ArcGIS Explorer vs. Google Earth

I’ve seen quite a few people comparing AGX to GE and I think many are missing the point. ESRI has been saying that they view the mission of AGX as quite different as that of Google Earth or Virtual Earth 3D. From the ArcGIS Explorer “homepage”:

ArcGIS Explorer is a lightweight desktop client for ArcGIS Server. It can be used to access, integrate, and utilize GIS services, geographic content, and other Web services. ArcGIS Explorer can also be used with a variety of other GIS services such as those published using ArcIMS, ArcWeb Services, Web Map Services (WMS), and other Web services. In addition, ArcGIS Explorer can use local data such as shapefiles, file geodatabases, KML, JPEG 2000, GeoTIFF, MrSID, IMG, and other image formats.

I know most of you realize this, but lets keep that all in perspective when we start worrying about if ESRI can find 10 Downing Street. Yes, AGX is a 3D Globe. Yes it looks and acts like Google Earth. Yes SOME people at ESRI have been using the words “Google Earth Killer” in the past. That doesn’t change AGX’s mission as a GIS browser. If you want 10 Downing Street in AGX, give the Ordnance Survey a call or just bug this man to offer up their datasets as a 3D Globe.

ESRI has given GIS Professionals the tools to create their own 3D globes and serve them up to clients. We’ve been asking for these for years so now it is time to put up or shut up. ArcGIS Explorer is only as good as the datasets inside and ESRI has some starter services for us to use, but they are just starting points. Lets not lose perspective here that AGX has been out in the public for 2 or 3 days, while Google Earth has been out for years now. Sure this is a “Final Release”, but in reality it is a beta. So in that frame of mind, test it with ArcIMS, ArcGIS Server, WMS Services, KML, Shapefiles, file geodatabases, JPEG 2000, GeoTIFF, MrSID, IMG and other formats it supports. Let ESRI know in their forums what is working and what isn’t working. Let them know that you want to see ArcSDE and Personal Geodatabase support if that is important to you.

I was joking around with the Matterhorn example because Stefan asked about it, but my point in that post was someone should offer up a ArcGIS Server service that could fix the Matterhorn very easy and that is the spirit of ArcGIS Explorer. It has many faults right now, don’t get me wrong. But lets work at getting it right as a GIS browser and leave the sightseeing to GE and VE.

Dave Bouwman on a OpenLayers connector for ArcGIS Server

I saw the comment on Steve’s rant too.

If everyone who does not like the ADF licensing model simply contributed 8 hours to this effort, we could have a free, robust, open, alternative that would address the needs of many many organizations. I mean – if I want to edit versioned vector data in a browser, then sure, I’ll pay for the ADF because that’s the powerful part of it’s power. But if I just want to server up a simple map, with simple functions, then OpenLayers would be just fine.

The promise of using OpenLayers with either ArcGIS Server or ArcIMS is too great to pass up. Head over to Dave’s blog to figure out how to help.

Planned Improvements to ArcGIS Online (and ArcGIS Explorer datasets)

Because ArcGIS Online (AGO) is still beta, there are tons of plans to continue adding and fixing datasets. ArcGIS Explorer “piggybacks” AGO so AGX users will want to keep an eye out for the following improvements.

  • high-resolution 1 meter imagery for the USA
  • detailed street maps for North America and Europe
  • USGS Topo Quads
  • provincial level political map for the world

ESRI also has plans to improve the existing layers as they get feedback so make sure you let them know in the forums any problems with the labels or data layers.

The ESRI Online Dating Service

I’m not sure what to say. Maybe an effective use of the ESRI Support Forums?

Looking for Female dates to Business Dinner…

We are 4 young GIS/ engineering professionals looking for female dates. The event is a company dinner with an expected attendance of 60 people. This is a formal dinner at a very nice restaurant in downtown Raleigh. This event will be on the evening of December 9th, 2006. Dinner and drinks are provided, and a guaranteed good time! For pictures and more information please contact me ASAP. Under 35 and over 18 preferred. This is strictly a friends date. Please attach a photo of yourself in email. This is not a joke. Thanks for looking!!

Anyone care to help some brothers out?

GIS Dates

ArcGIS Online – Bigger news to ESRI users than ArcGIS Explorer

I think the big news of the night is ArcGIS Online. I commented a while back about the sorry state of the default ArcGlobe and how ESRI should offer up some nice looking globes for users to use. Well now you have it. On ArcGIS Online, ESRI is offering up MXDs, ArcGlobe Documents, Layer files and PMF (ArcReader) documents for you to use with your projects. Plus because ArcGIS Online is an ArcGIS Server service, you can connect directly from ArcCatalog.

ESRI has quite the collection going right now (maps and services), but the key is not to let this fall aside. EDN, other than the online docs, has almost seemed abandoned since it started and I fear that ArcGIS Online might fall to the same fate.

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t see myself using this too much in my line of work. But one of the biggest complaints I hear from new ESRI users is a lack of good basemaps to start with. Now at least you have them and you don’t have to worry about finding your ESRI Data CDs.

Christian Spanring on ArcGIS Explorer

ArcGIS Explorer, a first impression

As mentioned in a few discussions earlier this year, ArcGIS Explorer won’t be a mass market product and is not supposed to compete with Google Earth. So I expected a product that would fit my needs as ArcGIS user and offer new possibilities for data and result dissemination for instance.

Basically it does.

Christian sees this as a glass half full. There is potential, we just have to wait for users to take advantage of it. He also note that WMS works pretty good and with AGX not being tied to the ArcGIS release schedule we’ll probably see quick improvements (remember to post issues in the ArcGIS Explorer forums). Bern Szukalski was pretty excited about that prospect back at the User Conference so if something doesn’t work, let him know.

The 3D Globe Matterhorn Test

Stefan likes to use the Matterhorn as a test for the terrain of 3D globes. He’s looked at the Matterhorn in Google Earth and Virtual Earth 3D. Here is the “standard” view in ArcGIS Explorer.


Anyone in Europe have a nice detailed globe service they’d like to share? Because of the back end technology behind AGX, it should be able to blow away both Google Earth and Virtual Earth with terrain models. The question is how to find them.

Viewing ArcIMS services in ArcGIS Explorer

One of the biggest “errors” one gets when trying to view ArcIMS services in AGX is the dreaded “Unknown spatial reference” when adding them. This occurs because the projection has not been set for the service and logically AGX cannot display them. The 9.2 ArcDoc should explain how to set the projection withe the AXL files, but way back in Feb 2006, Jeremy Bartley wrote a blog post about how many ArcIMS sites had their projection set inside the huge MapDex site.

One of the most disturbing things I have found out from building Mapdex is the lack of proper projection information set for mapservices. It turns out that about 56.5% of mapservices lack a projection or cannot be assumed to be geographic. Only 31.3% of mapservices have a valid projection while 12.2% can be assumed geographic.

Better get cracking all you ArcIMS administrators and update those AXL files. As Jeremy noted back then, there is a great ArcUser article about Georeferencing ArcIMS Services.