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Improving efficiency of a variety of tasks to manage a GIS "system"

- - - - - efficiency gis system updates

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I volunteer with a small, local non-profit, and manage one of their programs that brings maps and spatial analysis to residents and communities.  We create lots of maps for a variety of geographic areas and for a variety of themes using lots of feature classes.


Working in that environment it can be very difficult to do some pretty simple tasks.  For example, many of the maps have feature classes (e.g. roads, parcels) downloaded from the local county.  Assuming we have dozens of maps that use one or more of these classes, doing things like improving the symbology for a feature class or updating the maps with more current data and then propagating the changes into all the maps is very labor intensive if not impractical.


Another simple example is the exporting of the maps to jpeg and pdf versions for access by users.  Every map we build has 5 non-mxd versions: the jpegs (300dpi, 72dpi, 72dpi thumb) and the pdfs (300dpi and 700dpi).  To create them we do 3 exports (300dpi jpeg, and the 2 pdfs).  We create the 72dpi jpegs with an image processing tool (e.g. irfanview).


There are quite a few processes like these that make up the overall “system” we’ve designed.


Although there may be specific suggestions for particular tasks (e.g. use Model Builder), ideas about how to design the overall data architecture for the entire service might be highly relevant.


Any advice would be highly appreciated.  I’m even open to the suggestion that we describe the overall system to see if we’ve designed it well.



Hans van der Maarel

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How many of your maps are what you would call 'standard' maps (i.e. maps you make every time there's an update cycle) and how many are 'custom' ones (i.e. maps you produce because somebody specifically asks for it)?


I'm assuming a lot of your maps are essentially a base map with a theme added to it. You can make a template for that base map. I don't know if ArcGIS offers this option, but what I often do in Illustrator/MAPublisher is save the base map as a PDF or TIFF and place that as a link in the theme map. If the base map file is updated, Illustrator will recognize that and load the new version.

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For a project several years ago my team was tasked to produce dozens of maps depicting the composition of a form of local government (LG). The problem was that this composition changed periodically : the borders of the LGs changed. For each map we had to export several versions : PDF for print and optimized jpegs for web.


Instead of doing the maps one by one and redoing them at each variation, I constructed an automatic system to produce the (vectorial) base maps :


- geographic data on a database (Postgis, opensource)

- delimitation of the map, styles, labelling, layers ordering, PDF export : MapServer (opensource)

- automatisation of the process : PHP

- finishes, label placement improves, and JPEG exports : Illiustrator


In fact this system produces automatically the base maps which can be improved with a traditional cartographic / drawing setup. It's cheap but it requires knowledge of spatial databases, MapServer and a programmation language to link all the system. It's usefull when using the same base data to produce maps for different locations.

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