Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The difference between web maps and applications (maps and apps) puzzled me at first but a little more exploring on the AGOL site has demystified this a bit.
The web map is just as it sounds, it is a base map with a set of layers that can be seen through a ArcGIS.com viewer or ArcGIS Explorer, provided you have shared the map service and the web map.
An application on the server side, on AGOL in this case, packages the map and adds some functionality and look and feel to the web map. It also creates a single URL to the map and the added functionality so it is much easier to share and view. The AGOL application can be viewed in any browser.
It’s fairly easy to wrap an AGOL web map into an application.
Open the web map in AGOL and open the share option. The share gives you a URL that links directly to the AGOL map viewer that you can share with people to view the map and the code for adding the map to an existing web site. But you can also select Make a Web Application and chose from about 24 basic web application templates. I have tried several of these web applications including the basic viewer, the social media, editing, and a few of the story telling web applications. Most of the applications are configurable to some extent.
Here is a link to the state parcel stewardship that will open in the AGOL viewer
and here is that same map in a basic viewer web application
Both links connect to maps with the same content; they are just wrapped differently.
The real deal with applications is mobile applications. For these applications you don’t have to do anything on the server side other than have the web maps configured to be shared or edited, depending on your application. The mobile application connects to the URL for the web map and the work is done on the mobile side. There are some catches. For the data collection application, I did set up a separate service so the edits would be made on a copy of the feature service and not on my original service. Also the data on the AGOL service has to be structured and configured so the mobile application recognizes the data fields.
There are a few remaining glitches. If you are publishing a viewer to a data set that is updating frequently and you want to track status or updates on your desktop and push the updates to AGOL, make sure your services are all “awake”, sometimes there is a lag between when the service is over ridden and when the changes are reflected in updates. Another way to handle this is to do the edits on the AGOL site and then users will see changes more quickly. You have to be wise about how you manage the sharing on the services and viewer if you want to have a few people edit the data but have everyone see the results.
AGOL is not likely to replace your existing ArcGIS Server, but it can lighten the load. It is a good place to set up some quick data publishing, to set up some relatively static views of the data, experiment with new or proposed data or map services, set up a story map about your organization, use web services for data collection within a defined organization, and to learn how web services work.
There are emerging capabilities. Such as using drop box to link to content or possibility to link to data downloads, additional templates and application offerings, expanded analysis tools like buffer and data summaries and analysis, and the ability to track credit consumption for each tool.