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Geocortex at the 2017 Esri Partner Conference & DevSummit

We are less than a week away from Esri’s annual Partner Conference and DevSummit, taking place March 6-10 in beautiful Palm Springs, California. It’s always a great opportunity to connect with the Esri (and Geocortex!) community.

This year, we are coming to the event with lots of exciting things to share and discuss.

Next-generation Geocortex Workflow

For the last 5+ years, Geocortex Workflow has been one of the most popular capabilities offered with Geocortex Essentials, and we’re pleased to share that later in 2017, you will be able to purchase the next-generation Geocortex Workflow as a standalone product!

For those who aren’t familiar with Geocortex Workflow, it allows you to create simplified, guided interactions for end-users, without programming. Organizations around the world have leveraged Geocortex Workflow to streamline and automate complex business processes… in many cases, this has resulted in significant annual savings.

Geocortex Workflow will also ship with some significant improvements:

  • Take your workflows offline: You will be able to run Geocortex Workflow offline in environments with limited or no Internet connectivity – one of the most sought after features in recent years.
  • Geocortex inside Esri apps: Esri customers will now be able to harness the power of Geocortex Workflow technology inside Esri’s Web AppBuilder Developer Edition (with more to come soon).
  • Efficient, intuitive web-based designer: Geocortex Workflow Designer is undergoing improvements, and will now be web-based to offer a much more intuitive and simplified experience for builders of workflows. 


Additional product enhancements:

We also encourage you to come chat with us about the other product enhancements we’ve made over the past few months. It’s been a busy start to 2017 for the Geocortex Product Development team, with no signs of slowing down!

  • Accessibility: Are you having trouble meeting Section 508 Standards and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) compliance? Check out our blog post on the topic and let us help clear up any confusion.
  • Integrations: Do you need to integrate 3rd party business systems and data sources? Come see how Geocortex customers are integrating with 3rd party land management, asset management, document management and business intelligence systems!
  • Security: Want to apply fine-grained permissions to control access to layers and capabilities within apps? Let us show you how Geocortex simplifies the process, and learn how our technology works with ArcGIS identities.
  • Web Reporting and Printing: Do you need a simple way to generate printable reports? Need to print high quality maps in large or unique formats? Swing by and see Geocortex Web Reporting and Printing in action.

Where to find us:

  • The Geocortex Technology Update (for Geocortex Business Partners): Paul Salah (Director, Business Development), and Drew Millen (Director, Products) will demonstrate recent product advancements and share a roadmap of the most exciting projects we’re working on. If you’re interested in attending, please contact us at: partners@latitudegeo.com.
  • The GIS Solutions Expo: We’ll be exhibiting in booth #122 on March 6 from 2:00 – 7:00 PM. Drop by and have a member of the team walk you through Geocortex Essentials and Geocortex Analytics, and explore how we can help you accomplish even more with Esri’s modern ArcGIS technology.

We also have time available for 1-to-1 meetings. If you’d like to schedule some time to connect in Palm Springs, contact us today (partners@latitudegeo.com).

See you soon!


Web maps for everyone: Why you should be paying attention to accessibility

In our daily lives there are things that many of us take for granted, and may not always be available to everyone. Accessibility has become a top-of-mind topic for businesses, government agencies, and developers of technology in recent years – particularly as modern society finds new ways to be more inclusive.

What does accessibility mean on the web?

First published in 1999, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of principles -- determined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) -- that lay out how to best make web offerings (including web maps) accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of ability. This means providing alternatives to audio and visual content, providing clear and varying navigation options, and ensuring you are not relying on color and graphics alone.   

Accessibility in practice

Many jurisdictions and organizations are legally requiring accessibility support for web offerings; as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, historic exemptions for web mapping are being eliminated. The Government of Canada has detailed standards on web accessibility, which require all web offerings available externally and internally to conform to the requirements of WCAG 2.0. The Province of Ontario was the first Canadian province to pass a law that improves accessibility in areas that impact the daily lives of people with disabilities.

In January 2017, the United States updated Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 with a new rule that adopts many of WCAG's success criteria. These Section 508 Standards apply to electronic and information technology that is developed, procured, maintained or used by federal agencies, and contain technical criteria specific to various types of technologies.

Additionally, regulators in the United Kingdom, European Union, Australia and Israel require government web offerings to conform to WCAG standards, and we only expect more federal and regional governments around the world to follow suit.

