Live from Esri DevSummit 2016

I’m back in Palm Springs for the 11th Esri Developer Summit! I believe this is my eighth time attending. As I have done for the past couple of years, I will update this post daily with the highlights of the day. But first, a little jealousy-inducing picture I took this morning while hiking the Skyline Trail (highly recommended). It’s quite a nice start to the day.

This is apparently the best attended DevSummit ever. A quarter of the attendees are first timers and about a fifth are from outside the United States.

This is usually the most important session as it really gives you a good overview of what’s to come. However, I thought this year was a little disappointing. There just didn’t seem to be any big “wow” moments. There wasn’t much talk about what’s coming after 10.4. But, there were some good things. Here’s what stood out to me:

  • ArcGIS Pro provides shared edge editing (it’s like ArcInfo Workstation!).
  • ArcGIS Pro will fully support KML in the future.
  • Vector tiles are finally here, both in Pro and ArcGIS Online.
  • Esri is working on improving default cartographic symbolizations, especially in ArcGIS Online.
  • Big data! Better analysis, performance improvements, using the cloud for clusters and faster processing, etc. Some cool demos on that front. See the ArcGIS Analytics video from the plenary, available from the DevSummit landing page (sorry – couldn’t figure out a direct link to the video).
  • Performance improvements for the GeoEvent Manager to handle big data.
  • New ArcGIS Platform Python API.
  • Reassurance that ArcObjects is here to stay, although they do encourage us to use Python when possible.
  • 3D is mostly here! The official release of the JSAPI 4.0 should be in the second quarter of this year before the User Conference. In the third and fourth quarters, they’ll add more renderers and layer types. Also worth noting (I mentioned some of this last year): significant language changes, built to be responsive, so it will work well, by default, cross-platform, better out-of-the-box widget restyling, build and optimization tools, source Sass files, etc.
  • JSAPI 3.x will be supported until 2018.
  • Latest Runtime release (named Quartz) supports 3D and online/offline capabilities. This is currently in beta. New beta will be released at the end of March with disconnected editing and vector tiles. Before the UC, they should release the iOS and Android versions then beta for .NET, Xamarin , Qt, and Java. All functionality for all platforms will be released in the third quarter.
  • Survey123, currently in beta, is a form-based, mobile collection application for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. Esri will be giving out the entire source code. This was built in AppStudio.

Douglas Crockford was the keynote speaker and, being a JavaScript geek, I was super excited. He did not disappoint! I hope Esri will make the keynote available as I’d love for all of our web developers to see it and look forward to discuss the content with them. I highly recommend reading his book JavaScript: The Good Parts and of course using some of the tools he’s developed, such as JSLint.

New Visualization Options
One of the new features at 10.4 is the ability to visualize large amounts of data in new ways, such as rectangular or hexagon bins. The hexagon option has become increasingly popular and is also available in ArcGIS Online. Do remember to create the tessellation at various scales (with smaller and smaller hexagons as your scale increases) so that the data remains informative as you zoom in and out.

Vector Tiles
They’re finally here! They’re an amazing option, but there are gotchas. The biggest two are that not all browsers support them (I’m looking at you, IE 10 and below) and many computers’ drivers may not be sufficiently up-to-date. As always, we’re waiting for browsers and general technology to catch up enough / be prevalent enough.
Now, about the good stuff:

  • You’ll need ArcGIS Pro 1.2 to generate vector tiles.
  • I was very impressed with the symbolization options in ArcGIS Pro. Much easier to set scale levels, no need to add the layer to your map multiple times to handle multiple scale levels, etc.
  • Esri’s vector tiles use the Mapbox vector tile specification, and use Google protocol buffers.
  • Esri vector tiles do use a more aggressive overzoom, building on the generalization work done in past ArcGIS releases. This means less files, less traffic, and smaller downloads.
  • Esri has put together a style file editor to play with styles and see the changes immediately.
  • Some statistics: Esri has created the Esri basemap for the entire world in 8 hours on a desktop computer with 16GB of RAM and SSD hard drive. The vector file size was about 13GB. That is tiny!!
  • Vector tiles are supported in the JSAPI 3.15 and above (including 4.0 of course), ArcGIS Runtime Quartz beta 2, and Pro 1.3 (Pro 1.2 can create them but not consume them). ArcMap will not support vector tiles.
  • Maps for vector tiles tip: do not create group layers for each scale. Instead, use scale dependencies for each layer. You can also adjust the symbology based on the scale.
  • In the JSAPI, use the VectorTileLayer class to load vector tiles. You can also pass in MapBox vector tiles.
  • Vector tiles currently only support the Web Mercator (Auxiliary Sphere) projection.
  • The print service does NOT support vector tiles at this time.
  • Finally, only ArcGIS Online and Server with Portal support vector tiles.

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