Fresh capabilities for smarter web maps

A new version of Map Viewer has launched to the world… and while the old ‘classic’ is still available, the new kid on the block is loaded with clever capabilities that will take your web maps to the next level. Wayne, Ta and Josh take you on a tour of their favourite features including flexibility in formatting, clearer clustering, accessibility for all audiences, adaptable styles to match your mood and customisable labels that integrate seamlessly into your maps.


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    Map Viewer Reimagined

    Wayne: The new Map Viewer. Hopefully the death to measles maps and rainbow colour ramped heat maps, which people tend to resort to when they've got too many dots on the map.

    Disclaimer: This podcast is brought to you by the team at Esri Australia. To get your hands on more short, sharp and immediately usable resources, head to the Esri Australia website, and search for ‘Goldmine’.

    Wayne: Welcome to GIS Directions. I'm Wayne Lee-Archer.

    Josh: I'm Josh Venman.

    Ta: And I'm Ta Taneka.

    Wayne: And today we're going to be talking about something that is the pillar of Web GIS, the Map Viewer, and how its evolution opens up a whole swag of new possibilities to map smarter.

    Ta: Okay, I am super, super excited about this. Now while I am hashtag: ready, steady Pro, this puts powerful mapping capabilities in the hands of anyone and just with a web browser.

    Josh: Yeah, I agree. And as Wayne said it's web maps of old, but it’s kind of web maps 2.0 if you want. But before we get into capability and why it might be useful to you, let’s start from the basics. Ta, do you want to just recap what the Map Viewer is and what it does?

    Ta: So web maps are at the heart of web GIS. You know, whether it's ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise and Map Viewer is the app that creates web maps.

    So, you know, it's always been there, but now it's evolved. You know, it's the new kid on the block. And it's become a bit of an Esri thing when a new version of an app arrives, the old gets renamed classic, so the old one is now Map Viewer Classic, and the new one carries the vanilla name forward.

    So we have Map Viewer Classic, which is the older one and Map Viewer, which is the new one. So both of these co-exist for the time being, but we'll get into a little bit about that later on.

    Wayne: So this is what's behind the big button that says "map" on ArcGIS Online. This is what we're talking about today?

    Josh: That’s the one!

    Yep. Awesome. Well, nerd alert! I'm going to come in first with a big reason that you should be adopting this new piece of tech, and funnily enough it's the JavaScript API. The Map Viewer Classic is based upon the JavaScript 3.x API, and the new one is based upon the 4.x API.

    Now probably not important to the pedestrian user because most of the advantages of JavaScript API 4 are geared towards developers, but there are a whole heap of new features available in JavaScript API 4, that are obviously inherited by the new Map Viewer that you couldn't have before.

    And these are to do with some of the visualisation methods, in particular clustering and point density or dot density layers. We've got a whole heap of things about pop-ups I don't want to go too far into those now.

    Behind all of this is also, the new expression language Arcade. And so that's all brought in with the JavaScript API 4 into the new Map Viewer. Super exciting stuff if you're a developer.

    Ta: Very, very exciting.

    Wayne: And these outputs can then be hacked away at, obviously you can take them out of, of ArcGIS Online. And since they're based on the JavaScript API 4, you can actually take advantage of all of those development goodies under the hood straight out of the box.

    Josh: Yeah, and a nerd alert warranted, but I think it really is important. You don't have to be a developer to reap the benefits of what that API can do. But look, at the other end of town, not to do with development, the user experience is a big change, it just plain looks a lot different between Map Viewer Classic and Map Viewer new.

    Wayne: It looks modern. It's got that sort of material feel about it that everyone's familiar with.

    Josh: One of the things that really struck me when I looked at it and thought, oh, okay, so how do I do things now? Because I don't know about you, but I was kind of used to, anytime you want to do something like create a label or style a layer, you had to do some funky right clicking or clicking on the layer in the table of contents and go down a list of things to do, and then open up a dialogue, make some changes, wind yourself back and then see what happened.

    Wayne: Did you get caught in 'where's my menu' mode? We all know where's my menu mode. It’s all buttons now, I want my menu back!

    Josh: Yeah. And that like, you've got productive in that environment. But, in the new style, like they very definitely separated content from style and settings.

    And once you get into that mode, it actually makes a lot of sense. You know, you actually deal with what's in your map on the left and you deal with what your map looks like on the right. And I think that's, that's a really positive change.

    Ta: Absolutely. Now the good old right-click is what we're accustomed to and it's all we knew, but let's get into some of the new stuff and how you can use it to elevate your web mapping to the next level.

    So Wayne, I might kick off with you, what's one change that you really like in the new Map Viewer?

    Wayne: One of my favorite things, and I've recently experienced this firsthand, are pop-ups. In the new viewer we have pop-ups on steroids.

    So rather than just having a very ordinary table of information in your pop-ups, and rather than just being able to tell when they're switched on or tell them when to be switched off, we've got a whole heap of new features in our pop-ups that we can take advantage of, and one of the things is including images.

    So we can include images and attribute data, put custom text and charts in there. That's super cool to be able to have a chart right there in your pop-up rather than boring old text and maybe a picture. And all of this is powered by the Arcade expression language. So this is available to you in your pop-ups, and this is super powerful.

    And an example of how this can be powerful is dates and date formats. So, baked into the JavaScript Viewer and the JavaScript API, are the ability to display date fields in there, but they get displayed in American date format and you know how much it grinds our gears here in Australia to have the date the wrong way round. well one of the things that you can do is you can use Arcade to re-display those dates in the proper format, the correct format, rather than the way they are by default.

    Josh: No, that's a really good one. I think that flexibility in formatting is going to be really popular. Make it look exactly the way you want it. So, I'm going to pick one which is all about the problem of too many points.