What should you do?

Not only are accessible web offerings mandated in many regions, it’s simply the right thing to do. No group should be excluded from leveraging the amazing power that mapping technology offers.

But how do you do it? Here are a few things to consider as you get started:

  • Screen Readers: Screen readers dictate the user interface (UI) text aloud, allowing users to listen to the page instead of reading it. This is an important consideration for serving end-users with limited visibility.
  • Keyboard Navigation: Keyboard shortcuts allow end-users to interact with applications using a keyboard instead of a mouse. For many of us, using a mouse is a natural skill, but for end-users with limited motor skills it can be prohibitive.
  • High-Contrast Visualization: Color should not be used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.

At Latitude Geographics we’ve been developing out-of-the-box accessibility capabilities since 2015. If you’d like to learn how our Geocortex Essentials product can help you meet your requirements, or would like some help clearing up confusion around existing and emerging regulations, please get in touch.

In January we hosted a 30-minute webinar about accessibility; if you're interested in diving into this topic in-depth you can find the webinar recording here.


Start the New Year with ArcGIS 10.5 and Geocortex

Esri’s ArcGIS 10.5 is now available and we’re excited for what it has to offer Geocortex customers. This major release not only includes stability enhancements and improved functionality; it represents a big leap forward for Esri’s emerging Web GIS pattern, and makes it significantly easier for organizations to begin taking advantage of the modern pattern’s powerful capabilities.

 

 ArcGIS Enterprise: A Major Advancement in the Server Platform

ArcGIS Server is being renamed to ArcGIS Enterprise. Beginning at 10.5, ArcGIS Enterprise licensees will be able to take advantage of the ArcGIS Server, Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Web Adaptor, and ArcGIS Data Store components under one license. The transition to ArcGIS Enterprise is straightforward and will continue to provide customers with deployment flexibility; you will now be able to deploy a complete web GIS in your own infrastructure.   

New ArcGIS Membership Levels

Another important advancement in 10.5 is the introduction of new membership levels. Level 1 membership is for users who only require viewing privileges for maps and apps that have been shared with them through the organization. Level 2 membership is for members who require the ability to view, edit, create and share content.

The new membership levels make web GIS more cost-effective and allow you to better tailor your deployments. You can learn more about the new membership levels here.

Geocortex & ArcGIS 10.5

Our product development and QA teams have been testing ArcGIS 10.5 pre-release software extensively over the past couple months, and we are very pleased to announce that the Geocortex product suite is completely compatible with 10.5.

"Portal for ArcGIS is central to our modern Geocortex product strategy."

Geocortex Essentials provides seamless integration with Portal for ArcGIS, and can leverage both web maps and map services (secured and anonymous) stored in Portal for ArcGIS or ArcGIS Online. One of the most powerful implications is that if a protected web map is used to build a Geocortex viewer application, the application will honor the security and prompt users to log-in with their ArcGIS identities.

Let us Help

We think that there has never been a better time to consider making the move to a modern web GIS. Geocortex will increasingly include tie-ins, dependencies, and value adds to Portal for ArcGIS and ArcGIS Online; the release of ArcGIS 10.5 makes it much easier for you to take advantage of the new pattern.

Many organizations may not be fully equipped to deploy modern Geocortex and Esri technology. Our ArcGIS Implementation Services team can help you navigate the transition, and fast-track effective deployments of Portal for ArcGIS and related technologies.

To learn more about how we can help you take advantage of web GIS in 2017, get in touch with us at arcgis-services@latitudegeo.com.

 


Latitude’s Take on Esri’s Web GIS… and Named Users

When presenting to user groups or talking with folks this autumn, I’d say the number one question I get asked is some variation on “what’s Latitude’s take on Esri’s push to named users?”

I usually give a quick answer and then refer them to the part the 2016 Geocortex User Conference plenary presentation last May when I addressed this topic in detail. However, given conference recordings are only available to people with Geocortex Support Center access, we figured we’d just post the entire transcript (see below) and accompanying slides here on the Geocortex Blog for people to refer to.

That said, given the hassle of matching the transcript with slide transitions, we figured it makes sense to also post an actual video recording of the sections covered by the following transcript and slides.

Why read when you can watch? (16 min video)

TL; DR… I think it’s not about named users. Esri is transitioning their approach to a superior way of delivering geographic insight to people. Web GIS is fundamentally about modern computing patterns. The concept of identity (i.e. the named user) is important within modern computing patterns because knowing who a given user isenables high-value capabilities that would be impossible without this information.

