ESRI DevSummit – The Gift that Keeps Giving

ArcGIS Code Challenge Winners Announced

Looks like Alper Dincer and Matthew Petre are the big winners. The mobile code challenge results are posted as well. I suppose they announce this after the DevSummit so the winners don’t have to buy everyone beer.

VBA and VB6 with ArcGIS: What’s the Story?

First off I bet you didn’t even know there was an ArcObjects blog. Second, please move off of VBA or VB6. Last year I said the writing was on the wall, this year the wall is falling down upon you. Python, Java or .NET;? take your pick and enjoy. There is nothing you can’t do with those choices and in fact gives you much more freedom.

Silverlight API

Vish is taking it for a spin and he’s reporting back on its use. Bookmark or subscribe to Vish.

Virtual Earth and ESRI ArcGIS

This seems to be getting a ton of play. One thing to remember folks, yes VE is free with ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Explorer 900, but you need a valid license. If you download AGX 900 and don’t have a valid ArcGIS Desktop license, you won’t be seeing VE imagery. Yea that sucks for the world, but every ESRI user should buy Jack a drink at the UC in San Diego for paying for this.

Safe FME User Conference 2009 and State of the Map 2009

Two great conferences are approaching, and one has a early bird deadline right around the corner.

The Safe FME User Conference 2009 (June 11th & 12th) early bird rate ends April 3rd, 2009. If you are planning on attending, you should jump on the savings ($875 vs $2250) right away. Don’t forget this year it is in beautiful Whistler, BC rather than “dirty old” Vancouver, BC. (I’m joking of course, they have it rough up there in BC). Me, I’ve never been to the FME UC or Whistler, but I’m going this year and I’m excited and so should you. If there is ever a reason to take a look at FME it is now when you have to do more, with less.

The State of the Map (July 10th – 12th) is also open for registration. I’ve never been and probably won’t be going this year (I’ll be here), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try if you won’t be going to San Diego in July.

Reflections on the 2009 ESRI Developer Summit

Well another year and another successful ESRI Business Partner Conference and Developer Summit. I know these time are really tough, but it was well worth the trip (OK, it wasn’t that far from Tempe, but…). First off seeing everyone again was great and some friends that I hadn’t interacted with in some time. I know I didn’t post much from the DevSummit and this was because my laptop is a beast and I got tired of lugging it around, plus Twitter is much easier to manage on the iPhone.

So what was “the story” out of the DevSummit? First off it was the Silverlight and Flex APIs. Both are really going to take center stage for ESRI developers because we seem to be hitting the ceiling (this aside of course) of what JavaScript APIs can do. The Silverlight API is really rock solid and just a stroll through the demos really highlights what can be accomplished. The Flex API too is getting huge and I think it will come down to what you prefer as a development environment. .NET developers will go Silverlight and Java/”other” will go to Flex.

Also it was about performance. ArcGIS Server 9.3 is now faster than ArcIMS. I’ll just come out and say it, you have zero excuse (since the cost of both is the same) and the maps look so much better and come out so much faster. Plus ESRI gives us the tools to determine what is slowing down the dynamic maps and make changes. Coupled with this was the announcement that you can license the APIs (JSAPI, Flex and Silverlight) without ArcGIS Server. Instead you get ArcGIS Online for your basemaps, $2k per year with unlimited requests. Try that with Microsoft or Google. I heard people talking about the Web ADFs as well being uncoupled from the Server as well. This means that we’ll see ArcGIS Explorer, the JSAPIs, Flex API, Silverlight API and the Web ADFs all being improved outside of the Server release schedule.

ArcGIS Explorer 900 is just about ready to be released (probably with 9.3.1) and is looking great. The presentation mode (think PowerPoint for 3D globes), Virtual Earth integration and Layer Packages (yep, you can now have great cartography in layers that aren’t map services). I’ll probably devote a whole blog post on AGX 900 soon because it is too much to fit in this post.

