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TerraGo “the Zero-Code App Company”

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Later this month, TerraGo will mark its 12th year delivering software and solutions for our customers. The history goes back further, but 12 years is a long time in software and technology. The iPhone didn’t exist, being released, coincidentally on TerraGo’s second anniversary in 2007. What didn’t exist then is deemed an economic necessity today.

We’re doing some exciting new stuff in the realm of zero-code apps with our work with TerraGo Magic, but the more I think about it, it’s as much riffing on a theme as it is something completely new. We’ve always been in the zero-code app business with our GeoPDF software and TerraGo Toolbar. In hindsight, we should have called GeoPDF GeoPDApp – Geospatial Portable Document-Application. The F in PDF stands for format, and formats, by-and-large, are not interesting, and the undue focus people seem to put on GeoPDF-as-format is to miss the point.

People spend all this time collecting and curating data, distilling expertise and insight, creating cartographic products (map is too limited a word for what many folks make with ArcMap) and at the end of it all, they print out a piece of paper or a PNG to embed in a Word doc or PowerPoint. What Publisher customers do for the consumers of their hard-won products is give them the option to have a GeoPDApp by publishing a GeoPDF map that has a wealth of interactive capabilities unlocked by TerraGo Toolbar with no coding for the map maker and no cost for the map consumer.

Arc2Edge: Crumblin’ Down the Walls (connecting ArcGIS to a wider world)

Monday, May 1st, 2017

I can’t count the times I have stumbled upon something that I wanted to instantly share with others. Obviously, this is common, as any quick browse of Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, etc., will quickly prove. I hear cats are pretty popular.

There are, however, numerous contexts in which you DON’T want to share what you are seeing with your 8,372 closest and not so close friends, just that group for whom it would be valuable.

What does all of this have to do with ArcGIS, you ask?

Let me answer with a question: How does a remote worker instantly share a non-GIS observation with your ArcGIS platform and users? Well, you could build a custom mobile app via conventional means. Or you could use TerraGo Edge with its new Arc2Edge connector (the latest in an expansive list of ArcGIS data integration options).


Publish versus Export: Scale-dependent Visibility and User Experience

Monday, March 6th, 2017

We recently got a question from a customer asking how to create GeoPDF maps that have features that turn on or off as you zoom in like the USGS US Topos do. Maps for America! I love it! But I digress. This behavior is something that most Web mapping or GIS types understand intuitively – when you’re zoomed out at a continental view, you don’t see Buford, Wyoming but you do see states and the like. However, when you zoom in, at some point, you see Buford and its Ames Brothers Pyramid. Some features in the US Topos have this scale-dependent property and it’s essential for the usability of those maps. Cartography is not the art and science of putting stuff at the geographically correct position relative to each other on a map – it’s making that geo-contextualized information useful. For the creation of PDF maps, this is where TerraGo Publisher really helps.

ArcMap lets map makers set a range of scales where a layer is visible. Different layers can have different ranges, and of course, the default is always visible regardless of the scale. Publisher lets you choose to propagate that behavior to the GeoPDF maps you create. But it lets you do more. Consider a hierarchy of related features, some you want visible in one range, others you want in another. They’re all the same thing – maybe it’s cities, districts, and neighborhoods, blocks, whatever – but you want different levels of detail depending on the view. Now imagine that pattern repeated a bunch of different times for a bunch of different feature classes. The ArcMap Table of Contents (TOC) is getting messier and messier to the point of becoming useless as a user interface in any generically-exported PDF. Moreover, much, or even most of the information in a map doesn’t need to be on a “layer” at all. With export, you get what you get.


Work where you need to…Even Over the Edge (of the Network)

Friday, February 17th, 2017

TerraGo’s roots go back to the time where you could look at maps online, plan routes, etc., but if you wanted to take it with you, you had to print it out. Similarly, special purpose maps and drawings, such as those made by a CAD or GIS system (remember AM/FM?), you had to print them out on large sheets of paper and stack and bind them into a literal, physical map book. And, if you were working in a remote location in support of conflict, humanitarian assistance, emergency response, etc, you had to print out all of the relevant maps in their many, many duplicate copies, load them on a plane, and fly them to the area of interest.

