ArcGIS Explorer and the uphill climb

Link – Google Earth vs. ArcGIS Explorer

Google Earth vs ArcGIS Explorer

As tired as some are of all the ArcGIS Explorer noise they have been hearing, it isn’t even a dent into the amount of Google Earth posts. This just shows that ESRI doesn’t have a hill to climb, but a mountain. In fact beyond a few blogs in our little GIS circle, not a peep has shown up on more mainstream blogs and sites. Most of the non-stop spin we saw was just repeating of the same stories. Matt Waite saw it and called it the “GIS geek world echo chamber” and what a small echo chamber it is.


What is the future of ArcPublisher now that ArcGIS Explorer is on the way?

I’ll admit it, my company uses ArcPublisher quite a but internally and externally with clients. Internally we use ArcSDE to share data and externally we use ArcIMS (with ArcSDE) to share data. Its worked pretty well over the past 2 years, but at over 100 megabytes it is a beast to download. Now with ArcGIS Explorer (and its svelte 15 meg download) will there be export of ArcMap documents? Or will there be a save to ArcGIS Explorer right from ArcMap rendering Publisher dead? Basically I have no problem continuing to pay maintenance on Publisher if it allows me to share MXDs with just about anyone, but this whole ArcGIS Explorer support of many formats really raises some questions.

  • What KML export tools will there be in 9.2?
  • Can we expect a KML/KMZ choice under File > Export or will it be more of a conversion tool in ArcToolbox?

So many questions to be answered and not much news from Redlands. We will continue our use of ArcPublisher and beta testing of Arc2Earth.


Some are more excited about ArcGIS Explorer news than others

Link – Obligatory ArcGIS Explorer Post

Ae ae ae


David Maguire on how ArcGIS Explorer works

Link – ArcGIS Explorer – how it works

Upon start up the client automatically makes a web services connection to a set of ESRI ArcWeb Services globe services. The web services are powered by ArcGIS Server 9.2. A new set of explorer services has been added to the Server core so that anyone (with ArcGIS Server) will be able to create and publish a service. It will also be possible to view ArcIMS and OGC WMS services. As you navigate around the globe, page views are streamed across the web to the desktop application for rendering. All the tasks (mini-applications) are server resident and are called from the client.

David posts a new screen-shot of ArcGIS Explorer (finally one with satellite imagery). How much quality will be put into these images is just a guess for most of us but since the screen shot is zoomed out so far, I guess it isn’t as good as Google Earth. I suspect it will be better than Public ArcWeb Services, but less than what one could buy via ArcWeb. Where that will put ESRI in relationship to Google Earth is anyone’s question. I’d suspect though that the greater choice of layers that will be available in ArcGIS Explorer coupled with the fact that you can easily connect to so many different geospatial servers could make ArcGIS Explorer a good competitor for Google Earth.

What is clear though is that ESRI is looking at ArcGIS Explorer to drive sales of their server products and in the end this will probably result in ArcGIS Explorer complementing Google Earth, rather than replacing it. It all hinges upon if users can create WMS and other geospatial server links as quickly as Google Earth users jumped on KML. We’ll just have to wait for the beta and see how it goes.


ESRI ArcGIS Explorer Website Up

Link – ArcGIS Explorer – thanks to all who sent this in

Well here we have a nice close look at ArcGIS Explorer including this screen shot of the interface.


It has a very nice Windows XP look to it vs the non standard look of ArcGIS (yea i said it) and Google Earth. The screen shot is somewhat disappointing as it doesn’t show up satellite imagery but take a look at the “table of contents” on the left hand side and tell me you aren’t really interested in more information.

Update – as I sent this out, Darren Cope linked to the same page also. He’s put some of his own spin on the ArcGIS Explorer story and why he thinks it might have a chance at being quite successful.


David Maguire on ArcGIS Explorer

Link – ArcGIS Explorer – geographic exploration system

With ArcGIS Explorer you can fuse data from multiple servers (OGC WMS, ArcGIS Server, and ArcIMS) and overlay local vector and raster data sets. The task-based interface allows fast visualization of massive 2D and 3D server-resident global terrain, raster and vector databases. The user interface exposes additional tasks for navigation, routing, geocoding/reverse geocoding.

