ESRI Australia Conference 2010

Akeal and I went to this year’s ESRI Australia’s user group conference for the Asia Pacific region held on the Gold Coast (March 3 – 5).
This year’s conference was special for several reasons:

  1. ArcGIS 10 was being shown (recently renamed from 9.4 – why?  Is it that important?),
  2. Jack Dangermond gave the key note,
  3. I was in the audience (as opposed to presenting at an ESRI conference – something I used to do a lot in my previous role with ESRI)

So, what’s coming in ArcGIS 10?  The highlights for us were changes to the desktop software, particularly the interface of ArcMap, and the way you do editing.  ESRI continue on their path to improve the usability of the software, which is necessary, as anyone who struggles to use it knows that there are loads of buttons and menus, and usually about five ways to solve a problem.  Here are some notable changes, broken down in to categories that might interest you.

In terms of usability:

  • ‘Tools bars’ (windows) that are dockable, and auto hide.  There are more windows including a search facility that you can use to look for data sets and map documents.
  • Reworked Table Of Contents (TOC).  We used to have three tabs at the bottom, they’re gone!  But, just to the top of the TOC, though with improvements like being able to sort the contents, and categorise layers based on visibility.  Useful when you have 10+ layers with complex symbology, speaking of which,
  • Symbology editing has been enhanced, and a simple improvement that will save time, the ability to search for a particular symbol.  I for one can never remember where to find the tree symbols.
  • Faster display and seamless panning and zooming.  There was a demonstration of the impressive improvement in the speed of display.  Display performance can be enhanced by creating ‘base maps’ that can be cached.

Tool changes included:

  • More tools to work with imagery, such as creating mosaics (alternative to previous methods), and ability to read more formats.
  • Map Books, finally, this is in the core software.  You can now make multiple maps from one MXD.  Some good tools to generate and manage map books, and the ability to extend these with code.  This will be a real time saver.
  • Geo-processing tweaks include the ability to run processes (on the desktop) in the background.
  • Editing has really changed.  It is probably more intuitive for a new user, but for those familiar to edit-tasks and targets it will take some getting used to.  One improvement is that editing is done by feature type, for example, you click on the feature you want from the list (like in the TOC) and start drawing.  You’ll only get access to drawing tools that are appropriate for that feature.  As you draw, you see your feature placed with the correct symbology.  You can also configure which attributes are editable/visible, so with a little practise, the new editing method looks to be another time saver.  Also, some of the more inaccessible editing menus are now available as toolbars (like snapping and vertex editing).

Interested in development? Read on:

  • Visual Basic/Visual Basic for Applications (VB/VBA) is out, Python is entrenched.  Based on Microsoft’s lead, ESRI are dropping support for VB/VBA after release 10 (sometime – soon), and want you to use Python or .NET.  Python seems to be their preferred replacement to VBA as it is integrated well with Model Builder and easier to learn.  ESRI are aware of the large number of their customers who have written VB applications and have provided ideas on how to migrate code.  For more info, try reading this article.

Data models and server:

  • There are a few changes to the Geodatabase, one of note is a little more clarity about the release of the API for the file-geodatabase.  It’s been promised for a while, and again promised for this release.
  • There are a few changes to ArcGIS Server, and ArcGIS Mobile looked impressive (again) and begs the question as to the future of ArcPad.  I’m in the camp that ArcPad is not going away anytime soon, just as ArcView 3x is still clinging on.

There are obviously many more changes to the software due in release 10 (read some more, or watch the videos), which we were told will be out in time for the International User Conference (July 12), but Andrew tells me that ESRI recently announced a slight delay.

The conference was very useful for us, not only enabling us to understand where ESRI are going (jump on the ArcGIS Server wagon!), but also to meet some friends, old and new; and listen to what other GIS users are up to.  Jack Dangermond, in his usual fashion was enthusiastic in his plenary, this year’s topic “Extending the Reach” had a clear message that we ALL play a part in making as much data as possible available so that we can enable more informed decisions.

All that in two days!  I’d be happy to talk to you about what I saw, and I am sure Akeal would be too.  Give us a call (08) 9227 7309, or email me.

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