image. In this case the boundary feature and footprint features need to be clipped to the exact boundary of your imagery. Again, a feature class containing the exact boundary of your imagery would be very useful. You could replace the default boundary feature with your boundary feature and then clip all the footprints to the new boundary. Simply start an edit session, delete the existing boundary and copy and paste your existing boundary into the boundary feature class. After you save your edits and stop editing, right-click on the Footprint layer and click Recompute Footprint > By Clipping to Boundary. You can read about the many other ways to adjust image service footprints in the online help.

NoData and Web APIs/ADFs

The above two approaches for dynamic map services and images services use a boundary feature to differentiate between data and NoData. Any areas outside of the boundary features are NoData. The desktop clients like ArcMap and ArcGIS Explorer don’t render the NoData values. However, all of the Web APIs (JavaScript, Flex, Silverlight) and ADFs (.Net and Java) do render the NoData values as white if the requested image does not support transparency.

In the aerial photography example above, the Web application should request a JPEG image to preserve appropriate quality. Since JPEG does not support transparency, this image could not be used with another basemap service. In cases where a PNG image would work, the white collar will not display, but PNG should only be used with services that contain fewer colors than an aerial photo.

Since your basemaps should be cached anyway for Web applications, the discussion below dealing with cached map services is more appropriate for Web application basemaps.

Cached map services that use JPG tiles

Cached map services can produce an even larger white collar, as the example below illustrates.

Cached imagery with collar in ArcGIS Explorer

This is a cached map service using JPEG image format. As has been discussed in another post, JPEG is by far the best image format for cached map services that contain aerial photography to be used in a Web application. You can see in this example that the cached map service doesn’t work all that well in ArcGIS Explorer. The larger white boundary is from the empty cache tiles around the map. Since the JPEG image format does not allow for transparency, you get a white collar. There is nothing you can do to get rid of this white collar in ArcGIS Explorer, ArcMap, or any of the Web ADFs or APIs. To mitigate this problem with JPEG services in ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Explorer you have three options:

  1. Use layer files to control the visibility of the map service
  2. Include the surrounding data in your map cache
  3. Provide a second dynamic map service for desktop clients

Using layer files to control the visibility of the map service

Using a layer file, you can use scale dependent rendering to make sure the layer only turns on when zoomed way in. To do this follow these steps.

  1. Add the cached map service to ArcMap
  2. Zoom in on the data until you can start to see reasonable amounts of detail (that wouldn’t otherwise be in ArcGIS Online or Bing maps).
  3. Right-click on the layer and click Zoom to Nearest Cache Resolution. This ensures your layer visibility corresponds to your cache tile level.
  4. Open the properties for the layer and set the minimum scale to your current scale.
  5. Right-click the layer and click Save As Layer Package.

Now you can share the layer file with all of your desktop users. The white collar will still be visible, but only when zoomed way in. At this larger scale, your users will likely be more interested in your map service than the surrounding data.

Including the surrounding data in your map cache

The second option of adding surrounding data to your map cache can also improve the usability of the service by your desktop clients. This can be done for the smaller scales of your map cache with little overall impact to the total size of your cache tiles. For more on map caching see the online help. This does mitigate the problem but essentially you have pushed the problem further away from your study area.

Providing a second dynamic map service for desktop clients

The third option is to use two services: a cached map service for your Web applications, and a dynamic map service for your ArcMap and ArcGIS Explorer users. If you are working with imagery like that in this example, an image service would be preferred to the dynamic map service. Since ArcMap and ArcGIS Explorer have local caching capabilities after the first time an area is drawn, a dynamic image service would likely perform very well. To make this easily consumable by your desktop clients you could simply share a layer file pointing to the image service for those users. You should also set the minimum scale in the layer as described above to control the number of dynamic requests and only show your basemap when appropriate.

Cached map services that use PNG tiles

Cached map services that use PNG do not display a collar because PNG supports transparency. This is a good solution for StreetMap-type basemaps, which can use PNG 8 or 32 (you should never use PNG 24 due to IE 6 limitations). Below is a cached streets basemap service that uses PNG32.

