Overview: ArcWeb Explorer - Beta

By Hal Reid

_ESRI, Inc.
380 New York Street
Redlands, CA 92373

ESRI has released a viewing application, ArcWeb Explorer for the Web that at this point has only five functions. These are, Navigate, Find, Directions, Map Style and Share the Map. The first thing that struck me was that it is hard to understand the role this product has in the overall scheme of things. It is immediately compared to viewers from Google and others that have more functionality and greater data access. It is probably positioned to sell more access to ArcWeb Services as a custom app, but you can’t help but wonder if there aren’t more robust solutions such as the now discontinued BusinessMAP Web product that might be a better overall solution to accessing ArcWeb Services.

This is what ESRI says about the product on the company’s Web site.
“ArcWeb Explorer is a Web-based map viewing application based on Macromedia Flash 8. The ArcWeb Explorer uses vector mapping technology to render maps quickly in the browser instead of having the server render them. The result is improved speed and performance, greater control over the map appearance, and desktop-like functionality over the Internet.”
Flash is cool and ArcWeb Explorer is a combination of some very good functionality (such as the geocoder) and some that is a little wobbly (such as panning). It is one of those products that has the one potato chip effect - it left you wanting more. Even so, I found myself returning to use the geocoder to find things for general use because it is fast, flexible and fun to use.

Possibly the one potato chip effect was recognized, for at the bottom of the Web page I found this note.
“Coming Soon - Build Rich Mapping Application with ArcWeb Explorer … In the coming weeks, we will provide resources to help you create your own mapping solutions with ArcWeb Explorer and a JavaScript API.”
In addition to Nativation (zoom, pan), Find, Directions, Map Styles and Share, the product has a URL locator – and using it to find your computer is pretty neat. You can upload a spreadsheet and geocode it - a nice touch. It found my spreadsheet locations quickly and accurately. Seeing the results on the map seemed to work best in Internet Explorer.

The User Interface
ArcWeb Explorer looks like this when it is initialized. The explanations are good and the user interface is very simple. There is absolutely no learning curve.

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The Widgets
When you pull down the Widgets (Navigation, Find, Directions, Map Styles and Share), they look like this, very simple and self-explanatory.
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Seeing it Work
The Find dialog and a map locating ESRI in Redlands are shown below.

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The image below shows the route from ESRI Redlands to the company’s Dallas office, then on to the White House. After you locate the stops in Find, you drag those location into the Directions dialog and ArcWeb Explorer creates the route automatically and along with the driving directions.

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This is the Find function using my spreadsheet (my file name, Short Arizona.xls), of locations in Phoenix.

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You have to try it. But I felt that with the wealth of data that is available in ArcWeb Services, it would be nice to see more data available – like European streets and boundary files. There should be some imagery available as well. But, in order to be absolutely fair, you have to identify that this product is not designed as a competitor to Google Earth, etc., and has a different target audience. It will evidently will allow for greater customization and integration. But those other products have set an expectation level for data access, so ArcWeb Explorer should have more, too. I really liked the ability to add my own data to the map and I hope this functionality will be extended and include some sort of layer control.

I had to avoid dismissing this product out of hand because of its limited functionality, and lack of understanding on my part about what it is really for. But I kept going back to use it for finding things, because it was fast and quicker to get going than some of the other choices we all have. The map rendering is good, even with only three map style choices. The geocoder is very good. Let’s hope that the ”Coming Soon” notice at the bottom of the ArcWeb Explorer web page provides some exciting surprises.

Published Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

Written by Hal Reid

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