Is There a Future ArcGIS Explorer Desktop Application?

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02-18-2015 01:47 PM
JoeFlannery
Regular Contributor II

The last major, new build of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop (AGX) was February of 2013, two years ago.  AGX 2500/2505 has been limping along now for way too long and continue to fall farther and farther behind with each new release of ArcGIS for Desktop and updates of ArcGIS Online.  In its day, AGX was considered a wonderful desktop solution for end-users of GIS data and services.  Today, it barely functions.

At the 2014 Esri User Conference (seven months ago), a new product, Explorer for Windows Desktop or ArcGIS Viewer, whatever the name is today, was available for viewing (beta version) at an Esri Showcase island.  It looked very promising.

I think it is poor business for Esri to not be sharing with its multitude of users the plan for new AGX builds or a new AGX replacement application.  There are many loyal and ardent users of AGX who have been left hanging for well over a year for an updated AGX product. Frankly, I feel disrespected.

In the mean-time, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS for Desktop and Server, ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, iOS and Android Apps, Community Maps, Open Data, etc., continue to be updated and upgraded, regularly and frequently.

Esri – do you really have nothing to tell us about the next version of AGX?  Is there no beta program for the next version of AGX?  Are you even working on a new version of AGX?  Should your users be looking for a Windows desktop alternative to AGX (Google Earth Pro just went to Free)?

Your army of struggling AGX users have been patiently waiting for any hint of news regarding the future of AGX.  Please tell us what’s going on.

Viewer.JPG

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MarkBockenhauer
Esri Regular Contributor

Joe,

To start, I have some clarifications / hopefully satisfactory answers to your questions:

Question 1: What was that AGX-like Windows 7 desktop application (ArcGIS Viewer?) that I saw in “beta” at last year’s UC?

What you saw was a forward looking vision of "Explorer for ArcGIS" on the Windows 8.x/10 operating system. A desktop application that allows you to view and author ArcGIS online maps. It uses the same map that you would use with ArcGIS online to view and author maps in the web-browser.

Is that a modern AGX replacement that dovetails better with Windows 8/10, ArcGIS 10.3.x and ArcGIS Online?

I would not characterize it as a replacement for ArcGIS Explorer Desktop (AGX).  It is an alternative to ArcGIS Explorer desktop that may be a replacement for some users.  It is specifically designed with ArcGIS online in mind, so yes it will work great with the ArcGIS online system.  And yes, it is also designed with Windows 8/10 in mind.

Is it the new build of AGX that you speak of?

I spoke in terms of the next ArcGIS Explorer Desktop release, (March/April) which is a continuation of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop 2500/2505 software architecture / technology. It is not the Explorer for ArcGIS software that you saw running on Windows at the User Conference.

Is it real?

Explorer for ArcGIS is real. http://www.esri.com/software/explorer-for-arcgis

And the vision for the future is real… However the windows version of the software is not there yet.

Question 2: What do you mean when you say regarding the next build of AGX “…it will still lag behind ArcGIS online, particularly webmap support.”?

ArcGIS Explorer Desktop uses its own 'Map format' it is not the same as an ArcGIS online map (web-map). When a web-map is opened in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop it is converted to an Explorer Desktop map (NMF).  As you noted the online system is continually being updated, every few weeks in some cases.  ArcGIS Explorer Desktop is quickly out of date in regards to changes in the "online web map".   For example, ArcGIS online makes heavy use of Feature Services and they are often used in online maps.  As you are likely aware, Feature Services are not supported in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, hence feature service layers in a web-map do not display in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop.

Having poured my life into ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, since its inception, (and Esri software since my inception ) I appreciate what you are saying in regards to Explorer's usefulness.  It is gratifying to hear about its use and see it being used by your organization and many others.  ArcGIS Explorer Desktop will continue to be maintained to meet your current workflows (be install-able on Windows 10). However, as your workflows advance, as underlying technology advances, I must ask you to look at apps like Explorer for ArcGIS, Collector, Operations Dashboard, ArcGIS Pro etc…  to meet your needs…  and this does pain me, as it seems from what you are telling me, our latest efforts are not satisfying the desires of your organizations or your users. At Esri we take pride in listening to our users and Developing GIS technology that is truly driven by our users… it is in our DNA.  I will do my part to make sure that what you have written here is considered in our current and future work and the work of my colleagues.