David lets us know a little more about ArcGIS Explorer including that the beta will be out in a couple weeks. The biggest question I have so far is what ArcWeb services will be free? There is so much available for cost, but the free Public ArcWeb services choices are small. I can only hope that they will have good imagery by default, but at least support for most GIS server applications should allows others to fill the gap. I guess we’ll also see one of Sean Gillies’ favorite Web 1.0 applications integrated into ArcGIS Explorer, The Geography Network. Are there any plans to improve that service? What printing options do users have? Can we here more about the personalization and customization of ArcGIS Explorer (and I assume ArcGlobe server on the back-end)? What are the basic system requirements for ArcGIS Explorer (Google Earth runs wonderfully on my laptop, but ArcGlobe is a dog)? Does ESRI plan to have a community developed around ArcGIS Explorer (a huge issue as GE has a wonderful community and the current forums at ESRI are difficult to use)?

I’d love to see some screen shots or a video though of ArcGIS Explorer in action.


ESRI’s ArcGIS Explorer Revealed

Both Ed Parsons and Jeff Thurston give us a quick look at the new ESRI ArcGIS Explorer at the 20th ESRI European User Conference. I’m not one to use the word “Google Earth Killer” until I’ve played with it, but both Ed says:

ArcGIS Explorer will be a free 15Mb download from the ESRI website and will connect to a dedicated ArcWeb server farm at ESRI providing an experience similar to Google Earth, although I was not clear where the imagery is sourced from. What got me excited however, is the ability of ArcGIS Explorer to use other data services including OGC WMS and WFS servers and any ArcIMS server you may already use. ArcGIS can also display local data, File GDB’s,shape files, most image formats and even KML files from your PC’s hard drive.

Rather than the small controlled demo at the 2005 UC, this demo was of the actual product and it appears that it has impressed many GIS professionals. Jeff says:

You are going to love this. This is a 2nd generation GIS product that is Google Maps, Google Earth, Virtual Earth and World Wind and more. ESRI has taken a major leap “a revolutionary leap” into the viewer exploration world.

It is one thing to say that ArcGIS Explorer is a Google Earth competitor, but it would seem that ArcGIS Explorer will change the way people use GIS. I can’t wait to see it.


Where is ArcGIS Explorer?

For years ESRI has had versions of ArcExplorer. The first versions were based upon MapObjects while the later ones have grown out of ArcIMS Author. They work pretty well for most people, but their limitations are beginning to show. I think ESRI should introduce a new ArcGIS client that would enable people who want and need to view GIS data, but not perform analysis. The current versions of ArcExplorer don’t support Personal Geodatabases, Coverages and other GIS data formats that users need to see. ArcReader does a good job of displaying the data, but the PMF documents can only be created in ArcGIS with ArcPublisher and no data can be added in ArcReader.

A simple solution would be to sell a version of ArcReader that allows the ability to read PMF/MXD as well as add data to them. Leave the ArcToolbox and ArcCatalog out of it and sell it for about $49. I don’t think this would hurt the sales of ArcView as people who need to edit or perform analysis on GIS will still need at least an ArcView license. This ArcGIS ArcExplorer (it should be called ArcView, but that is already taken) would be able to connect to ArcSDE, ArcIMS services, ArcWeb as well as read all the GIS formats that ArcView can. I’m guessing one could create such an application using ArcGIS Engine, but I’d rather just have our planners, engineers, biologists and other users of GIS have an ESRI product on their desk. The cost of ArcView is just too much to put on as many desks as we have users who want it (since most of our clients are using Geodatabases we can’t have them view the data sets with ArcExplorer).

ESRI should be putting GIS tools in front of as many people as possible and this new ArcGIS Explorer would fit the bill very well. There are just so many datasets on the internet for download and if people could access them even on the home PC with ArcGIS Explorer they would have a tool to introduce them to GIS and eventually become an ESRI customer.