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MAPublisher Web Author - Flash capabilities

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#1
ELeFevre

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Keep in mind that the Mapublisher Web Author tool creates an.swf file that can't be edited or developed in Flash, because the source-code is proprietary. This means you're limited to the functionality of the Mapublisher Author tool. I highly recommend developing your maps directly in Flash.



#2
Casey Greene

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Keep in mind that the Mapublisher Web Author tool creates an.swf file that can't be edited or developed in Flash, because the source-code is proprietary. This means you're limited to the functionality of the Mapublisher Author tool. I highly recommend developing your maps directly in Flash.


Why would Avenza do that?

Weird.
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#3
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MapPublisher's web author tool produces two .swf files one containing the map (map.swf) and one called MAPublisherSWF.swf (plus a bunch of .js, .xml, html files). From looking at the structure and content of the files, I deducted that the MAPublisherSWF.swf file contains the 'code' developed in Flash then 'compiled' to a .swf to protect the action script code ect... . MAPublisherSWF.swf is probably the 'holder' for the map.swf file. Making the MAPublisherSWF.swf file available in a .fla (flash) format would mean making most of their development efforts somewhat 'opensource'.

For some providing the source code of their application depends on the companies policies, return on investment, beliefs in opensource etc...
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#4
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I would go Erin's way. Not to knock MapPublisher's flash tool. It is somewhat 'closed'. It is Great for a quick project output if you understand the limitations.
For one it uses some javascript. From my experience too much javascript egals cross browser problems.

I wonder why they need to use javascript when they could probably get everything to work from with a .swf file?
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#5
Garvan

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Hi,
lots of good questions here, I'll try to address them.

The Flash export is built in Actionscript 3 / Flex. This environment compiles to a swf, this is the main swf that loads the map and metadata. Any of the javascript components you see are the standard javascript bits that the Flex environment outputs (with the exception of the layer control javascript which the user might edit). (Also of note, we are replacing these Adobe javascript files with the popular SWFObject lib.)

Writing to the .fla format would be great, as it would provide easy edibility in Flash. This is a closed format, and Adobe has no solutions for third parties to write to this.

In the first version of the MAPublisher Web Author we focused primarily on ease of use for people who know basic html, but do not know a great deal of Flash, Actionscript, or javascript. We put a few things in for the more advanced users, such as the ability to trigger external urls when clicking on map features.

The upcoming version of the Web Author has improvements in every area, better rendering, animated pan and zoom, progressive exposure when zooming. Most importantly, for the advanced user, we have a javascript API that passes feature attributes (which can be positional information) to the host. For example, on click or mouseover, you can call to a web service and layer a box to display result over the click; or, you could layer another swf on the clicked position that displays the feature attributes in some groovy way.

Overall, the goals for the Web Author:
- the map is designed in MAPublisher
- the type of metadata the map will require is prepared using MAPublisher
- MAPublisher will output a useful web map for users who don't want to write javascript
- for the advanced user, we will hook into external javascript at runtime, for layering new objects, changing items on the host page, navigating to new pages, etc. We are only really tackling this in the upcoming release.

Some key future goals
- handle larger maps
- easier dynamic updating of data
- dynamic styling of the features based on the above

Currently, dynamic updating requires the user to write a server-side script that periodically updates values in the Web Author xml file. The upcoming version provides an additional method by pulling from web services. More methods are in the works.

Where does Flash fit in? You can modify the appearance of a swf in Flash (although you would probably just do this in AI and export to swf), you could design swfs that get layered over the map, you could have swfs that load in the existing callout bubbles. However, you can't create new forms of interactivity other than what we provide. We are looking at solutions for the future for Flash integration. We recognize that there are certain users who need complete control over the appearance and interactivity of their web maps, and we will likely have too hook into Flash in some way for this.

We are close to a beta of this next release, so if you are interested in a beta, contact Avenza support and let them know. Please let us know what it is you are trying to accomplish in Flash that you can't do with the current tool. Um, wait, actually, do that after you have seen the next release. Is it a design issue -perhaps you can do it in Illustrator? Is it an interactivity issue -perhaps we are missing an event in our API? If you feel some area of our solution is too closed, let us know that too.
It may be possible to license the source to our Flex component, but in most cases it is easier to contact support and see if we can add the feature you are missing. Quite likely, many other users would benefit.
Garvan Keeley
Software Development Manager
Avenza Systems Inc.

#6
Hans van der Maarel

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I've split this off from Nat's original topic.
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#7
Ted Florence

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Further to what Garvan said, I would like to reiterate that the MAP Web Author tool was developed to be a quick and easy solution for making interactive Flash maps from Adobe Illustrator wherein the author need not have any Flash or special coding knowledge in order to match attributes with art objects, create pan, zoom and layer controls, searching and generally create the interactive elements of the map. So if you have a nice map that you made in Illustrator/MAPublisher, I cannot imagine any easier and more efficient way to get to the finished Flash map stage.

Hardcore custom Flash map development in Flash can be a very time-consuming and expensive exercise so the MAP Web Author tool is a very viable alternative.

As to why we write to swf instead of fla, again, there does not seem to be any mechanism for third parties to write fla files and indeed even Illustrator itself does not export an fla so we write to swf. Writing to the .fla format would be great and is something we are shooting for down the road.

And have a look at this map which was made with the MAPublisher MAP Web Author tool:
http://www.avenza.co...s/usachoropleth

Is this honestly not something anyone would proudly show on their website? Although developing it in Flash vs Illustrator might be preferred by some does this map not demonstrate well the look, feel and functionality that most authors would like to portray?

We welcome all comments and suggestions so please keep 'em coming.

Ted

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#8
ELeFevre

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It is Great for a quick project output if you understand the limitations.
For one it uses some javascript. From my experience too much javascript egals cross browser problems.

I wonder why they need to use javascript when they could probably get everything to work from with a .swf file?


100% agree. It's a great tool for creating fast web maps and definitely has it uses. I would just be hesitant to use the output commercially without access to the nuts and bolts of the file.



#9
Kimi

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Hello, everyone. If you have any question, feature request, and suggestion on MAP Web Author tool (and any other MAPublisher features), please feel free to drop us a line at support@avenza.com. We will be happy to hear from you!!

Best regards,
Kimi

Avenza Systems Inc.
124 Merton Street, Suite 400,
Toronto, Ontario, M4S 2Z2, Canada
Webpage: http://www.avenza.com




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