Anyway, it’s a fairly long read, but might be of interest to some:

 

Presentation: 2016 Geocortex User Conference Plenary session

Sections: The World Around Us; Esri’s Web GIS  (Download supporting slides)

Presenter: Steven Myhill-Jones


(Section II: The World Around Us)

I want to talk about progress.

I wish you were all here with me today. Because I want to see a show of hands. I want to know how many people use Google Drive, or OneDrive, or iCloud or Box or Dropbox to store most or all of your personal stuff. And I don’t mean like a memory stick for just a few things! I mean you use it as your main storage for documents, photos and other stuff. Either way, it’s fine… I’m just curious where everyone is at.

I have more calibration questions. Are your browser bookmarks spread across different machines or are they all unified across your devices? Do you use a password manager like 1Pass or Dashlane? Do you own your music collection, or are you subscribed to a service that gives you everything? When collaborating with others, do you email Word docs and spreadsheets or prefer to collaborate directly in Google Docs or Office365?

I’ve always figured I’m reasonably progressive. For example, I’ve used Dropbox and a cloud-based back-up service for a long time now. So I tick off a few boxes, for sure. But while I’ve heard about popular new services like Trello and Asana, the truth is I feel like there are so many of them and I’m a busy guy.

I tend to gravitate to what I know, and patterns of computing I’ve established in my life.

Honestly, I haven’t been a big experimenter with new services.

I had an epiphany not long ago when I was in the process of planning out computers and networking for the house my wife and I have been renovating.

Now this kind of stuff is bit outside my wheelhouse, to be sure. But as I was chatting about my thinking over lunch with Alex McKeachie, who is our Information Systems manager, I noticed he at first developed a slightly panicked, and then despondent, look in his eyes.

It was as if he was staring at a dinosaur or something. And I suppose he was. By the way, this is the dinosaur image that we thought best captured my nose.

Anyway, over a few weeks, Alex took me through all a bunch of modern technologies and approaches that are vastly superior to approaches that I’ve been taking for many years. It finally soaked in that I was creating hours and hours of work for myself instead of paying a few bucks a month. So I made changes in a number of areas.

For example, I transitioned to Google Photos, which saves me from spending a few hours swearing at my home PC as I try to wrestle recent photos off my go-to camera–my iPhone–and shuffle them into the old directory structure I developed years ago to organize and find stuff later and back up to my external hard drive system.

Many of these new offerings are cloud-based, and they cost about the same. Sometimes less, sometimes a bit more. Yes I pay $100/year for a couple things now, but I don’t have to buy hardware anymore or worry about set-up or maintenance or physical security of it all.

But I’m not here to evangelize the cloud. All this goes way beyond offloading storage and computing resources via the cloud… or maybe some on-premises version of it.

You see, a big benefit has come through connecting my computing resources. Rather than my previous approach on each device… connected together but not unified… I’ve moved to a model where it doesn’t matter what device I’m on, my work is just there.

I used to kind of roll my eyes at this, and think: Well, I don’t really need that. I don’t need to edit PPTs on my iPhone. And I don’t. But I move between a few different computers, and a couple mobile devices. And I need to do different things in different places. I’ll take a photo on my phone, which I later need to access or make use of on some other device. That’s now solved properly.

Ubiquitous access is possible via these modern technologies knowing who you are—based your identity. With Dashlane, a cloud-based password management utility, my identity gives me secure access to my passwords and information across all my devices, updated and ready to go. I only have to remember one password, and I can easily share a subset of my passwords with my wife, and even a few with my kids.

Taking a step back, it’s clear there are recurring themes in common with almost all these modern offerings like Salesforce:

  1. Identity – What you’re using is predicated on who you are
  2. Ubiquitous access – Consistent access on any device, anywhere, anytime
  3. Sharing and collaboration – Identities allow you to do things in conjunction with others
  4. Common currencies –the file formats, standards, et cetera that are the basis from which all this can happen. Often this enables third-party ties ins and supporting solutions.
  5. Services based – They default to web based services and computation wherever possible

These themes aren’t afterthoughts. They’re baked into every aspect of most of these platforms. These factors on their own provide high value, but put together, the outcome can be far greater than the sum of their parts.