ArcGIS Online and Layer Packages is the one that threw me. Most people seemed confused and used words such as “Geography Network” to describe it. That probably isn’t fair, but I think ESRI needs to work harder at describing the business case for ArcGIS Online for the users and ESRI itself. Still the ability to host Layer Packages and limit them to groups of users is great and I can see people using that. If there was one subject where people seemed most confused out of the DevSummit, I’d say it was this.

The Python tools in ArcGIS Desktop are looking great. Remember ArcPlot? Well now you have map automation with Python. Remember ArcEdit? Well now you have an integrated Python window and intellisense (well we never had that in ArcEdit did we?). Plus now you can leverage all the Python projects out there to improve your own analysis. So not only is it like the old days, but it is so much better. Python is one of the best things ESRI has done on the Desktop.

9.4 looks great as well. No more geoprocessing locking up your windows. Now the processes run in the background and you can continue working. Also ArcCatalog is now integrated so you only need to work with one application now, ArcMap (I wonder if it will cease to be ArcMap and just be called Desktop?). David Chappell, the keynote, let go that the ArcGIS REST API will be feature equivalent to the SOAP API so that will be a huge change for everyone. When David’s talk on SOAP and REST is posted by ESRI, make sure you read it. By far the best Keynote I’ve ever seen. I’m glad ESRI brought him to talk about this subject.

Delorme is also going to offer their maps as a premium service though ArcGIS Online. I’m really excited about this because their maps cover the world and they are just so damn impressive. I can see that service being used by lots of people as basemaps. Keep your eye out for this because the service blew everyone watching away.

The User Presentations were great and well attended (mostly standing room only). Next year they will be moved to a room all their own and more sessions will be offered. I think this was a great opportunity for all of us who presented to show what we are working on with ArcGIS and show some real work examples of ESRI in action. The demos ESRI puts up are nice, but I’m sure they never have time to put the effort into them that they wish they could. Seeing users pushing around ArcGIS was great and that is why everyone was standing in the back. So if your talk wasn’t accepted this year, pay attention next year beacause there will be more sessions. Given the crowds this year, I anticipate many more users submitting talks.

Lastly the best part is being able to sit down with ESRI staff and talk about what we are trying to do or show them code we are working on. This interaction helps develop relationships outside of the normal channels and gives users more power than they would just calling an 800 number. Seeing users pull out their laptops and start up Visual Studio, Eclipse, Aptana, or Flex Builder must give the ESRI guys goose bumps. It is sort of like going to the old “Doctor’s Office” (do they still have that?) at the ESRI User Conference in the summer.

So what do we need to pay attention to? 9.3.1 will be out in “May”. 9.4 will go Beta “after” the UC in July. Silverlight API is in beta now. ArcGIS Explorer 900 will enter a limited beta “soon”. The APIs are being uncoupled from ArcGIS Server. Flex and Silverlight are taking off. Python is finally coming into its own. The JavaScript APIs have code assist in Aptana. ArcGIS Online continues to be developed and improved. And finally we’ll be able to install ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 on the same machine as ArcGIS Server 9.3.1 (or ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 along side of ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1).

The only think left is for me to beg again for ESRI to enable Wikis on their support pages.

2009 ESRI Developer Summit Plenary Video Posted

For those who were not there (or slept in that morning), ESRI has posted a video slide show from the Developer Summit Plenary on the DevSummit homepage. I thought it was one of the better ESRI Plenary sessions I’ve attended.’ You can use the bookmarks below the video screen to move around (for example skip ahead to the Python or ArcGIS Explorer 900 sections)

http://www.esri.com/events/devsummit/

Using OpenLayers with ArcGIS Server REST API

Here is my user presentation from the 2009 ESRI Developer Summit. Feel free to email me with questions or post below. You can get the instructions and code (including a zip file with everything ready to work out of the box) online. Many people have told me that they are very interested in working with ArcGIS Server and OpenLayers so some really great things should be happening soon.

