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New ArcIMS Design Tools

The new ArcIMS designer tool looks great. The older Java tools have never really been updated in years. The new Designer is based on COM (I assume?) .NET and creates some really slick maps. It blows the Google Maps AJAX client out of the water and you can even use Visual Studio.net to create these maps. ArcIMS 9.2 is going to be a huge release and you won’t recognize the look of the maps created using it at all. I can’t wait to get into the ArcIMS API and see what new interfaces we can create.

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Great Resource Blog on ArcIMS

If you use or program using ArcIMS, you’ll want to check out Jason’s posts over at the ROK ESRI Developers Blog. Jason’s post, In Defense of ArcIMS is particularly interesting as we (myself included) seem to harp on how difficult it is to work with or how we have to do some crazy programming to get some simple things to work. To be honest, as I move into Mapserver and other open source server projects, I’ve begun to get a better understanding of how intelligent ArcIMS is and how well it does run out of the box. Unlike many map server applications, ArcIMS can be deployed on almost every major server software package as well as different web servers. When we start getting AJAX implementations of ArcIMS, I’m sure most of the complaints will go away. I wonder if we’ll see anything at the ESRI User Conference this year.

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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.

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Moving Forward with Open Source GIS

Now that we have our PostGIS/PostgreSQL running just about perfectly on our RedHat server, it is time to move forward with UMN Mapserver. I’m excited to see how much we can do with it and I think it will open up so much more to our products than .NET and ArcIMS ever did. As I said earlier, I want to make a front end that looks the same to the end users, whether we use ArcIMS/ArcSDE on the back end or Mapserver/PostGIS. In my previous post, I said that the GUI just wasn’t there for PostGIS, but letting it sit on a Linux server hosting our data should be great.

This should be a great week as we start playing with Mapserver/PostGIS and seeing what we can do with it.

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More About ESRI ArcIMS 9.1

In my previous post, ESRI ArcIMS 9.1, is there a point? I asked why didn’t ESRI spell out the changes in ArcIMS 9.1. Well I just noticed there is now a whitepaper outlining the changes and new features of ArcIMS 9.1. This is exactly the information I was looking for, but it was buried in ESRI’s support site. If there was ever a reason to have RSS feeds for support, this is it. I’m sure there is much that gets posted in the knowlege base that most users of the support site never see unless they perform a search. I’d love to get feeds of the latest posting of all support site software, Arcscripts and knowlege base/whitepaper articles. That would be killer!

Most of the changes are evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, but that is fine. I’d prefer stability on the server side and ArcIMS 9.1 seems to do this. There is only one concern I have:

The ArcXML Guide is provided only in HTML format.

Why do this? Personally I always work off of printed material rather than help or websites for the AXL reference. It doesn’t look like there are many changes in the AXL since 9.0, but the future scares me. Moving from printed manuals to PDF was difficult enough, but not even providing a way for us to print them out on our own just hurts. Hopefully ESRI will revisit this and make sure that in the future PDF manuals are an option.

Tomorrow we’ll start testing our existing ArcIMS 9.0.x applications with 9.1, but I’m guessing they will work without any modifications. I’m looking forward to see how it works.

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Thoughts

More About ESRI ArcIMS 9.1

In my previous post, ESRI ArcIMS 9.1, is there a point? I asked why didn’t ESRI spell out the changes in ArcIMS 9.1. Well I just noticed there is now a whitepaper outlining the changes and new features of ArcIMS 9.1. This is exactly the information I was looking for, but it was buried in ESRI’s support site. If there was ever a reason to have RSS feeds for support, this is it. I’m sure there is much that gets posted in the knowlege base that most users of the support site never see unless they perform a search. I’d love to get feeds of the latest posting of all support site software, Arcscripts and knowlege base/whitepaper articles. That would be killer!

Most of the changes are evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, but that is fine. I’d prefer stability on the server side and ArcIMS 9.1 seems to do this. There is only one concern I have:

The ArcXML Guide is provided only in HTML format.

Why do this? Personally I always work off of printed material rather than help or websites for the AXL reference. It doesn’t look like there are many changes in the AXL since 9.0, but the future scares me. Moving from printed manuals to PDF was difficult enough, but not even providing a way for us to print them out on our own just hurts. Hopefully ESRI will revisit this and make sure that in the future PDF manuals are an option.

Tomorrow we’ll start testing our existing ArcIMS 9.0.x applications with 9.1, but I’m guessing they will work without any modifications. I’m looking forward to see how it works.

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ESRI ArcIMS 9.1, is there a point?

Well I’ve had some time to look at our ArcSDE 9.1 and ArcIMS 9.1 and I’m not really sure if either needs to really be upgraded. I think I’ll upgrade ArcSDE because we don’t really do and direct programming with it so I’m sure ArcCatalog can connect fine and I’m sure our existing ArcIMS sites will still work find, but I’m at a loss about what I should do with ArcIMS 9.1. The only really updated part that interests me is support for Tomcat 5. We don’t use ArcIMS on Unix or Linux so its not a big deal that they are at the same level as the Windows support and I don’t really see anthing on ESRI’s site telling me that there is anything new with the .NET or ActiveX connectors. The WMS Connector is something we’ve looked at but its nothing we are currently playing with.

Both my ArcIMS installs are working fine so I figure lets just go with ArcIMS 9.0.x and not play with fire. The what’s new webpages are nice, but I’d love to see something like a changelog or more detailed writeups of what is new.

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Designing a front end

I manage a GIS at a small company in Tempe, AZ. We’ve been designing web based GIS sites since the old ArcView IMS extension. We’ve moved from MapObjects IMS to ArcIMS 3,4,9 and now we’ve begun to look at UMN Mapserver. Basically we’ve heard from clients that they are having problems with the cost of maintenance of ESRI products. If we could eliminate ArcIMS/ArcSDE for these people and still provide our look and feel, this might be a market worth looking into. I’d love to make our sites work with any backend that the client wants. We’ve used .NET in our latest products, but maybe PHP or JSP would be a better choice for doing this. I’m just not sure what to think at this point, but I’ve got our database programmer looking at getting PostGIS and Mapserver installed on our Linux server.

It’s going to be quite a move from ArcIMS/ArcSDE/Oracle, but maybe we’ll learn something. I’ll post more about this next week when we get it installed.