And it’s why they’re shifting the landscape of computing and how people get things done, and will even more as things mature and users that aren’t actively searching for these offerings discover the leap-forward productivity benefits they deliver.

The world is changing, not for the sake of change or grabbing what’s shiny and new, but because there are new approaches that can deliver profound new benefits. We owe it to ourselves– and especially our organizations and those we serve to expand our thinking if we’re not already or if we’ve fallen a bit behind what’s afoot.
We need to be realistic and pragmatic, but also keep our predilections and biases in check.

Within Latitude, I soon noticed that Alex and his information systems team had rolled out many of these types of modern offerings at our office, but in many cases I wasn’t using them properly.

In many cases, I was trying to make these new offerings conform to my old workflows and habits.

A key insight I want to share is this: I thought I got the power of identity and modern approaches—indeed I think about it all the time for GIS–until I was confronted by the reality of many of my personal workflows outside my professional sphere. I realized I was missing out on all kinds of far superior ways of doing things, even when I was signed up for some of these services, because aspects of my thinking was out of date.

Now many of you are not like I was, and you totally get modern patterns and always have. But I’ll bet a few of you have something in common with me.

Here’s the thing:

 There are some things in life most of us can’t truly get, until we experience the benefits for ourselves. And to be open to receiving the full experience, we sometimes have to deliberately put aside our existing assumptions and habits. We have to open our minds.

In life, you stay relevant by being open to new things. You were relevant because you stopped. (John Maeda)

If we’re evaluating something new and disruptive from the perspective of our old mental framework, there’s probably a good chance we don’t give it a fair evaluation in the first pass or two.

So instead of assessing something and concluding “I don’t like it” or “I don’t want it”, I’m trying to always add the word “yet” in the back of my mind. And I encourage you to do the same.

For a few years now, I’ve been very much on board with Esri’s vision… I get the value of making geographic information products more available across organizations and in the hands of more people.

But for a while, I’ll admit I didn’t truly and deeply get the power of identity and what it enables. I mean, it’s not like anyone typically leaves their work PC and then continues doing some dynamic segmentation in the grocery store lineup on their smartphone, right? But beyond connecting devicesunifying them through identity can open up all kinds of doors in terms of possibilities.

You have your information and your workflows at your fingertips, and not a bunch of other stuff. This is really important for non-GIS type users. It stops being about the technology, and instead shifts to being about the things they’re trying to do. And with that, friction and inefficiencies get reduced. Collaboration is streamlined.

"Efficiency and usefulness are magnetic."

At first, it’s often hard to put your finger on the coming benefits of a major technology change in the world, and hard to describe specific examples ahead of time, but over time, you realize you wouldn’t ever want to go back.

Look… who needs internet on their mobile phone? Hey, people seriously said that less than ten years ago! If you find yourself saying “Things are fine the way they are”, you might be right. You might also be a future punchline.

And this, friends, is why getting into Esri’s new web-GIS pattern matters. Until we do things differently, and discover things we couldn’t do before, it’s hard to really ‘get it’. When our reference point is the past, we don’t need these new approaches, but when we have them, we start to leverage the meaningful ones powerfully and they become indispensable.

I’ve shared my own story; maybe you have your own version of it. But whatever the case, I ask you to go with me into this next section with your mind wide open.

(Section III: Esri’s Web GIS Pattern)

I now want to talk about Esri’s modern web-GIS pattern, because this topic is really important, it’s really timely, and lots of folks don’t fully understand what’s unfolding right now. I’ve been at this for 17 years, and this is a watershed moment. It’s bigger than the shift from ArcIMS to ArcGIS Server. It’s at least on par with the significance of introducing web-based mapping to a desktop only world back in 2000.

I’m a real believer in Esri’s vision for a modern web GIS pattern. Let’s talk about what “modern web GIS pattern” means. It means that the system knows who you are, so it can deliver the data and capabilities that are important to the work you do. It can deliver the things you’re doing or need to do when you need them, instead of inundating you with a bunch of irrelevant stuff. Beyond the user, Portal or ArcGIS Online are the unifying organizational structure… the entry point to information and tools so you can discover, access, and work with the stuff you need.

Tasks that used to require ten steps and focus, become three steps and easy. Things become so much easier and more accessible, a bunch more people—people who don’t get excited in the least about maps—are able to start leveraging geographic information in their work because it provides value and it’s no big deal.

