10 Revelations at the 2015 Esri User Conference



While there were so many amazing moments (such as being surrounded by about 15,000 other GIS people seeing myself in a LiDAR point cloud, meeting #gistribe people in person, learning how to juggle at the Thursday evening party, and being humbled by maps and thinkers), here are what I consider the best parts of my Esri User Conference experience. As you can tell, there were a lot of them. Enjoy!

1. AppStudio for ArcGIS

  • Converts ArcGIS Online maps into mobile apps for Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux.
  • Yes, that means that you can go to the Apple or Android store and download an app that you design, without any coding.
  • Currently in Beta version.
  • 3 templates available currently, more are planned.
    • Map Tour (based on a story map)
    • Map Viewer (just shows a map)
    • Quick Report (crowdsourced map with no login)
  • Apple is more difficult (they are much more of a gated community than other app stores): if you want an iOS app, you must get an Apple Developer License (starts at $99 per year), and upload can take 2-3 weeks.
  • When you update the ArcGIS Online map, the app automatically updates.
  • Already included with an ArcGIS Online account. 


2. Drones

  • The plenary showed that Esri is definitely embracing drone technology, and developing apps to use their data. One of the “wow” moments was when they demoed a drone video capture that you could mark up in the video window, and have it show up in the map window. Let’s just say my jaw was a little bit dropped.


3. Collector App

  • This is an app we use all the time at AE2S, and I wanted to see what the experience was like on devices I don’t use. I thought it looked really great on their Windows demo device. Not so much on the Android one… the workflows are definitely a bit different than iOS.
  • Collector will work on a Surface tablet when Windows 10 comes out. The hitch: make sure your surface can handle updating to Windows 10.
  • There still isn’t a great way to pull photos from a Collector app besides exporting out a geodatabase (which means you have to have named your points really well). I requested some kind of “field report” export to be added.
  • Will soon include navigation (which does consume service credits).


4. JavaScript API

  • Learned a ton of useful, tiny tips, such as how to use the developer tools in Chrome/Firefox, using Inspect Element, and code checkers such as JS Hint/Lint.
  • Biggest suggestion from the JavaScript API team was to use an ArcGIS Online map as the base. Not only reduces code, but can be easier to maintain (because you edit the ArcGIS Online map. Can have some limitations for manipulating layers later though.


5. Tasks in ArcGIS Pro

  • A way to capture a workflow, and give it to someone else to execute. Expects interaction, not just automation.
  • Can be very detailed (turning layers on/off at each step, saving edits automatically), or more “loose” steps on how to do something.
  • You can record your command clicks as a way to log a work flow.
  • Doesn’t yet support layout elements. But will. It kind of sounds like there’s a long list of things to include in ArcGIS Pro.


6. Watersheds and Stream Networks

  • There is a ready to use service for watershed geoprocessing that delineates watersheds to a point, or flow lines (based on 10-30 meter DEM data, which was used to create the NHD Plus layers).
  • Costs about 1 service credit for 1000 watersheds (in my opinion, extremely well priced).
  • Can use the service in ArcGIS Online, or in Desktop. Details here.
  • Gained a lot of best practices for automatic watershed delineation from Steve Kopp’s presentation.


7. Python Map Automation

  • An extremely easy to use API that lets you manage documents, layer files, contents.
  • Was designed for a GIS analyst with no coding background. Can work within the Python window in ArcGIS or create a script in a text document.
  • Can automate changing symbology, layers, printing, changing file paths.
  • Extends data driven pages to be more robust.
  • Can schedule them to execute.
  • If you have to make the same kind of map all the time, with small changes/updates, definitely learn the basics of Python. Very powerful.


8. Cartographic Representations

  • These are the cartography tools that I never even knew existed. Only available in Editor or Advanced Licenses.
  • Can create more advanced effects like drop shadows, can decide how dashes come together, multiple symbologies for one layer. For example, you can represent polygons as points.
  • There is also an advanced marker editor.
  • To begin, right click on the layer and select Convert Layers to Representation. Then, in Properties>Layer Symbology you’ll see the representation settings. There’s also a representation toolbar.
  • Just changes the way things are drawn, and doesn’t edit the original feature.
  • All this is getting rolled into ArcGIS Pro.


9. Random

  • Saw a presentation from my former professor Mark Harrower on all the work that has gone into Smart Mapping in ArcGIS Online. It automatically sets visible range and harmonizes colors with all Esri base maps, has scale aware symbology. Mark said that if it takes a four year degree to make good looking maps, we have set the bar too high. That’s why Esri is trying to take some of the guesswork out of cartography for those new to map making. None of this will be mandatory (you can always choose you own symbology), but I can see these tools as being extremely powerful in exploring data. It is so well thought out, and hopefully soon the level of play you can have to discover how to best represent data will be in ArcGIS Pro.
  • Some really nice new story map templates have been developed (particularly a tabbed one, and Cascade).
  • Esri is embracing vector tiles, which is going to dramatically speed up draw time. Was built on Mapbox’s open source specifications.
  • I saw whiteboard tables! So cool!
  • ArcGIS Pro you can bring in a single CAD feature class, like polylines, and turn on/off individual CAD layers.


10. Cool Apps

  • Avenza’s PDF Maps is a free app that lets you use GeoPDF or GeoTIFF as a background to mark up on in the field. I’ve heard it’s great for people who are not so into being trained on a new technology: very easy to use, and you markup a version of the paper map.
  • Landscape AR is an Android app that lets you see contours in augmented reality!! So cool!!
  • Geo Open Data Kit’s Collect App is another version of Collector.
  • Snap2Map takes photos from your phone and turns them directly into a Story Map.
  • POP lets you build a paper prototype of an app. You can figure the workflows out on paper, take a picture on each screen, and add interactivity to actually click through your app. That way you problem solve before coding anything.

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