Please do continue to ask for what you want, ask me, ask any Esri staffer, we thrive on meeting the needs and desires of our users.

Thank you,

Mark

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DanPatterson_Retired
MVP Esteemed Contributor

this is the only link to arcgis explorer desktop build 2500/2505 on this site

ArcGIS Explorer | GIS Viewer | Free GIS Software & Maps

ArcGIS Explorer | Download 

is that the version you are using?  and if it is, there is no reference anywhere to it being revised except to say that it now supports windows 8.1

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JoeFlannery
Regular Contributor II

Dan:

Correct.  Build 2505 was delivered as a Band-Aid to allow installation on Windows 8.x.  No new functionality or major bug fixes.

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MarkBockenhauer
Esri Regular Contributor

Joe,

We are working on the next version of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, same technology under-pinning as ArcGIS Explorer Desktop 2505.  It will be released in the ArcGIS Desktop 10.3.1 time frame. (March/April 2015)  It is a continuation of the ArcGIS Explorer Desktop that you know. To your correct observation about falling behind, the next release will catch up ArcGIS Desktop 10.3.1 data sources, it will still lag behind ArcGIS online, particularly webmap support.

Joe Flannery wrote:

"In the mean-time, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS for Desktop and Server, ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, iOS and Android Apps, Community Maps, Open Data, etc., continue to be updated and upgraded, regularly and frequently."

Could these applications be used to replace ArcGIS Explorer Desktop?  If not, why?

Thanks,

Mark

JoeFlannery
Regular Contributor II

Mark:

Thank you for the thorough response.  If I may speak for the AGX user community – We look forward to March/April and the release of a new build of AGX.

You mention that the March/April version of AGX “…is a continuation of the AGX that you know”.  Question 1: What was that AGX-like Windows 7 desktop application (ArcGIS Viewer?) that I saw in “beta” at last year’s UC?  Is that a modern AGX replacement that dovetails better with Windows 8/10, ArcGIS 10.3.x and ArcGIS Online?  Is it the new build of AGX that you speak of?  Is it real?  Question 2: What do you mean when you say regarding the next build of AGX “…it will still lag behind ArcGIS online, particularly webmap support.”?

Mark, the other applications that I mentioned above (ArcGIS Pro, Desktop, Server, Online, etc.), are being used by some staff when the need reaches that level.  We try to “Right-size” the tools that we deliver to staff to meet their needs.  We typically walk up the stack of AGX, AGOL and ArcView.

We have nearly 200 staff total, nine (9) of which are full-time GIS staff using ArcGIS Desktop Advanced.  We have invested in ArcGIS for Server Advanced and use it extensively.  We have purchased a Level 3 subscription to ArcGIS Online.  We have Explorer and Collector apps on iPads and smartphones.  We’re “All In” with Esri products and we love them and couldn’t do business without them.

AGX Desktop is a wonderful, easy to use, easy to deploy tool for users to consume, display and query map services and other geospatial data in order to get their jobs done.  When I walk around our office I see AGX open on many staff desktops.  All I’m asking for is that Esri please work on keeping AGX current with the rest of the ArcGIS technologies and make some major bug fixes more frequently.  I see where AGOL is going in the big scheme of things at Esri and I like it and I pay for it.  But, in a lot of cases, AGX is all many of my users need.  AGX has been left in the dust while other Esri technologies have cycled through multiple updates/upgrades.  Please don’t leave the AGX community so far behind the rest of the Esri technology world.  Some of us depend heavily on that tough, often overlooked software application.

Thank you for listening and responding.

MarkBockenhauer
Esri Regular Contributor

Joe,

To start, I have some clarifications / hopefully satisfactory answers to your questions:

Question 1: What was that AGX-like Windows 7 desktop application (ArcGIS Viewer?) that I saw in “beta” at last year’s UC?

What you saw was a forward looking vision of "Explorer for ArcGIS" on the Windows 8.x/10 operating system. A desktop application that allows you to view and author ArcGIS online maps. It uses the same map that you would use with ArcGIS online to view and author maps in the web-browser.

Is that a modern AGX replacement that dovetails better with Windows 8/10, ArcGIS 10.3.x and ArcGIS Online?