3D GeoPDF is (still) a great way to get your intel out there

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Adobe introduced the ability to embed 3D content in PDF documents with the specification of the Portable Document Format 1.6 in November 2004 and supported it with its release Adobe Acrobat and Reader version 7 in January 2005. In technology terms, this is old, bordering on prehistory for some. I mean, it seems most folks don’t remember the world before the iPhone which is only just 10 years old this month. Yet, people still discover this capability, and it still generates interest, and even awards through its clever implementation.

Only just last month, Thomas Kehr and Herman Patel presented a paper written with some of their colleagues titled “Making Terrain and Models Portable Using 3D GeoPDFs” which won a best paper in the Emerging Concepts and Innovative Technologies category at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference or I/ITSEC. You can see the presentation and read the paper at the best papers page on the I/ITSEC website.

How is it possible that technology from some other era can still be winning awards while technology of similar vintage is consigned to the dustbin of history (Nokia N-Gage, anyone?) I was not privy to the decision-making process, but if I had to guess it has to do not so much with the bits and bytes of Acrobat and PDF and more with emerging concepts related to communicating the results of design and analysis enabled by new sensors, analytical tools, and design systems and innovative technologies to deliver them to a wide audience balancing analytical power with ease of use and paradigms more aligned with consumer-oriented software and products.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving – Custom ArcGIS® Mobile Apps with Zero Code

Monday, December 12th, 2016

This week we will release a new version of TerraGo Edge, featuring the brand new ArcGIS® Direct Connect feature, which lets users connect to ArcGIS Online® and ArcGIS Server® to get direct access to feature layers – so mobile users access them out in the field (like all TerraGo solutions – they can keep working even offline), update features and add new ones and whenever a connection is available, it all gets automatically synchronized with ArcGIS.

For our TerraGo Edge customers, it’s a great new option and adds to the growing list of out-of-the-box ArcGIS integration features including file-based updates, Web Feature Service, REST API and more.

For the growing roster of TerraGo Magic customers, this new feature (like every new feature we build into TerraGo Edge in rapid, agile releases) is available for all their custom apps. That’s the power of the TerraGo Magic framework. In fact, we use the same TerraGo Magic component framework, to publish TerraGo Edge. For customers that want their own branded, customized apps, they can build and manage apps that take advantage of every single new feature we develop for our TerraGo Edge customers.

TerraGo Magic is one-of-a-kind solution that enables our partners and customers to build custom apps (much more than simple map-based apps but an enterprise-ready, cloud-enabled solution with server-side features). And they can build them all with zero code…and zero development operations (support resources, maintenance costs) for the full lifecycle with a fully-maintained platform as a service. Every customer-driven and industry-demanded feature that we develop for Edge is available with Magic. For Magic customers, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Spoiler alert: Another new ArcGIS feature will also be available in January 2017 as an ArcGIS plug-in for ArcGIS Desktop®, and ArcGIS Server as a python interface, which will allow users to directly connect to TerraGo Edge (or should I say TerraGo Magic-enabled servers?) from the ArcGIS environment of their choice.

ArcPy and PubPy – extensibility done (mostly) right

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Greenspun’s tenth rule of programming states: Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp. Although I can’t say definitively what Philip Greenspun intended when he said it, but it’s always spoken to me since I first heard it whenever it was many years ago: if your program (or software system) is going to get to a sufficient size, it’s inevitable that you or someone who is using it will want to automate or extend that program in some language other than that in which it was implemented. Most folks will choose to roll their own, winding up with some sort of half-baked even if Turing-complete kludge, that works kinda sorta. However, it would be far better to start out with something that is a first-class programming language or system and use that to extend the system – or better yet implement substantial portions of that application in that language, blurring the distinction between implementation and extension language.


Automate TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS with PubPy

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS version 6.8 has been released along with its sibling products Composer and Toolbar. 6.8 represents a considerable and exciting step forward for Publisher with its introduction of what we’re calling PubPy: ArcPy-compatible Python extensions which can be used to automate Publisher workflows and create custom Publisher-powered geoprocessing toolboxes.

