All posts by gpbrowning

Top 10 Improvements I’d Like to See in ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop #7: More for your Basic license

First of all I wish to give Esri much credit for opening up the power of ArcGIS for Desktop at Advanced license level (with Extensions) for non-commercial use via its ArcGIS for Home Use at a price of only $100 per annum.

However, I would like to see the bang for buck increased a little for its commercial users by beefing up the Basic (formerly known as ArcView) license level.  Personally, I would like to see the name Basic for such a great product dispensed with, and that level called Standard with more or less the precise level of functionality that Standard (formerly known as ArcEditor) has today.  The key restriction on this new Standard would be that it does not access an enterprise geodatabase only file geodatabases.  The capability to update enterprise geodatabases would be just a paid extension to Standard that comes free with Advanced (formerly ArcInfo).

Some of the key additions to today’s Basic that I would recommend are:

It’s a small thing, but while we are talking about license levels could Esri please Restore license level to window name – it seems bizarre that it was removed.

If you are keen to see any/all of the above implemented, then I encourage you to follow the links to find corresponding ArcGIS Ideas awaiting your vote.

Top 10 Improvements I’d Like to See in ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop #8: Opening Esri

I read with interest a recent blog posting by Chris Holmes on Opening Esri and can see similar ideas in many current enhancement requests.

On OGC support I would like to see Esri:

And while we are talking web services, the Connection to ArcGIS Online should be on-demand  to stop the Find tool opening so slowly so often.

It would also be great to have some public domain and open source options for personal geodatabases like SQLite/SpatiaLite and PostgreSQL/PostGIS and it was heartening to see the former demonstrated at the Dev Summit.

If you are keen to see any/all of the above implemented, then I encourage you to follow the links to find corresponding ArcGIS Ideas awaiting your vote.

Top 10 Improvements I’d Like to See in ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop #9: More Control Over Text Font & Size

Coming in at #9 are requests for More Control Over Text Font and Size:

First, particularly for the over 40s, please:

Then for all ArcMap users let’s no longer have to use Change Symbol and interact with another dialog to be able to

… plus enable Default Text Properties to be Set

If you are keen to see these too, then follow the links to find corresponding ArcGIS Ideas awaiting your vote.

Top 10 Improvements I’d Like to See in ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop #10: Grids & Graticules

For about the last decade John Calkins, and more recently Joe Holubar, have been counting down what they see as the Top 10 Improvements in the latest release of ArcGIS for Desktop during the Plenary of the Esri International User Conference.  For me it is always one of the UC highlights and I greatly appreciate the efforts of the developers and presenters that lead up to it.

With July 8, ArcGIS 10.2 and this year’s UC fast approaching I thought I would help them out with what I would like to see Esri include in ArcGIS for Desktop 10.2 (and maybe demonstrated during that session).

Coming in at #10 are Grid and Graticule Improvements:

If you are keen to see these too, then follow the links to find corresponding ArcGIS Ideas awaiting your vote.

ANZMapS and Story Maps from ArcGIS for Desktop

ANZMapS_logoAs much as I would have liked to attend the Surveying & Spatial Sciences Conference in Canberra last week, I decided instead to attend for two days and present at the ANZMapS Conference in Melbourne at the end of the previous week.  It was a decision I did not regret because I found it to be an event full of interesting presentations and attended by a very welcome and enthusiastic society of mainly cartographers.

SLIGHT_James SLIGHT_William_(c1830-1887)

My presentation was primarily about my great-great-great-grandfather William Slight (pictured at left) who was highly regarded as an engraver of maps in Victoria during the period from 1855-1887.  Upon his death in 1887, his eldest son James Slight (1855-1930; pictured at right) succeeded him as Chief Engraver and Draughtsman for the Crown Lands Department of Victoria.  James (better known as Jim) was an all rounder who also played for Australia in the first Test Cricket match on English soil in 1880 after having umpired the first inter-colonial Australian Rules football match between South Australia and Victoria in 1879.

I had hoped to tell their tale using an Online Story Map but in the end decided on a different approach.  One of my main requirements was to be able to use William Slight’s best known map called Continental Australia (see below) as a basemap.  I purchased a high resolution image of the map from the National Library of Australia and it was easy to georeference using ArcGIS for Desktop.  However, to make it available as a basemap in the map viewer or ArcGIS Explorer Online would have required me to publish it to ArcGIS for Server for which I do not have licensing.  Consequently, I opted to do my presentation using ArcGIS for Desktop alone.