//speakerdeck.com/assets/embed.js

2009 ESRI Developer Summit Plenary Session

The wireless connection here is less that ideal, but I’m going to try and live blog the DevSummit Plenary. Just refresh the page for updates (but keep in mind I’m not the fastest typer in the world). You can also follow some discussion at my twitter account: http://twitter.com/jamesmfee

**8:32 AM: ** Video starts showing the languages ESRI supports. Keeping my eye out for Avenue. Nope looks like Avenue gets no love.

8:33 AM: Jack opens the DevSummit with a welcome.

8:37 AM: Jim McKinney takes over and explains the purpose of the Developer Summit and why everyone is here. There are over 1,100 developers at the DevSummit this year from 41 countries (much larger than the BPC). Tech Sessions will be recorded and placed on the ESRI Resource Centers.

8:43 AM: Jim talks about the road from 9.3 to 9.4. 9.3.1 ships “May”. 9.4 will go beta around the 2009 UC.

8:45 AM: Scott Morehouse takes the stage and talks about the philosophy behind ArcGIS. Very high level stuff.

9:05 AM: Jim gets back on stage and the demos are about to begin.

**9:07 AM: **Demo on how 9.3.1 adds functionality to tune map services automatically. No longer do you have to figure out what layers are slowing down your maps. Run the analyze tool and get errors and warnings to show what is slowing your services down. The results lists tells you what you have to do to fix the service, some as easy as right clicking and saying fixing. After you fix the errors, you get can preview the service inside ArcMap and get see the speed of the service after fixing. Thus you no longer have to author in ArcMap and publish in ArcCatalog. You can do this directly in ArcMap. In fact the tool can be used in just desktop applications to improve map display performance. All very slick and will be well received.

9:14 AM: Next demo is for the Flex API. Amazing that 1 year ago it was barely featured at the DevSummit and now it is probably the default API for ESRI. We drop into some Flex Developer IDE demo and code. Seems all simple, but I’m no Flex developer. Demo shows importing data (xls file) directly into the client side application. I think this gets into unhooking these APIs from ArcGIS Server. Adobe is here at the DevSummit and is having a get together. Quite a change from the past.

9:20 AM: Oh my, an actual Java demo. Talk about Java and excitement at ESRI. I used to understand how Java Devs worked, but this demo is just way over my head. Lets just say that ESRI continues to support Java and leave it at that.

9:33 AM: ArcGIS Online is next up. ESRI seems to refer to this as the cloud so if you here that mentioned here, think ArcGIS Online. Sud and Jeremy are showing the ArcGIS Online 9.3.1 demo. Remember now you can upload those Layer Package files (zipped layer files and data). It seems that ESRI wants you to package your data using the layer package format and then upload it to their system. I can’t but help think of the Geography Network when I see this, but maybe users are willing to use this much simpler interface. One thing that it does do is you can limit your content to certain users, rather than the whole cloud Internet. These users are members of groups so collaboration can occur on ArcGIS Online. I can’t figure out the business model here for ESRI, but I suppose it ties back into Desktop and Explorer. Not only can you add data to ArcGIS Online, but you can create hosted maps from your uploaded data. Reading between the lines here, we see ESRI uncoupling ArcGIS Server from workflows. You can share data and maps with the world without having to purchase an ArcGIS Server license. The demo showed the JavaScript API, but I’m sure any ESRI REST API SDKs can be used with ArcGIS Online and without an ESRI ArcGIS Server license. ArcGIS Online goes public beta after ArcGIS 9.3.1 arrives in May.

9:47 AM: Break

10:17 AM: Back and video showing ESRI mapping implementations

10:18 AM: Jim starts off with the ESRI Resource Centers. Jim Barry takes the stage to talk about ESRI’s community efforts. The Resource Centers were updated a couple months ago so most of this stuff on stage is old hat. The story is that unlike the old EDN pages is ESRI is investing time and effort into the website. Still no mention of a true Wiki, but maybe one day. The new template galleries are interesting and hopefully they’ll do much better than the Geoprocessing and Data Model pages on the support site.

