The main purpose of this, and a couple of following posts is to provide an update on the continued evolution of the ArcGIS Online platform, and to explore some specific enhancements that were made in the December 2012 release. However, before diving in to that, I want to step back from the functionality and reflect for a moment on the bigger picture.
During the second half of last year, I had an opportunity to view ArcGIS from the outside world and gain some fresh perspective on ArcGIS in the Enterprise – something I’ve spoken about many times at various Esri Australia events in various different contexts. With the benefit of this new lens, a couple of “trees” really stood out for me that I’d previously been too deep in the forest to really appreciate.
My first observation was around the fidelity that ArcGIS offers through ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online when transforming maps, data and analysis created by GIS professionals in to web services, web maps and other resources that are consumable by the masses on the web and mobile devices. It’s easy to take that transformation for granted because it just works, but it’s really important if you’re going to truly leverage the efforts of the people in your organisation who have the skills to build these resources. When GIS professionals have done their work, data has typically evolved in to an information product of some kind, and it’s this end product that has the value, and can benefit others as it’s published and disseminated around an organisation. Suffice to say, I have new respect for how well ArcGIS does this, and how simple it is to make it happen.
The second thing I noted was flexibility. If you want it to be so, ArcGIS can be used in a very simple modality – create map, publish map, consume map. Particularly since the 10.1 release, the desktop, server and cloud-based components of ArcGIS work together to make light of what is a pretty significant transformational process from data to ubiquitous service. However, what struck me was just how far you can take ArcGIS when you want to exercise much finer control of how the various components work together, and perhaps more importantly, how they might work with other systems in your organisation. Clearly I’m once again biased :-), but I do believe ArcGIS shines in this area. Everyone talks up their platform these days, but I think ArcGIS is quite unique in its maturity, rich spatial functionality and the hooks it offers by way of web services and support for open standards to support enterprise integration scenarios.
Ok – enough from the soap box! Let’s take a look at some of the new features added to ArcGIS Online in the Demember 2012 release. The rest of this post will focus on improvements made to the Map Viewer. Look out for follow-on posts covering enhancements to Administration of organisational accounts, and to Task services available to organisations such as geocoding and network analysis.
Map Viewer Enhancements
A simple but powerful addition to the standard ArcGIS Online Map Viewer in this release is the ability to view and interact with a Table View displaying data from a specific service that is part of the current web map. Access to this is through the context (right-click) menu on an item in the web map contents as shown in the figure below.
Selecting the Show Table option will open up a data grid below the web map which by default shows all the attributes coming from the selected item in the web map. Control over which attributes are displayed is via the Table Options menu at the top right of the grid and these settings are separate to the similar settings for which attributes are displayed in an info popup for a specific feature. That makes sense as you would often want an abbreviated set of attributes, or even a totally custom display to show in the popup.
The configuration of how the attributes are displayed though is shared care of the Configure Pop-up menu for the item, and then the Configure Attributes option with in that. So for example, in the figure below, the Postcode attribute could benefit from not being formatted with the thousands separator. That can be achieved through the popup’s attribute configuration. If attribute settings are modified in this way, visibility of the table needs to be switched on and off to reflect the change.
This new tabular presentation is available today for ArcGIS Server 10 SP 1 and later feature and map services, hosted feature services, hosted tiled map services with associated attribute data, and shapefiles, GPX files, and CSV (files and web).
The second major update in the ArcGIS Online Map Viewer is the addition of Filters – a simple but powerful mechanism that allows web map authors to establish a filter for each layer that controls the information within the layer that is presented to the end user viewing the map. These filters can also be set up to let the end user interact with the filter via an easy to use dialog that prompts them for the key information that drives the filter.
In their static mode, filters represent a focused view of a feature layer in a web map. By limiting the visibility of features in a layer, authors can direct attention to particular facets of what might be a significantly broader set of data. For example, you might have access to a map service that includes several different types of POI, asset or whatever the context is. Using a filter, you can use a common service as input to my map, but at the same time sharpen the focus of the map to only particular kinds of asset, POI etc.
In interactive mode, Filters provide the end-user with a simple means of changing their view of the data in a published web map by providing the values that drive the filter themselves through a simple UI that guides them through providing the required information. Couple that with a new application template that leverages these filters and it’s very simple to publish to a robust web app that allows users to explore different perspectives on your data.
In the figure below, the map shows average electricity consumption per head in kWh for selected NSW LGAs in the year 2010 – 2011. The map has a filter applied to it to let the map highlight only those LGAs where average consumption is greater then 20 kWh per head.
Filters can be set using the Filter item in the context menu for an item in the web map. The filter this map is shown below. As mentioned earlier, filters don’t have to be interactive, but this one is. It prompts the user to specify an upper bound for consumption in kWh and also provides a hint as to what the values required are about. This is a very simple application of filters. You can see from this example that values for the filter can also come from other attributes in the service or from specific values for an attribute. Filters can also include mutliple expressions based on multiple attributes to support more complex scenarios.
In the context of the default ArcGIS Online Map Viewer, the UI around Filters is pretty author focused. My feeling is that the new configurable web application template named “Filter” (or custom derivatives of it) will more likely be how end users interact with Filters simply because the UI is much more user centric. It’s just about using the filter rather than defining it.
The figure below shows where the new template can be found after sharing a web map and then choosing to Make a Web Application.
Any filters established in the web map that are set to ask the user for values are picked up by the template and exposed as interactive elements of the UI without any programming. The figure below shows the power consumption map and its filter exposed in this way. That template is engineered to work well across many browsers and mobile devices so it is a very quick way of putting these kinds of smarts in front of your users. You can try it live here.
Filters can be created on hosted feature service layers, ArcGIS Server feature service layers, and ArcGIS Server map service layers that have associated attribute data.
As a slight aside, if you are interested in the power consumption data behind this map, Ausgrid make it available through a search for “ausgrid” on the data.NSW web site, and also directly from their own web site here. Data is available for 2010, 2011 and 2012 calendar years.
More on the December 2012 ArcGIS Online update in the next post in this series.