That is web GIS. Beyond just an organizational system of record, it all becomes a system of engagement.

Let’s zoom out for a moment, and relate the noteworthy themes of Web GIS to what I described earlier… the key themes or elements of these modern platforms and offerings. Let’s take a look.

  1. Identity – Users sign in so the system knows who they are and what they have access to.
  2. Ubiquitous access– Readily accessible, usable apps available across all major platforms… that offer a consistent, familiar experience.
  3. Sharing and collaboration – Portal or ArcGIS Online enable sharing and collaboration that’s unified, and is managed centrally.
  4. Common currencies – the ArcGIS Information model… Web Layers, Web Maps, Web Scenes, Feature layers… these embody the underlying connective tissue that enables all this.
  5. Services based – Notwithstanding offline use cases, Web Services are the go-to approach for processing and computation.

Where possible, ArcGIS Server and related servers like GeoEvent deliver the capabilities that apps and the software we deliver access.

Web GIS is not named users. It’s not moving everything to ArcGIS Online, or buying more. It’s about getting more done, more easily, more efficiently. It’s about your investment in GIS delivering more value to your organization.

Here’s the thing: Web GIS isn’t about technology. It’s about how people access and use maps and GIS.

Look, I might be able to quibble with an aspect or two of what Esri’s done so far on the execution side of things, but its complex and Esri is working hard to figure all this out.

Right now, most objections and concerns we hear about Esri’s new pattern boil down to two areas.

Maturity and cost. And I think these objections are going to fade in a big way over the next twelve months.

As far as maturity goes, at Latitude, we’re conservative about recommending things prematurely because moving too early can be expensive and challenging. However, I think we have reached or are about to reach a tipping point. Now, I think we’re in an era where not moving—deliberately or not, investing in the past—will ultimately prove more costly than any wrinkles left to iron out. Remember, for many newer Esri customers, the Web GIS pattern is the only pattern they know! I think Portal, for example, will evolve rapidly in the next twelve months.

In terms of cost, I have yet to see a situation in 2016 where we’ve not been able to work with Esri to ensure an acceptable pricing model if someone doesn’t quite fit the current structure. Especially with ELAs, Esri is working with folks to figure out a path that delivers comparable deployment magnitude for similar cost; a challenge is a new licensing model that can sometimes be too big or too small depending on patterns of use. I’m really happy with how key Esri folks have been willing to work with us to figure out a way to move forward and make things happen.

So I actually think this is a phenomenally good time to have that conversation with Esri, strategically speaking… and we’re happy to help facilitate, working on your behalf. I’ll say this: we might be an Esri Platinum Partner, but we–and our resellers–work for you.

I’m not telling you to throw out the past, or introduce radical change overnight. Many of you have large, complex implementations. What I am recommending is, especially if rolling out change takes time at your organization, that you start working on the assumption that Web GIS is coming and that embracing it is vital. I’m suggesting you roll out web GIS not because some vendor might be telling you to, but because doing so entirely aligned with the mandate that we all have to maximize the potential value of geographic information at our organizations.

I am convinced Web GIS is not a flash in the pan or some approach that’ll get dropped or morph in a year or two. In our assessment, Web GIS reflects authentic cross-industry information technology change.

"Web GIS reflects authentic cross-industry information technology change."

It’s the real thing, and we believe it’s very close to setting off on the path of ubiquity, like what we’re seeing in other industries. My hunch is we’re going to hear some big announcements from Esri before long that’ll provide compelling reasons to leave past patterns behind.

So… we recommend active, front-burner initiatives… if you’re not already doing so, to start deploying new offerings under the Web GIS model in earnest. Beyond dabbling in what’s next to satisfy those asking, look for opportunities to roll it out sufficiently to explore and discover the benefits it can enable.

If you don’t, I think the reality is you’ll increasingly miss out on capabilities that are only available under the new model because they’re only possible to deliver using the new model. You’ll fall behind.

A great example with our technology is offline search and other great new capabilities in Geocortex Mobile App Framework 2.0. Only Esri’s Web GIS offerings could enable these capabilities, and so version 2.0 is based on an ArcGIS identity and requires it.

In fact, this is a great segue to our next topic.

(Section IV: Where does Geocortex fit into all this?)