10:29 AM: Art Haddad introduces ArcGIS Silverlight API for Microsoft Silverlight/WPF. Art turns the stage sliver (get it Silverlight ). He demos the ArcGIS Resource Center Silverlight page. The demos really show off the power of Silverlight. We can argue about Silverlight’s install base vs Flash, but it really is compelling. The getting started demo of Art’s shows how quickly you can get started with Silverlight. Art’s demo is by far the smoothest we’ve seen today and really highlights where ESRI is going (Microsoft Integration). The cluster feature method works well and you get some really great maps without much code. Also slick is the ability to use the same code with WPF. Silverlight API is not coupled to the ArcGIS release schedule (like the other APIs) so get involved with the beta.

10:43 AM: ArcGIS Explorer 900 is next up. The new Office ribbon interface makes the application fit in very well with other windows applications. Bern shows the reading of layer packages being loaded into AGX. So now you get the fancy cartography generated in ArcMap, inside AGX. 2D Maps are now part of AGX. 3D globes are great for some mapping, but nothing beats 2D for getting the message across. Microsoft Virtual Earth is now part of AGX so you get much better looking base maps than before. Yet another new feature, there is a new presentation mode to allow you to use AGX for presentations. This is hard to describe, but think about using AGX for your presentations rather than PowerPoint. You can navigate back and forth through the “slides” and then interact with the maps. Larry Young went into some customization of AGX with an application configuration file. This means you can streamline AGX to meet the needs of your users, dropping out the tools that users might not need. This is done with an Application Configure tool that is included with the AGX 900 download.

10:55 AM: Bill Moreland talks about Python and ArcGIS.’ The Python demo uses pulp-or with ESRI’s Geoprocessing model. In the past, Python hasn’t been getting as much love as it should at the DevSummit so seeing this on the Plenary stage is really a change. It is good to see the Geoprocessing Resource Center is getting some traction with shareing scripts.

11:05 AM: ArcGIS Desktop at 9.4 is next up. Some key goals were to simplify common tasks, streamline workflows and improve ability to share work.’ Catalog is now integrated into ArcMap (like Toolbox), much faster map drawing, search from ArcMap, better cartography (isn’t that always there ), charting and reporting, 3D GIS (3D editing) and Asynchronous Geoprocessing (no longer locking up Desktop why your analysis runs). New ADFs at 9.4, extensions can now be developed with .NET and Java (drop in extensions). Side by side deployments at 9.4, thus you can run 9.3.1 and 9.4 at the same time on the same machine. Map automation can now be performed with Python in ArcGIS Desktop. Say goodbye to DS Map Book because now you can create PDF export using Python scripts, much like we did in the old days with ArcPlot. With a few lines of code you can replicate all the functionality of DS Map Book. You can now add geoprocessing tools to any of the toolbars (including your Python scripts). Python is also now integrated into Python. Yep and interactive Python window right inside ArcMap. So intellisense GIS analysis with Python. Brilliant!

11:17 AM: Editing Demo – Sorry I can’t bring my self to blog about editing. If you do lots of editing with ArcGIS Desktop, you’ll want to learn more because the editing tools are really leaping over where they are at 9.3.x.

11:30 AM: Jim is back with the news that you can now edit in all ArcGIS Server ADFs and APIs (including the RESTful ones). Now on to ArcGIS Mobile, the story here is that it doesn’t seem to integrate with what Art Haddad is doing with WPF and Silverlight. It is a shame that ArcGIS Mobile is still treated as a different product than the ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight/WPF. I don’t like the idea that the ArcGIS Mobile team is doing WPF work and the ArcGIS Server team is doing it as well. I want to write code once and deploy on Server or Mobile, not maintain two different apps.

11:45 AM: Break for lunch.