Monday, June 6, 2016

Data viewing in MapDeck

There are two ways to view data on MapDeck: either in a preview mode, using Data Viewer app, or via one of the purpose-built applications, such as Thematic Mapper or Sales Area Management Tool.

MapDeck’s functionality is broader than that of a traditional web-mapping application. That is, MapDeck is a consolidated publishing, cataloguing and information visualisation platform all in one. It enables specialised apps and associated data to be put to immediate use, the user requiring nothing more than just a web browser. 

Spatial data (vector geometry and image layers), tabular data (attributes), graphic and other files, as well as apps, are all listed in the MapDeck catalogue independently of each other. It is up to the individual user to find and select the right content that is suited for a particular purpose.

So, for example, if the primary interest of the user is in graphic/pdf maps or spatial data in the original GIS format, these files can be downloaded to a user computer and then opened with the user's favourite desktop software.

Any other table, map layer or vector data published on MapDeck can be previewed on its own in a generic Data Viewer app (provided you have access to that data set - that is, you are the owner or it is either a public dataset or you have subscribed to it). In other words, Data Viewer is a default app which displays content of a table, map layer or vector data set when a user clicks on a particular product.

Functionality of Data Viewer is very basic. In particular, vector geometry will be rendered in a preview window with a default style only and it will be presented on its own, with no option to display other contextual information. However, the data can be interacted with. That is, users are able to zoom in and out, pan the map and click on individual features to view attribute information, and vector features will respond to mouse-over events. Switching from “Map View” to “Table View” allows previewing attribute information for a given vector geometry and downloading it as a .csv file.

Image map layers are displayed in Data Viewer as an interactive map with pan and zoom functions enabled. Complex map layers, that is those comprising two or more sub-layers, will display just the top-most layer in Data Viewer and there is no option to switch between the sub-layers in a preview mode.

Attribute data tables can be previewed in Data Viewer’s Table View window.

Another option to view private and public tables, map layers, vector geometry, as well as compiled information directly in a browser, is to load them into a relevant MapDeck app.

MapDeck apps are purpose built tools that enable performing one or more (but very specific) tasks, like creating an interactive map (Thematic Mapper), defining and managing franchise or sales territories (Sales Area Management Tool), generating map images for printing in large format (Map Image Capture Tools) or configuring external web map services as MapDeck image map layers (Map Layers Management Tool). More options are coming.  

Once the user selects and starts a particular app, relevant data can be added and visualised using a common process which comprises of two steps: searching for content via the in-bulit Finder function and then selecting the item to add to the app.

Thereafter, each app deals with imported data in a unique way. For example, Thematic Mapper allows adding multiple image map layers as well as vector geometry layers, which then can be styled according to user preferences. Sales Area Management Tool only allows swapping one-base image map layer with another but it allows applying unlimited number of styles to imported vector polygon geometry to highlight different sales or franchise territories. And Map Image Capture Tool displays only information preconfigured and saved as Thematic Mapper or Sales Area Management Tool infosets.

At first, viewing data and information on MapDeck may appear as complex and ambiguous process – after all, you have to find what you are looking for in a large catalogue and then you have to create your own compilation of information rather than being given “a ready-made map”.  However, once you are familiar with the process, it is a very simple and straightforward task.

Just remember, to preview the data – all you need to do is click on a start icon to launch it in Data Viewer. For everything else is a Mapdeck app - launch it first, then add the data you are interested in. As simple as that!

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