    Wayne: Oh, love this.

    Josh: It's a bit of a classic.

    You've got bazillion points and you want to display them at all scales, but you certainly don't want to see just a mud of points. So, you want to cluster them, you don't want a heat map, that's not what you're after, you want to see how many points there are in a particular area.

    And there's kind of been some clustering in the previous Map Viewer, but I'll be honest a lot of people saw this problem and ended up reaching for something like Leaflet, which did clustering with numbers in circles, just the way people want it.

    But good news, the new Map Viewer does that really well. And it's in that new style panel on the right-hand side, you can just turn it on, tell it how you want it to behave, it just works. It's really good.

    Wayne: Hopefully the death to measles maps and a rainbow colour ramp heat maps, which people tend to resort to when they've got too many dots on the map.

    Josh: Absolutely.

    Ta: So we've talked pop-ups, we've talked clustering, and I want to add to that when we talk about visualising our data and talk about labels in Map Viewer, now we have multiple label classes, scale dependency, new fonts that make your map stand out.

    We also have different styles that match the mood or tone of your data and just more options to create labels that integrate seamlessly with your map. Now with Classic, what we did have was just labels turned on and off, and that didn't really guide our viewers to points of interest, but now we have so many additional options.

    Now, one thing Wayne mentioned before, Arcade, now we all know that labels are data-driven based on fields or custom attribute expressions, and new in Map Viewer is using Arcade expressions to label. So I think we're definitely moving on up in the world.

    Wayne: Oh, the death old boring labels as well, I'm getting excited now!

    Josh: You kind of see a trend here, that more and more of what you could do in a fat ArcGIS Pro like client is winding up in the web in just a browser, which is awesome. A lot more people can do a lot more.

    I've got another points one, bear with me. This one's about points that are tiny when I'm zoomed out to Australia, and appropriately so, but then when I zoom in to my neighbourhood, those tiny points start to look a bit foolish. You know, when I'm looking for the local fire station, and it's this kind of six-point dot that was needed at a small scale but looks ridiculous.

    Wayne: Well you can barely see them half the time.

    Ta:  That's true.

    Josh: Yeah. Or you, or you kind of zoomed in and said, well, where did it go? And it's kind of lost. So, with the new Map Viewer you can auto size your points with scale, so you can make them bigger as you zoom in and make them smaller as you zoom out. So that should add real clarity to some maps that are out there at the moment.

    Ta: Yeah, that's all really exciting. That’s awesome.

    Wayne: Look, on something that's a little less viewable or less visible. I'm going to go a bit off script here and pull out one of my passions. And this is about accessibility. This is the ability to access content that you make for people who have got disabilities, who may be vision impaired.

    And so, this is about a set of standards, which here in Australia we call the WCAG standards Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. And there are actually laws for government agencies in particular that mean that the content that they produce which is available to the public, needs to meet these Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

    And this is a great thing, it takes our content to a much, much bigger audience. And the good news is that unlike the old Map Viewer and unlike the old Web App Builder, Experience Builder and the new Map Viewer, produce content that make these WCAG guidelines out of the box. So that's a big one for me.

    Josh: I'm feeling quite giddy just thinking about all of this, but I'm going to reign it in for a moment and show some love to the ArcGIS Enterprise user cause we've been talking about ArcGIS Online pretty much. Um, and yes, the new Map Viewer is now out of beta in ArcGIS Online, but what if you are using ArcGIS Enterprise, how do you get it? Or can you even get it? 

    Wayne: What if Josh, tell us!

    Ta: What if indeed!

    Josh: Well, glad you asked! You can get it. If you're using ArcGIS Enterprise 10.8.1 or 10.9, then you can download an installer for the new Map Viewer and actually install it on the machine where you run portal and then it's there.

    So it'll be an app. And as an administrator, you've got control over whether people can use it and how they use it. So don't feel like you're missing out if you're using ArcGIS Enterprise, go get the download, install it and take advantage of some of the things we've been talking about.

    Ta: Oh, very cool.

    Wayne: I actually didn't know that one, Josh, so you you've taught me something there today. On a similar vein though let's go back to the, the evolution thread about where we've come from and where we are. And so right now, Map Viewer classic in ArcGIS Online is the default, it's the old one there by default. Now why is that?

    Well, the answer is to give people a chance to transition across. We all know that people such as Josh get lost in, in the love of their menus and the depth of the right-click menu.

    Josh: Very true.

    Wayne: And, and it can be a bit jarring to have a new, beautiful, shiny interface where everything is at your fingertips and it kind of preempts what you're trying to do.

    So they've made the default, the classic, but give you the option to actually change over to using the new Map Viewer as your default as well. And the administrator of your ArcGIS Online tenant can decide whether they want to expose that new version to their users or whether they don't want to. Control of that is up to you.

    Josh: Yeah. And same deal if you went down that path I described with ArcGIS Enterprise, same control.

    Wayne: Great. Great news.

    Ta: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much you guys I've learnt so much, not just the visualisation perspective, but also accessibility and, uh, you know, what's great with Map Viewer so I'm definitely gonna download that for my Enterprise. something I didn't know. And I've learnt a lot more about JavaScript. I'm feeling like a developer every single day.

    Wayne: You’re a coding pro now!

    I am, but still, ready, steady Pro you said it yourself. Now as always, we have some great resources, that we want to share and to help you get started with these tips, we've added all of this, to the website. So that's And as always, we'd love to hear any tips from you guys. So jump onto the website and send them through or connect with us through Twitter or LinkedIn.

    Wayne: Well, thanks for joining us and stay spatial.

    Josh: Until next time.

    Ta: Happy mapping.

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Esri Australia.

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