Well, it’s very much a corresponding and connected vision, so let’s explore…

—- End of transcript—-

From there, my presentation continues to discuss and demonstrate all the work my colleagues at Latitude are doing to help clients maximize the possibilities of their Esri Web GIS technology, especially through our complementary and ever-evolving supporting technologies like Geocortex Essentials and Geocortex Analytics.

 


Geocortex Essentials 4.6, Geocortex Viewer for HTML5 2.7 & Geocortex Mobile App Framework 2.1

Latitude Geographics has released Geocortex Essentials 4.6, alongside Geocortex Viewer for HTML5 2.7 and Geocortex Mobile App Framework 2.1.

While we’ve made some major upgrades to Geocortex Essentials to help you manage and configure your applications, many of the exciting features in this release can be found in our viewer and its offline capabilities.

Geocortex Essentials 4.6 - Timeslider Feature
Geocortex Essentials 4.6 - Timeslider Feature
  • Geocortex Viewer for HTML5 2.7 has a new Time Slider control to filter data on your maps to only show features in a chosen time extent. This version also offers users the ability to change the rendering of layers on-the-fly with new Dynamic Symbolization controls. They can also add layers from a predefined list of catalog layers – controlled by administrators – and can search for services and layers by URL or keyword. On the management side, this release empowers administrators to edit all context menus in the viewer, configure feature highlight colors, control measurement symbology, and more.
  • Geocortex Mobile App Framework 2.1 versions for iOS, Windows, and Android have been improved, and continue to use Esri’s geodatabase replica format to store feature data on a device; this enables search with more advanced spatial intersections offline, and a smarter sync mechanism. This version introduces support for taking layers from dynamic map services offline. We’ve also made a handful of improvements for users with Windows devices, such as a configurable storage location for data. (As a reminder, we shared information with Geocortex customers at our last release regarding licensing considerations for Geocortex Mobile App Framework. If you are a Geocortex customer and haven’t had a chance to review it, yet, check out our post in the Geocortex Support Center).

As always, there are also numerous minor features, various bug fixes and user experience enhancements included as part of this release. We recommend you consult the release notes for more detailed information.

Note: There is interdependence between Geocortex Essentials, Geocortex Mobile App Framework, and our HTML5 viewer; implementing some newly-introduced features will require the latest versions.

Current Geocortex customers: Installers, release notes and supporting documentation can be downloaded by licensees with an active maintenance agreement from the Geocortex Support Center. If your account is handled by an authorized Geocortex Reseller, please contact your local representative for access to installers and documentation.

Customers interested in learning more about some of the new features being introduced can watch a set of new feature videos that will be available for viewing in the coming weeks in the Geocortex Support Center.

Not a Geocortex customer yet? Check out our Product Release page to learn more about our current release — including a detailed features list — or visit our Discovery Center and get in touch with us.


Geocortex Essentials 1.5 Released

This afternoon, we cut the final release of Geocortex Essentials 1.5. Thanks to those who participated in the Beta program and provided feedback. We released the 1.5 Beta on the same day (coincidentally) as ESRI’s 9.3 SP1 release. Since then, we have ensured compatibility with 9.3 SP1 within Geocortex Essentials 1.5.

1.5 represents a few months of work, and packs with it a good number of new features and bug fixes. To name a few:

  • Configurable Search
  • Query Builder
  • Summary Reports
  • Feature Maps & Feature Reports
  • Layer Metadata Links
  • Copy/Save Map Image
  • Updated Toolset control

… and many more.

Have a look at the Release Notes on the Geocortex Support Center for more details.


Spatial Search Chaining

I come from a background in IT, not geography. Over the last five years, the "Geographic" part GIS has intrigued me more and more. Writing software for many other types of "Information Systems" just doesn't seem as interesting.

Today I spent a couple hours building some search forms from the Configurable Search feature we're currently wrapping up for Geocortex Essentials 1.5. Building search forms is such a common IT operation. What web-based application doesn't have a search function? And what specific system implementation hasn't required custom functionality on top of that search. The cool thing about writing search tools for a GIS is that we can apply spatial filters and then "see" the results (here, seeing means more than squinting at rows and columns in a table).

