ESRI 9.2 Rollout Seminar

By Adena Schutzberg

_ESRI is running a series of full day seminars around the country and world to introduce users to ArcGIS 9.2. The morning of the event in Boston focused on products, specifically ArcGIS desktop and ArcGIS server. The afternoon (which I was unable to attend) focused on technology that spans the ArcGIS family (cartography, visualization, etc.)

ESRI is providing a wealth of in-person and online introductions, along with white papers, articles and other documents about ArcGIS 9.2 so there's no need for me to repeat that material here. What I do want to share are some themes, key questions and software features covered in the seminar.

Authoring. ArcGIS desktop, which for many has been the platform on which we "do" GIS, is now more than that. It's now also "an authoring tool." It's the tool for pulling together, managing, editing and rendering data as well as authoring models and other things that can be published to a variety of targets: the Web, mobile devices, new document types (pdf), ArcReader, etc.

Open. ESRI has made it clear that this release supports more standards (GIS, IT, data models) than ever before. It supports (read/write) more file types (some via add-on extensions) than ever before and renders them in more ways than ever before.

Consolidation. Several related features/technologies that in the past were offered in separate products are now together. ArcSDE is "part of" ArcGIS server. The ability to publish an OGC Web Map Service is "part of ArcGIS server." I think this is a wise move for ESRI. Fewer products are easier to sell and frankly, easier for users to manage.

Developers and End-users. While ESRI continues to grow its list of partners who enhance the software with add-ons, or use it as the basis for vertical applications, much of the focus of ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS for that matter, is to make them useful and usable by end-users. Graphical interfaces and wizards mean that those who use ArcGIS desktop are empowered to publish data and services via ArcGIS Server without tapping an IT expert.

Key Questions
Timing. ArcGIS is expected to ship in bulk to users up-to-date on maintenance in mid-November. That will include the availability of ArcGIS Explorer (in the package and for download online). The beta ArcGIS Desktop software demonstrated did alas suffer from a few glitches which the presenter good naturedly worked around and explained afterward for clarification.

Licensing. ArcGIS desktop licensing remains the same with ArcView, ArcEditor and ArcInfo "levels." ArcGIS Server comes in three flavors distinguished by "power" and "capacity." On the power side, there is basic, standard and advanced. The first includes data management and basic service publishing, but no map publishing. Standard adds map and globe publishing as well as some geoprocessing (Network Analyst can be used at this level). ArcGIS Server Advanced adds editing and support for mobile devices along with more geoprocessing. On the capacity side there is workgroup for small shops (limit of 10 users, 4 GB of data and 1 GB of RAM, Windows only, built on SQL Server Express) and enterprise for large ones (unlimited users, data size, multiple databases supported, multiple operating systems).

Help. The help for ArcGIS desktop has been 75% rewritten and new features have been added. The help system remembers where you last looked at the help and recalls your last searches. There is not only text help, but also videos to illustrate workflows, sort of a "best practices" offering. To get a head start, you can look at a draft of the help online.

Tables. Tools to change the look and feel of tables make it possible to rename columns with ease, make fields wider and taller to fit text, change fonts, etc. And, it's easy to print those tables.

Excel. Support for Excel spreadsheets means there's no need for ODBC connections to access data stored in workbooks. Changes to workbooks in Excel are reflected in ArcGIS, but of course, only one program can edit a workbook at a time.

Smarter Measure Tool. The measure tool is now a free floating box that includes linear and area measures. The tools now "snap" to vertices as needed for more accurate values.

GoToXY. Key in coordinates (lat/long, MGRS, National Grid, and others) and zoom to them on the map. Simple but valuable!

Solar Radiation in Spatial Analyst. Many types of analysis (landscape design, building solar housesï¿1⁄2) require knowing where the sun is and how much heat/light reaches different parts of the world. That data and the tools to use them are available as part of Spatial Analyst Solar Radiation tools.

PDF. It's easy to write out a PDF of a map from ArcGIS desktop. The recipient who opens it in Adobe Reader can now turn layers on and off.

CAD. There are two big innovations for CAD. First, the georeferencing tools that are used for images can now be used for CAD files. Second, there's an option to display the CAD file "just like" it appears in the CAD program, complete with line types, colors etc.

Viewer Windows. The presentation was made much easier to see by those of us in the audience because the presenter used the magnifier window. He used it to "blow up" small options on dialogs or details on the map. It's also possible to open a "regular" (non-magnifying) window and use it while working with any ArcGIS tools. It was particularly handy when georeferencing a CAD file.

Share bookmarks in My Places. Saved bookmarks date back to ArcView 2 (I believe). Now, they can be saved in My Places and applied to multiple MXD files.

Publish and Consume Data Services. ArcGIS Server is indeed a server that can publish any data ArcGIS desktop can consume. But it can also republish other services (also called service chaining). That is, it's possible to use a Web Map Service (WMS) or a KML (Keyhole Markup Language) as an input to ArcGIS Server and publish it out again as part of a new service.

Many of these enhancements and others are illustrated in short flash videos on the ESRI website. The audience in Boston seemed very pleased with the new features and were thinking ahead as to how to implement and use ArcGIS Server in their work.

Published Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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