Cached PNG service overlapping ArcGIS Online

PNG is an acceptable choice in this example because it maintains crisp lines and text while still keeping the file size low. If this map contained a lot of gradient fills and other shading affects, JPEG with compression quality 90 would be a better choice. Using JPEG would mean the service would not be very useful with other basemaps but it would give you the best performance and quality in a Web application.

Warning! Be very careful when using PNG 32 for your basemap services. As the number of colors increase, so does the file size. Using PNG 32 for aerial photography, for example, can result in tiles being approximately ten times larger than the same service cached using JPEG. If the tiles are ten times larger, then the map will be ten times slower. Using an image format like JPEG 90 would give more consistently sized tiles for all scales, whereas PNG 32 would have much larger tiles at the small scales but smaller tiles at the large scales. The best approach is to build a test cache and validate that all scales have acceptable tile sizes.


With dynamic map service and image services you can easily clip the imagery to the extent of your data allowing you to blend multiple adjacent basemaps in your desktop applications like ArcMap or ArcGIS Explorer. You will still have the challenge of getting the base maps to look similar in a single application but the published map templates should help in this area. With cached map services that use JPEG tiles you should consider maintaining two services: the JPEG cache and a dynamic map or image service. The JPEG cache would be used in web applications and the dynamic service would be used in desktop applications like ArcMap or ArcGIS Explorer. Cached map service that use PNG work very nicely for integrating multiple adjacent services but should not be used as an “ultimate” solution as JPEG caches can be much more efficient for map services with high color variation.

Contributed by Tom Brenneman of the ESRI Technical Sales team.

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Using add-ins from ArcGIS Explorer Labs

A growing selection of add-ins can be found at the ArcGIS Explorer Labs – a group found on ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online contains a variety of shared content from ESRI and other users, and you can form your own groups to facilitate sharing and organize what you share.

The ArcGIS Explorer team has established two groups; ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGIS Explorer Labs. The Labs group contains add-ins that extend ArcGIS Explorer’s capabilities, and though they are not supported you’ll find many useful and interesting examples you can use.

There’s a couple of ways you can find the groups. The most straightforward way is to go the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center and click the Data tab; then click on the thumbnail of the group you want to go to.

Or you can go directly to ArcGIS Online, set your search for groups, and search for ArcGIS Explorer Labs.

Either way, you’ll find the Labs group which contains a selection of add-ins that you can try out and use.

Click on the name of the add-in to get more information, such as a more detailed description, usage notes, and more.

Add-ins are delivered using a special file with a .eaz extension. Just choose the add-in you want, and click Open in ArcGIS.

You can choose Save or Open when prompted. If you choose Open, ArcGIS Explorer will restart and you’ll see the new add-in appear in the Add-Ins tab.

Another option we prefer is using the Save button to save the .eaz file locally, and then adding the ones we want to ArcGIS Explorer later (we can also use Application Configurations to manage and organize them, but we’ll cover that in a later post).

After you’ve saved the .eaz file, add them to ArcGIS Explorer by clicking the ArcGIS Explorer button in the upper left, then choosing ArcGIS Explorer Options.


In the Resources category you’ll find where you can add them under Manage Add-Ins.

Just add the ones you want to use. When finished, you’ll be prompted to restart ArcGIS Explorer. After you restart you’ll see a new Add-Ins tab which contains the new add-ins you’ve just chosen.

These add-ins are created using the ArcGIS Explorer SDK. We’ll be covering the SDK and how you use it to create add-ins in future posts.

We’re sure you’ll find lots of interesting add-ins to use on the ArcGIS Explorer Labs group.

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Explorer 500 Home Server files now available

The new ArcGIS Explorer 500 Home Server files are now ready for download from the Explorer download site.

Continue reading

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ArcGIS Explorer 500 Released

The ArcGIS Explorer Team is pleased to announce that ArcGIS Explorer 500 was released just a few minutes ago. 

This is an update release that includes:

  • Support for ArcGIS Online subscription services.
  • Proxy server support improvements.
  • A change to allow installation on machines running Windows 2000.

The new ArcGIS Explorer 500 home server files will be available later this week. For those that deploy ArcGIS Explorer from your own home server, you’ll need to swap your versions and update your version.html file to push out the new release to your users.


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