I would not characterize it as a replacement for ArcGIS Explorer Desktop (AGX).  It is an alternative to ArcGIS Explorer desktop that may be a replacement for some users.  It is specifically designed with ArcGIS online in mind, so yes it will work great with the ArcGIS online system.  And yes, it is also designed with Windows 8/10 in mind.

Is it the new build of AGX that you speak of?

I spoke in terms of the next ArcGIS Explorer Desktop release, (March/April) which is a continuation of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop 2500/2505 software architecture / technology. It is not the Explorer for ArcGIS software that you saw running on Windows at the User Conference.

Is it real?

Explorer for ArcGIS is real. http://www.esri.com/software/explorer-for-arcgis

And the vision for the future is real… However the windows version of the software is not there yet.

Question 2: What do you mean when you say regarding the next build of AGX “…it will still lag behind ArcGIS online, particularly webmap support.”?

ArcGIS Explorer Desktop uses its own 'Map format' it is not the same as an ArcGIS online map (web-map). When a web-map is opened in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop it is converted to an Explorer Desktop map (NMF).  As you noted the online system is continually being updated, every few weeks in some cases.  ArcGIS Explorer Desktop is quickly out of date in regards to changes in the "online web map".   For example, ArcGIS online makes heavy use of Feature Services and they are often used in online maps.  As you are likely aware, Feature Services are not supported in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, hence feature service layers in a web-map do not display in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop.

Having poured my life into ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, since its inception, (and Esri software since my inception ) I appreciate what you are saying in regards to Explorer's usefulness.  It is gratifying to hear about its use and see it being used by your organization and many others.  ArcGIS Explorer Desktop will continue to be maintained to meet your current workflows (be install-able on Windows 10). However, as your workflows advance, as underlying technology advances, I must ask you to look at apps like Explorer for ArcGIS, Collector, Operations Dashboard, ArcGIS Pro etc…  to meet your needs…  and this does pain me, as it seems from what you are telling me, our latest efforts are not satisfying the desires of your organizations or your users. At Esri we take pride in listening to our users and Developing GIS technology that is truly driven by our users… it is in our DNA.  I will do my part to make sure that what you have written here is considered in our current and future work and the work of my colleagues.

Please do continue to ask for what you want, ask me, ask any Esri staffer, we thrive on meeting the needs and desires of our users.

Thank you,

Mark

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JoeFlannery
Regular Contributor II

Mark:

This is a fantastic response to my questions and I thank you so much for sharing this information with me and the user community.  Communications such as this and your response above are what we look forward to as we plan for our own “road ahead” with new releases of the wonderful products that you and others work on to make our lives more productive and our jobs more exciting.  We have built quite an ecosystem around Esri products and ArcGIS Explorer for Desktop is an important part of its success.

I have enjoyed working with you and other engineers at Esri.  I always look forward to meeting you in person at the UC and talking shop. I understand your commitment and Esri’s commitment to users and their needs and that is what gives me reason to hold you and Esri in such high esteem.  I appreciate all the hard work that you do and cannot fathom all the technological hurdles you must climb to make the products work well with all the other moving parts coming from other corners of Esri and all of the platforms to consider.

Thank you for your time and information regarding the future of ArcGIS Explorer for Desktop.  See you at the UC.

Sincerely,

Joe

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by Anonymous User
Not applicable

Pretty late to this discussion but good to see an update is near. In response as to why ArcGIS Online, Pro, Collector, etc. can't be used to replace an aging ArcExplorer Desktop, I have two words: rural areas. Most everything ESRI-based these days is AGO focused: online, online, online. We get it, ESRI is pushing online. But in my rural area of Michigan, we lack reliable cell service and high-speed internet. We HEAVILY rely on traditional, offline applications for mapping.

making explorer desktop portable was HUGE for us to be able to distribute maps and data to people and local government without needing to push online applications. And unless ESRI plans to bring us more 4G cell service and more than 3mb DSL internet service, we will continue to rely on offline solutions. It has been more than frustrating seeing all this online push, and we tell our ESRI reps that we can't utilize all those tools. So, please don't stop developing Explorer Desktop. We'll continue to use it for years to come.

JohnNowlin
Occasional Contributor II

Mark,

It is 05/04/2015. Please update everyone on the progress & expected release of the next version of ArcGIS Explorer for Desktop.

Best Regards,

John Nowlin

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MarkBockenhauer
Esri Regular Contributor

John,

We are nearly complete with the next release.  We should have it available this month.

Mark