ArcPy is the noble extension framework implemented in the Python programming language which supplanted the venerable AML, or Arc Macro Language. In the 21st century, there’s no excuse to implement an extension language that doesn’t live within a general purpose programming language, lessons that AutoCAD and Emacs got right decades ago. Ah, PostScript, that lovely language. But I digress… ArcGIS certainly has this right today with Python, and that’s what matters. What’s particularly fun about this set of capabilities is that it has generated excitement inside TerraGo in places you don’t expect to find unabashed enthusiasm about a new feature: the quality assurance team! One QA expert was positively beaming when he reported at a daily stand-up meeting that he’d automated a wide variety of testing tasks and they were running as he spoke. The benefit to QA notwithstanding, one of the promises we’re very much looking forward to is simpler integration into ArcGIS for Server applications. One of the things that is often easy to miss is that Pub comes in two flavors: Desktop and Server. In the past, developing Pub-powered geoprocessing toolboxes for use with ArcGIS for Server apps, while possible, was more tedious and fragile than you might hope it to be, due to how ArcObjects COM interfaces work (won’t bore you with that here). Making our Publisher interfaces available through Python and accessible to ArcPy scripts remove the tedium and fragility, and if QA is to be believed, makes working with Publisher even more fun and productive. PubPy is a significant new capability, one we’re looking to continue to refine and enhance as we continue to move Publisher forward both on the Desktop as well in ArcGIS for Server environments. It’s one made possible by Esri’s excellent decision to extend ArcGIS with an industrial strength programming language in Python.

Data versus documents

Monday, September 14th, 2015

An overused, over-abused word we have today is “data”. Often people say they “just want to see the data”, but that is almost never what they mean. What they really mean, is “show me the data in a picture arranged just so that I don’t have to read anything to understand it”. That may sound cynical, and I don’t mean it cynically, but that is my experience. Every now and again you’ll get a scientist or someone with a truly scientific bent who really does want to see the data, but they’re not common, and certainly not as might be implied by all of the Church of Data blog posts and manifestos might have you believe. Now, with GIS and geo-writ-large, the connection to data is explicit and apparent, and some are prone to obsess over data, its forms and formats, interfaces for access and frobbing, to the point of distraction. For some, data is the end, it’s their product. But if it really is data, then that’s only a point, or narrow band, on a wide spectrum spanning from data to information to knowledge to wherever that knowledge might take you: insight, action, wisdom, understanding. That’s the point. While the generation of data might put bread on some analyst’s table, it only does so because that data is part of a larger whole. Yes, carefully designed and developed, high-quality, accurate data sets are valuable, but only for what you can do with them. To that end, it’s very important to make it accessible – the lower the barriers to access data enhance the possibilities for its use. If things are locked up in proprietary systems and locked away behind proprietary interfaces, it’s harder to make use of the data and necessarily limiting its utility and value.


Deploying the Eyes of the Enterprise

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

If TerraGo’s tag line is “Share Anywhere”, then I would have to say that “do more with what you already have” is its mantra, though that is certainly implicit. I talk a bunch about doing more with your investments in ArcGIS, but should focus on exploring doing more with your people and yourself. An employee’s value to a company is measured by more than just performance against a job description. They can provide feedback and observations that have no places on forms or tables in the company’s database which can be extremely valuable.  An aspect of a workforce to consider is its potential for distributed intelligence collection. By “intelligence”, I don’t necessarily imply anything covert or clandestine, but rather collecting information that is relevant to the efficient operation of the company. TerraGo provides tools and capabilities that facilitate the collection, recording, and sharing of observations and information, both ad hoc and structured. There are, of course, many systems for collecting data, but they tend to be closed loop, working within certain systems and paradigms for bespoke purposes.  TerraGo, historically, extended systems already in place to meet wider audiences and provision those audience with powerful location-enabled tools to let them do more with what they got from those systems. Use Publisher in ArcMap to make a GeoPDF map that can be shared , interacted with, and marked up in Toolbar in Reader, transforming what would be an otherwise static document into a data collection tool.


Teledyne Optech

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