Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Paper maps are probably the most common form of GIS output. However digital products are obviously important too. Exporting maps from one's GIS as JPEGs is one easy way to provide users with digital copies - these can be posted to websites and/or emailed to your audience who can easily view them on their computers, insert them into reports, etc. . Here's an example set of free maps of Tobago.

GeoPDFs seem to provide a more sophisticated option for the GIS professional to consider. The GeoPDF format is proprietary and it needs a piece of software (Map2PDF from TerraGo Technologies) to produce. GeoPDFs are normal PDF documents, but with interactive maps - map layers can be switched on/off, users can zoom in/out, measure distances, view coordinates and attributes and change projections. They allow a fuller presentation of your GIS dataset to your audience. Acrobat Reader is needed to view the PDF, and in order to view the interactive elements in a GeoPDF, one must first install a free Acrobat Reader plugin (GeoPDF Toolbar). The plugin is 19MB. One needs to provide contact information to get it, which seems fair.

Jean-Nicolas Poussart of the CEP, who first mentioned this product to me, offers a user opinion of Map2PDF:
I tested the free trial to create GeoPDFs and it worked fine. I am not aware of a similar free product to make GeoPDFs, but it wouldn't surprise me if we would see this soon. As Acrobat is so popular, you can imagine how interesting it becomes to use this format (PDF) to distribute interactive maps.

Jean-Nicolas also points out that each GeoPDF is only one (interactive) map. I suppose to make a mapbook, or to include one's GeoPDF in a report that also includes text and pictures, one could collate the GeoPDF(s) with a PDF(s) of the text pages - with Acrobat.

Though it's free to try, Map2PDF has a cost - but neither the company's website nor its sales representative for the LAC region is immediately forthcoming about the amount. When a company doesn't state the cost of a predefined product, a person could feel like the customers are being kept at arms length, especially when the sales department doesn't reply to enquiries. (It's understandable if the cost of a service varies, as this may depend on what the individual customer wants and/or the circumstances). In addition, a GeoPDF on the manufacturer's website - their map of sales districts - seems to have an odd error. If you can download and examine it - with the abovementioned GeoPDF Toolbar installed - you'll notice that the Equator is apparently further south than it should be. It's a small scale map, but last we knew the Equator is just north of the mouth of the Amazon, and in this GeoPDF, when queried, the Equator seems nearer to the Tropic of Capricorn. See the screenshot at left. Again, the sales representative has not responded to a request for advice on this.

So, though I haven't tried it yet myself, and I very much like the concept of distributing GIS outputs as interactive PDF maps, I'm not overly impressed by the company's approach to the outside world. For now I might just stick to my trusty Export ... JPEG.


Anonymous said...

I just learned that for the CEP, MAP2PDF for ArcGIS would cost US$1864.20 inclusive of 20% maintenance fees for the first year. Regards, Jean-Nicolas

Vijay said...

The Terrago Technologies Sales Manager has just replied, apologising for the delay [appreciated] and providing the following cost: "The prices range from about $1,500US to $21,000US depending on the product(s)".

He also mentions that the PDF referred to in the blog post is not a GeoPDF, just a "territory map". I respectfully disagree. When I downloaded and opened the PDF, Acrobat recognised that it needed a plugin - the GeoPDF Toolbar - and the PDF has geo features. So it's a GeoPDF.

He provided an overview of Map2PDF, a list of features and a link to a sample GeoPDF with comments; excerpted below:

"Using Map2PDF software within a desktop or server environment, you can quickly and easily convert both vector and raster layers into GeoPDF files that can include advanced security options such as 128-bit and public-private key encryption, allowing file distribution via Internet download, email or CD.

Feature Overview:

* Turn layers on and off
* Query attribute data
* View multiple coordinate displays
* Measure distances, area, and bearings
* Export comments and markups as a shapefile or kml
* Connect to a GPS and track the current location
* Google Map a position from the GeoPDF file
* Import GPX, CSV, KML, KMZ, or Shapefiles

Link: Note that each individual parcel has embedded data which is searchable in Adobe and our GeoMark toolbar is active.

Anonymous said...

It very much is a GeoPDF, just not accurately GeoRegistered ;)

The GeoPDF is only as accurate as the original creator creates it...if that makes sense.

Vijay said...

Good point :-)

Vijay said...

ArcGIS (9.3) now produces geospatial PDFs (