For example: Find me all of the parcels within the zip code 28214 that have a land value greater than $450,000. The word "within" becomes a very powerful part of that sentence.

parcel-by-value

This search found me 119 parcels. I don't really want to sift through that data in a table... but seeing the results on the map empowers my results to "mean something".

parcel-by-value-results


Sophisticated Search and Query for ArcGIS Server 9.3

Back in July, Geocortex Essentials 1.4 was a major release because it provided complete compatibility with ArcGIS Server 9.3 and provided a major performance boost. However it didn’t include many specific new features (and the feature request list just keeps growing). With the upcoming (mid-October) Geocortex Essentials 1.5 release we’re excited to cross off the list a few of the major features we’ve wanted to develop for quite some time. Configurable Search and Query Builder is ones of these.

Not to be confused with the SearchAttributesTask and QueryAttributesTask these features allow administrators to configure searches against both spatial layers and data from external data sources (configured via the Geocortex Essentials Data Linking).

auto-completeSome users might notice the cool but subtle things, like AJAX enabled auto-complete text boxes or drop-down boxes populated with domain values, cascading input fields (where one fields value may be dependent on the selection of another field), masked input fields (for specific data entry requirements), and friendly field validation. Query Builder will be intuitive, and it won’t require users to understand SQL. I think our users, business partners and services team will be hard pressed to find a search tool requirement that can’t be satisfied by simple configuration of the Configurable Search feature.

parcel-mapOn the reporting side we’re including "Feature Maps", so users can see preview maps of each feature they have searched for, without leaving the search results window.

Since work on Geocortex Essentials 2.0 is happening in parallel, we’ve been able to engineer the 1.5 features so they won’t be a big deal to adapt to work in conjunction with ESRI’s new/emerging developer APIs.


Busy Times in the Geocortex Products Department

One of the "exciting" things about developing products and services for a major software vendor like ESRI is the fact that our product release schedule is often heavily influenced by the release dates (and events) of ESRI.

The recent release of ArcGIS 9.3 (most importantly for us, ArcGIS Server 9.3 and ArcIMS 9.3) came with it the need to upgrade all products in the Geocortex suite to ensure compatibility.

In reply to today's Geocortex IMF release announcement email, Steve Tharp at Chesapeake Energy wrote, "Man you guys are cranking it out before the esri UC".

He's right... although I suppose its no surprise since ESRI has been doing some "cranking out" of their own.

Earlier this month (on the 10th of July) we released Geocortex Essentials 1.4 Beta (for ArcGIS Server 9.3) and we're releasing the final at the end of this week.
Last week (on the 23rd), we released Geocortex Uptime 1.2.2 which is compatible with ArcIMS 9.3.
On Monday we released the ArcGIS Server Connector for Geocortex IMF to ensure compatibility with ArcGIS Server 9.3.
Yesterday we released Geocortex Statistics 1.3 which is compatible with ArcIMS 9.3.
Today, we announced the release of Geocortex IMF 5.2.2 which is compatible with ArcIMS 9.3 (and contains some fixes to ensure compatibility with Mozilla Firefox 3).


Geocortex Essentials Betas available

Well, I'm happy to blog that two weeks after the release of ArcGIS Server 9.3, we're offering full Geocortex Essentials compatibility. I must concede that this work didn't take two weeks; it took a couple months (we were very busy during the Beta program during which we made some educated guesses that proved correct).

We're actually releasing two new versions of Geocortex Essentials: Geocortex Essentials 1.3.1 Beta, and Geocortex Essentials 1.4 Beta. 1.3.1 is a maintenance release in the ArcGIS Server 9.2 edition of Geocortex Essentials. It contains updated language resources and bug fixes for customers who've built apps on 9.2. 1.4 is the big release that supports ArcGIS Server 9.3.

It has been a pleasure to start using the new features in Web ADF 9.3. Most notably (for developers):

  • The new Web ADF JavaScript object model (not to be confused with the JavaScript API released in tandem with ArcGIS Server 9.3, which is also cool and we're doing lots of work with)
  • Support for MS AJAX partial postbacks which will streamline future development (thankfully, adding full support for partial postbacks wasn't as arduous as we thought it might be)

Maybe we've been staring at it too long, but it appears the long-awaited 9.3 performance improvements are quite noticeable (we'll be able to quantify these improvements once we start playing with the Geocortex Optimizer Alpha in a couple weeks). Cool.

Next, maximizing the performance of Essentials (which has never received that much attention because we didn't really worry that much about our stuff being a bottleneck with 9.2) will be a core focus during the next couple 3-week iterations.

But first, I think the team is going to enjoy Latitude's annual "4th of July" picnic this afternoon/evening up at Shawnigan Lake.