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Cutting out the Middle Man: Connect your ArcGIS Desktop environment to mobile users anywhere

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

TerraGo has always helped ArcGIS® Desktop® users share their data-rich maps with end users….and not just as flat maps, but as interactive GIS-Lite applications, in which end-users can search, query, markup and extract data with the click of a button- even offline.

So it’s no surprise that many customers asked us for a way to connect their ArcMap environment with mobile users to enable cloud-based collaboration. Of course, we already do that today (using ArcGIS DirectConnect) with ArcGIS Server®, Portal® and ArcGIS Online®.  But for some customers, especially some smaller GIS teams or organizations, they need a private cloud for mobility that doesn’t require server infrastructure or installing a private instance of ArcGIS Online on their networks.

Today, we have that and we call it Arc2Edge.  And it works with TerraGo Edge or custom apps built with TerraGo Magic. What can Arc2Edge do for you?

  • Arc2Edge will streamline the publishing of mobile ready content. Often, the user has transfer the data in a staged or piecemeal fashion to make it available on mobile. With Arc2Edge, the user will be able to send the data to Edge in a single transfer.
  • Arc2Edge will make it very efficient to roundtrip data back into ArcGIS Desktop. Again, as opposed to a multi-step, convoluted process involving multiple technologies, Arc2Edge does this directly.

Our customers often face challenges with ArcGIS Online data management. When managing data between your local geodatabase and ArcGIS Online hosted data, the number one question that we hear from customers is, “How do I sync my online data with the data on my desktop?” Well, for many users, you don’t….not if you don’t have ArcGIS for Server to host your services, or if you prefer to host your data in ArcGIS Online.

Currently, there is no “sync” functionality between your ArcGIS Online feature service and the geodatabase you used to publish it. So, what are your options?  There are several options with TerraGo Edge and TerraGo Magic.  Many of them will be addressed in upcoming blog posts and Tech Talks. However, there is one new standout for desktop users.  Arc2Edge.  No middle man (or server infrastructure) needed.

Learn more about Arc2Edge and request a demo.

For more information on all the ways TerraGo Edge integrates with Esri ArcGIS, download this Technical Overview.

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).

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Consider a New Approach to Mobile GIS with a Zero-Code App Builder

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

For over 10 years, our company has really been about extending the power of GIS, often ArcGIS®, to non-GIS users, making it more valuable, more relevant and accessible to all of a business’s end users.

And just like what’s happening with Salesforce.com and other more business-centric platforms, the end user demand for custom mobile, cloud-based solutions is growing rapidly.  In Cloud 1.0, everybody rented the same exact web application (like Salesforce).  In Cloud 2.0, companies want the benefit of the cloud but they don’t want the exact same application as their competitor.

So while organizations look to customize ArcGIS® for their industry AND their unique business requirements, today they also want custom mobile apps.  And not just web apps posing as mobile. Not inflexible COTS apps.  Not a simple, standalone, map-based app.   They need real, native, customized, cloud-based apps tailored to their specific business requirements and seamlessly integrated with their enterprise ArcGIS.

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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.

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Publisher for ArcGIS Server ® – Opening GIS Clouds to the non-GIS Masses

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Our customers (over 2,000 organizations around the world…and growing every day) overwhelmingly use ArcGIS as their enterprise GIS platform.  And they consistently tell us that one of the most powerful enhancements to ArcGIS for Server® was the introduction of ArcPy®.  Based on Python, ArcPy helps our customers with both rapid prototyping and large enterprise applications.  It makes it super easy for ArcGIS developers to implement map automation and expose ArcGIS functions as dynamic web services to licensed applications.  ArcGIS users get on-demand access to updated maps and geospatial data.

Our customers also tell us that what they love most about TerraGo is we give them the ability to share their most important ArcGIS maps and data with the much (MUCH) larger non-GIS user community.  And this makes their work more relevant, more valuable and more available to more people in the organization.  With TerraGo GeoPDF, non-GIS users can access rich ArcGIS data and use lightweight GIS tools (this means they can do cool things you normally can only do in ArcGIS like turning layers on/off, taking measurements, searching and updating feature attributes, “redline-ing” maps, inserting hyperlinks and much more). And they can do all that with the free Adobe Reader and free TerraGo Toolbar.   No specialized software needed. No license required. No training necessary.  And they can take it all offline.  No network.  No problem.

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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.

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