To move between slides I used a Python Add-in to add a toolbar with 26 buttons (one for each “slide”).  With these I was able to step through various extents from Scotland, England, Australia, USA and Colombia and turn layers and labels on and off according to my narrative with one click per “slide”.  I used HTML popups to examine photos and documents like marriage certificates, death notices, a will, and newspaper articles along the way.

I would not advocate ArcGIS for Desktop for more than a subset of story maps, but if you have a license (perhaps ArcGIS for Home Use) and some intermediate Python skills, not every story map needs to be online.

What I have been up to

PolyGeo has now been trading for almost 6 months, so I thought it was time to blog about its business to date.  It has made what I believe to be a solid start, based on a strategy to raise its profile first, before increasing its billable hours and product development.

Profile raising has been achieved by presenting two workshops (OpenStreetMap and OGC Web Service Interoperability) and a joint paper on the Online Environmental Mapping Service at the Queensland Surveying and Spatial Conference in Brisbane (September), and then a similar paper with more emphasis on Python in the developer stream at the Esri Asia-Pacific User Conference in Auckland (November).  These conferences have been complemented by active participation in the Stack Exchange GIS, Brisbane GeoRabble and Brisbane Geospatial Network communities, along with some micro-blogging via Twitter.

Along the way I have undertaken a number of training assignments in Queensland and internationally for NGIS Australia who have proven to be a very valuable partner.

NGIS logo

In the background, I have been developing some advanced ArcGIS training courses and the first of these, Advanced ArcPy (and Python) for Geoprocessing, is now ready for release.  This, and subsequent courses and workshops, will be available direct from PolyGeo, but also via NGIS Australia and PolyGeo’s newest partner, GIS People.  GIS People has been in existence only two years but has quickly established itself as a major provider of GIS consulting and training in Queensland.


GeoRabble Brisbane #2


GeoRabble Brisbane #2 (GRB#2 a.k.a. Xmas party) kicked off at the Platform Bar by Central Station on Tuesday late afternoon with a quick intro on GeoRabble and an amusing video starring its Brisbane “organising committee” by Rob Clout.

This was followed by Wil Waters, who not only spoke but also did the groundwork on where we should hold GRB#2.  His presentation was on the work he did for Engineers Without Borders in Cambodia and it looked like he worked hard but had lots of fun.

Shaun Kolomeitz spoke next on the importance of Open Standards when working in an mixed environment of Open Source and Proprietary software, and on the innovation that a well balanced team working to a common goal can achieve.

Chris McAlister spoke about the re-vamped Destination Spatial that acts as a beacon for those seeking careers in Spatial.  Her enthusiasm for all things Spatial shone through and hopefully inspired a few more to volunteer some hours to the next generation.

Completing a great set was an inspiring presentation on reporting of koala sightings using KoalaTracker by its founder Alex Harris.  On a shoestring budget it is amazing what has been achieved through crowdsourcing to increase our understanding of Queensland’s faunal emblem to try and secure its future.

With 110 or so people attending GRB#2 we are soon to start planning GRB#3 which we hope to hold in March/April.  If you would like to help organise the event or to speak at it then please let us know ASAP using or contact me direct (, because we plan to hold our first organising meeting (at a pub) in a week or so.

Esri Asia Pacific User Conference (APUC) 2012

Last night I returned from my third Esri Asia Pacific User Conference in Auckland and wanted to congratulate Eagle Technology, Esri and the NZ Esri User Group on a great event.

My kick off to the conference was attending the Geocortex Essentials User Group.  I’m not a user of that software but appreciated AAM and North South GIS allowing me to see their presentations and was impressed with how well both Essentials and Optimizer can be integrated with ArcGIS Server.

The Plenary by Jack Dangermond, Bern Szukalski and Jo Fraley, very ably supported by Eagles’ Jay Singh and Trish Merz, and others, was as always inspirational.  I enjoyed too the glimpse provided at conference closing of the Road Ahead that included ArcGIS Online geoprocessing, GeoEvents serving and configurable apps.  No new product numbers were mentioned and 10.1 seemed to be treated throughout the conference as brand new (or at times just coming) so the conference as a whole was focussed on ArcGIS 10.1 and ArcGIS Online.

I attended more Esri/Eagle sessions than user presentations but the latter were well attended and were all professionally presented and run.  The role of the NZ Esri User Group was apparently very different at this conference than at their usual annual conference that they have run successfully for 16 years and a concern was raised by one of their number at the end about their future role.  To have such an engaged Esri community over such a long period is a credit to Esri’s brand in New Zealand, so I am hoping their desire to resume a more prominent role in future NZ Esri User conference organisation, now that APUC is done and dusted, is something which can gracefully happen.

