Vishful thinking…

Deciphering the Arc mumbo jumbo

Posted in Uncategorized by viswaug on October 4, 2007

There has been quite a bit of new Arc terms coming out of ESRI lately. New Arc terms means new product offering from ESRI. I spent some time investigating some of these new products from ESRI and put together the following for others who might also be interested in these new ESRI technologies.

ArcGIS Explorer – This one everyone knows about. This is Google Earth like GIS viewer application from ESRI with 2D and 3D capabilities. It can use data from ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, ArcWeb services, WMS along with local data and imagery. More customizable than Google Earth and integrates well with ESRI products. Can access geoprocessing and analytical services provided by ESRI and also allows for creating custom tasks with the freely available SDK.

ArcWeb Services – This is a set of ESRI hosted data and GIS services. This set of services is mainly focused towards developers. Provides access to a variety of 2D basemaps. Also provides access to basic and advanced GIS services. This set of services allows for developers to build their own custom spatial solutions using the GIS data and services provided by ESRI. This is a paid-for service and is not available freely even for developers. There is a public services feature that is available for non-commercial use with severely restricted features.

Developers can access ArcWeb services from a variety of APIs listed below

  • SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) – offers the most functionality and customization of the ArcWeb Services APIs
    • Easily communicate with ArcWeb in Java, .NET, ColdFusion, or any other programming language.
    • Perform advanced procedures such as creating thematic maps using ESRI or custom data, merging two map images, and generating reports.
    • Employ wireless location services and advanced geocoding functionality (batch, reverse, incomplete address, etc.).
  •  JavaScript
    • Quickly add maps to your application with minimal development effort.
    • Take advantage of extensive mapping and geocoding functionality available in ArcWeb Explorer
  • REST – offers developers a lightweight, intuitive environment
    • Customize map types and navigation.
    • Send map requests to ArcWeb via URL.
    • Take advantage of the automated data source option, wherein ArcWeb automatically selects the most appropriate data source for your requests.
  • Flex
    • Quickly add maps to your application with minimal development effort.
    • Take advantage of extensive mapping and geocoding functionality available in ArcWeb Explorers
  • Java MicroEdition (for embedded devices)
    • Deploy map requests to Java-enabled devices such as cell phones and PDAs.
    • Build mapping, routing, geocoding, and point-search applications.
  • OpenLS (OpenGIS Location Services) – provides an Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC)-compliant platform for wireless services
    • Support geocoding, mapping, locating wireless devices, routing, and finding points of interest.

ArcGIS Online – This is still in Beta and this is also where things start to get blurry. This a set of services that is a whole lot similar to ArcWeb Services but is geared more towards to ArcGIS users rather than developers unlike ArcWeb Services. ArcGIS Online provides free access to a set of 2D and 3D basemaps for use in ESRI clients. The data is available in the form of layer files and MXD files and is more familiar to ArcGIS users. These layers files and MXD available from ArcGIS Online can be consumed by ArcGIS clients like ArcGIS, ArcReader, ArcGIS Explorer. ArcGIS Explorer accesses its base data from ArcGIS Online. This also provides access to basic GIS services that can be easily consumed by GIS users.

ESRI understands that its customers are going to have a hard time getting their head wrapped around the difference between ArcWeb Services and ArcGIS Online. They have posted this movie which helps to get difference across to the customers.

ArcWeb Services

ArcGIS Online

For Web developers

For ArcGIS users

No software required (Browser access)

Requires an ArcGIS application

Includes 2D basemaps and basic and advanced GIS services (e.g., real-time traffic)

Includes 2D and 3D basemaps and basic GIS services (e.g., geocoding)

Build a complete spatial solution with ESRI data and services

Enhance your existing datasets with additional basemaps and tasks


ArcWeb Explorer 2.0 – This is still in Beta. This allows you to create web applications with browser based map rendering for improved speed and performance. In ArcGIS Server web applications, the maps are rendered on the ArcGIS Server unlike with ArcWeb Explorer where the map are rendered on the browser. This allows for greater control over map appearance and a desktop like functionality. It also exposes the ArcWeb Services through easy-to-use widgets. The ArcWeb Explorer 2.0 application can be customized and embedded using either the ArcWeb Explorer 2.0 JavaScript or ArcWeb Explorer 2.0 Flex API. Click here for ArcWeb Explorer demo.

ArcWeb Explorer 2.0 JavaScript API

  • Offers the use of a powerful subset of ArcWeb Services functionality
  • Enables easy integration of mapping functionality and content into HTML Web applications
  • Supports projected maps
  • Provides access to street, street tile, aerial imagery, hybrid (integrated street and aerial), shaded relief, and topographic maps
  • Provides access to Spatial Query point data sources


ArcWeb Explorer 2.0 Flex API

  • Provides access to ArcWeb Services
  • Enables developers to build and/or customize applications
  • Allows for easy and powerful ArcWeb integration inside Adobe Flex Builder
  • Permits JavaScript developers to access Flex functionality via the JavaScript to Flex Bridge
  • Provides access to ArcGIS, ArcIMS, and GeoRSS via API extensions as well as the ability to create your own API extension
  • Allows you to build your own widgets
  • Supports projected maps
  • Allows you to request a thematic map from a Map Image data source and get back a map as a URL
  • Provides access to street, street tile, aerial imagery, hybrid (integrated street and aerial), shaded relief, and topographic maps
  • Provides access to Spatial Query point, line, and polygon data sources

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