Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ArcGIS Explorer 900: First Look

ESRI have released ArcGIS Explorer (hereafter 'AGE') I'd heard that it has a 'presentation' system like GEarth's tour so I dived in and had a look. In the rest of this post when I refer to presentation I am talking about AGE's system, when I talk about tour, I'm referring to GEarth's system. These are some first notes concentrating mostly on the presentation facility.

Download Problems, PC only:
First up I needed to install .NET 2.0 and a server pack to get the program installed. That will have put a lot of newbies off if it is a common need. Oh, and its for PCs only. Grrrr.

Slide Metaphor for Presentations: AGE has adopted a slide metaphor for presentations, so it becomes more like a powerpoint presentation rather than a movie clip, tours follow a movie clip metaphor. Importantly this makes editing a presentation much easier than editing a tour users. Here's some other notes:

Presentation Pros:
  • Thumbnails: The slides are represented as thumbnails making it much easier to locate where you are in a presentation than when editing than wading through kml code to edit a tour.
  • Move, Delete, Recapture: Just as with powerpoint you can move and delete slides. You can also recapture a slide if there's something you want to change on it.
  • Layer Controls Robust: I have had problems with the robustness of GEarth tours when handling layers (turning placemarks on/off etc). After a few experiments, I haven't managed to fault AGE on this.
  • Titles: Slides have a title feature which you can use to put a title at the head of a slide view, it has some nice formatting controls as well.
  • Next/Previous controls: Instead of play, AGE uses next/previous buttons, very handy if you want to use it for a presentation. In a tour you would need to code this in as a pause. You can also have a continuous movie like presentation if you wish by setting the slide time to be 10 seconds.
  • Full Screen: In presentation mode AGE automatically flicks to full screen mode which is a nice touch.
  • PowerPoint Import: You can't directly import powerpoint into AGE but by exporting your powerpoint to .png files you can easily bring them in as what are termed screen overlays in GEarth. Editing control of screen overlays in AGE is much easier than in GEarth.
  • Transition time: You can't control the time the transition takes from slide to slide
  • No audio record feature (a big disappointment)
  • Advanced features of tours such as animating models isn't possible (AFAIK)
Beyond presentations AGE has some other useful features I've noticed such as:
  • Base maps: A variety of base maps is available
  • Data Types: The ability to pull in multiple data types (Arc GIS, KML, Arc GIS online and others)
  • Contextual Help: Contextual help is available when you rollover items in the ribbon.
  • 4.2 Controller: AGE controller looks a lot like the old GEarth 4.2 controller which many (including yours truly) prefer to the new 5.0 controller.
However its lagging behind GEarth in many features such as:
  • Time control
  • Historical imagery
  • Quality of imagery (from my brief flights around),
  • Imagery Streaming Speed
  • Google Ocean
  • Google Planets
  • Flight Simulator
Summary: I think this is a very interesting entry in the Virtual Globe market. I think they've recognized that a vital feature (maybe the killer app?) of Virtual Globes is tours/presentations and they're ahead of GEarth in this respect at the moment by making presentations easy to edit and put together. However, all the advantages of GEarth mean I won't be abandoning it just yet.

Relates To:
  • My review of Snoovel which is trying to make GEarth tours more editable.
  • My lazyweb request for a graphical editor for tours in which I suggested that a slide metaphor for tours would be a good idea.


gis_todd said...

You should look a bit more closely at the imagery. Also, make sure you check out the dates on the imagery. AGX (Not AGE), has more recent data, additionally, you can bring in Bing data, including bird's eye.

Rich Treves said...

Hi Todd,

AGX is a better phrase I agree.

Re the imagery: to bring Bing Data in you need a 'product code' which isn't as straight forward as using GEarth.

I looked at Isle of Skye, Southampton, bits of Hampshire and central London with 'Imagery'. All were signifcantly poorer than GEarth, it looks like 10m+ resolution. With that loss of resolution being more recent doesn't really impress me.

Johnny E said...

AGX 900 is a new product, a big difference between this and GE5 is that now you can use different basemaps (not just cool imagery), like topographic, historical maps, weather, etc... and also load digital maps files (like ahapefiles) or OGC WMS links from your folks/partners to enrich you analysis or to conect to a shared data via This video also will let you know the most new features.

Johnny E.

Anonymous said...

Rich, you can simply change transition time between slides if you go to Options at Presentation tab, and change Advance Slides to Automatically after "n" seconds! Cheers, Andriy Ivanov.

Rich Treves said...

Hi Andriy,

Yes you can alter the transistion time that the slides take but this applies to all the slides, you cannot apply differnt times to different slides. In both GEarth and Snoovel you can specify the time for any section of flight although to edit this in GEarth you need to edit the kml code.