My last comment is on the party which was a great chance to catch up with old friends and ex-colleagues, and to meet some more NZ Esri users.  It had a very entertaining hostess (Jackie Clarke) and somewhere around 10 Elvi amongst the wannabe Melbourne Cup racegoers who kicked on after this nation restarted.

Would I go to another NZ Esri User Conference?  You bet!

ArcGIS for Desktop 10.1 Service Pack 1 and 64bit Background Geoprocessing

Today I installed ArcGIS for Desktop 10.1 Service Pack 1 and decided to do a quick performance test of background geoprocessing before I installed the new 64bit Background Geoprocessing on top of it.

The test I ran, using the Python script below, creates just over a million polygons, and was put behind a Python script tool called test (which had no parameters).

import arcpy

arcpy.env.overwriteOutput = True


arcpy.CreateFishnet_management("C:/Support/Geoprocessing/test.gdb/testsquares","0 0","0 1","0.01","0.01","100","100","#","LABELS","#","POLYGON")

arcpy.Buffer_analysis("C:/Support/Geoprocessing/test.gdb/testsquares_label","C:/Support/Geoprocessing/test.gdb/testcircles","0.0125 Unknown","FULL","ROUND","NONE","#")

arcpy.Union_analysis("C:/Support/Geoprocessing/test.gdb/testcircles #;C:/Support/Geoprocessing/test.gdb/testsquares #","C:/Support/Geoprocessing/test.gdb/testunion","ALL","#","GAPS")

The result prior to installing 64bit Background Geoprocessing was a very respectable 2 minutes 43 seconds, but I was hoping for even better after the upgrade.

The result after installing 64bit Background Geoprocessing was 2 minutes 27 seconds.

So, based on this very quick and dirty test, it looks like about a 10% performance gain can be expected from installing 64bit Background Geoprocessing.  This is not as much as I had hoped for, but I admit that I have not read up on the benefits 64bit background geoprocessing should bring and so am happy that it works and is at least a bit quicker!

For the record my Windows 7 system specification is as below:

Queensland Surveying & Spatial Conference 2012

I’m long overdue for making my first blog post in a very long while, so I hope no one has been looking for it daily. Since starting to trade as PolyGeo in late July, I have been doing the odd paid job but have mostly been preparing for the Queensland Surveying & Spatial Conference (QSSC) 2012 that took place in Brisbane last week.

My role in the conference was principally to run two workshops on OpenStreetMap and OGC Web Services respectively, but I also co-presented with Steve Jones of the Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA) on the Online Environmental Mapping Service (OEMS) Redevelopment Project. The latter involved me writing lots of Python/ArcPy code for a “maps on demand” application that requests maps to be created as PDF files via a Geoprocessing Service using a multitude of business rules.

For the OpenStreetMap workshop there was opportunity to investigate the ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap, or to use Potlatch to edit OpenStreetMap in a web browser, by following a short exercise that I put together, but I thought the star of the show was 1Spatial’s Andrew Harvey who has made many contributions to OpenStreetMap around Sydney. I was also very impressed by Nick Lawrence’s use of slides from David Dean after the latter could not attend, the OpenStreetMap Great Britain (OSM-GB) project presentation by Brett Madsen and an overview of the Esri Community Maps Program by Len Olyott.

When it came to OGC Interoperability, we worked to an ambitious idea of seeing how many client and server products we could use to test WMS, WMTS, WCS, WFS, WFS-T, WPS and CSW. It was only WFS-T and WPS that we fell short on, and this was largely due to the time factor. With much support from Denise McKenzie of the OGC ANZ Forum who gave an OGC overview, 1Spatial Australia (Brett Madsen), Esri Australia (Len Olyott & Craig Sandy), and Intergraph Australia (Defkalion Kaligridis & Anton Van Wyk) we were able to provide participants with written exercises to use the client(s) of their choice from Quantum GIS, GeoMedia Professional, Intergraph ERDAS Imagine and ArcGIS for Desktop to consume WMS, WMTS, WCS, WFS and/or CSW from Intergraph Geospatial Portal and APOLLO Server, Safe Software’s FME Server, Esri’s ArcGIS for Server and open source MapServer, GeoServer and GeoNetwork. Matthew Fry of Mipela GeoSolutions also provided us with WMS and WFS services from the X-Info Suite.

All in all it was a great workshop day and conference!