ArcGIS Road Ahead — What’s Coming in ArcGIS 9.2 Desktop

ArcGIS 9.2 is due to arrive “mid-2006”. As was said yesterday is a usability release focused upon changes that users have wanted (many since ArcGIS 8 was first released) as well as some bug fixes. It looks like this 9.2 release will be very popular with ESRI users and the improved documentation is very welcome. Also they announced that we should expect a service pack release for 9.1 by the end of the year.

ArcReader has many new enhancements including redline markups, routing, support for ArcWeb Services, and new navigation tools. The redline functions are very welcome as I can see them simplifying our workflows as we can import these markups back into our ArcGIS Desktop views and directly add the features. A huge change over paper maps or Adobe Acrobat markups.

Highlights in Desktop 9.2 is the new cartographic editing and finishing tools. The usability improvements extend to Maplex which I welcome. The new cartographic representation in 9.2 will allow you to perform “Illustrator” enhancement right in ArcMap. I’m glad to see some of the old Workstation generalization features make it into ArcGIS desktop. I’m sure there will still be many reasons to continue to export Adobe Illustrator, but I suspect these will be the exception rather than the rule. Again we come back to ESRI improving our workflow enabling users to focus more on the map making rather than fighting export tools. One nice feature is that you can modify features using tools similar to Adobe Illustrator (lasso, vertex edit, eraser) so you’ll feel right at home. These new cartographic tools are very powerful and everyone will want to take some online Virtual Campus classes when they are offered to make sure they are taking advantage of these tools. Keep in mind that you’ll need ArcInfo to define and edit, ArcEditor can edit the representation and ArcView can only view them. Basically you’ll net a copy of ArcInfo to create and at least a ArcEditor to edit these cartographical representations (we’ll see how well this goes over). I was happy to see that ArcView can at least open and render them, but I think they need to edit them also.

ArcMap usability improvements are aimed at making us more productive. The map and layout navigation can be done with mouse and keyboard (hot keys and mouse scroll). Leaderlines are now part of Maplex (about time!). Scale settings are easier to set (so if 1”=200’ is very important you can add that to the drop down). Print tables, direct read MS Excel files, Graphs are now improved and the ones that were displayed looks just about as good as Excel can produce. Metatdata is now viewable inside ArcMap so you won’t have to switch back to Catalog for this info. I do like that you can calculate area from right inside the table view (no longer do you need to paste VBA code to do this).

The new CAD usability improvements will make integrating CAD into our GIS maps much easier. You can create world files for CAD files so that you can georeference CAD files (yea the georeference toolbar supports CAD). Feature rendering of CAD files is exactly how it was drawn in AutoCAD or Microstation (including block annotation). Also when you add the CAD feature dataset, it loads all the polys/lines/annotation right into a group making the table of contents much easier to navigate. After seeing the demo I can say you’ll be pleased with how ArcGIS works with CAD.

I was just complaining last week that looping model builder was a pain, but with 9.2 you can now create loops. You can also batch process geoprocessor tools. One nice feature added was the ability to add an output right out of the model builder to your ArcGIS view so when the model finishes you’ll have the new data layer rendered as you want so you won’t have to add the layer to your map and then modify the symbology. The batch processing builder gives you power that with 9.0 and 9.1 was only available to Python scripters. If you have worked with 3D Analyst you’ll know there is an animation tool that is now available to all ArcMap users. Now you can show time in your maps (such as flooding, fires, etc).

3D Analyst now allows you to drape text (no longer are you limited to “billboard text”), draft mode, performance and new import capabilities. There are new geoprocessing tools and support for terrains. Many of the new navigation tools look like they were influenced by tools such as Google Earth and if anyone has ever tried to navigate in ArcGlobe knows how hard it is to move around. When you add data to ArcGlobe a wizard now appears helping you modify the settings (again simplifying your workflow).

As I said above, I think this release will be very well received. Even though 9.2 features have been frozen, you should continue to give feedback to ESRI on what you like and don’t like about ArcGIS because it does appear they are listening.

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