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    GIS Kit and Pro are all about data--all the screens, buttons, and files are just tools to access, create, and manipulate various forms of data. We have streamlined them to be as simple, intuitive, flexible and fast as possible so you can focus on the task at hand.

    To begin, it is important to understand the different types of data the app works with. Of course, we start with the typical vector primitives: points, lines, and polygons. When created, they become part of a feature to which style and attributes can be applied. Features can be placed in layers, which may belong to other layers or be the top layer of a project. Feature classes are a way of managing groups of features that have the same (or at least similar) attributes and style. Features classes may belong to feature class datasets, which are simply groupings of feature classes.

    The Pro version also is capable of working with raster data. At the current time this includes the most common image formats (e.g. TIFF, JPEG, PNG, BMP). When an image is imported the app attempts to find georeferencing information in the metadata or properly named companion files. If it is not found the user can place the image manually using a three-corresponding-points technique.


    A Note About Formats: Shapefile vs. KML approach

    There are two primary methods to approach organizing vector data in GIS. The more traditional approach uses Esri Shapefiles which are rigid in their data format and provide a solid standardization strategy. A newer, more flexible approach is hierarchical data such as GML or KML. These newer formats allow much better styling and customization (usually) at the expense of standardization.

    At Garafa we saw advantages to both approaches and made a tool that embraced both ideologies. It was perhaps the most challenging part of developing GIS Kit and GIS Pro, however also the most rewarding. We feel the solution is elegant and allows users to comfortably work with either--or both approaches. It is important to understand this to have the fullest experience possible with the product.


    Features

    A feature is the combination of a geospatial object (point, line, polygon, or PLP), a style, and a set of attributes. Any PLP you see on a map or in the menu is a feature and can have both its own style and its own attributes. New features can be created using the plus button in the top left of the map toolbar.

    Before a feature can be created, however, a feature class must be chosen first. This defines the default style and attributes to be applied to the object upon creation. It also controls where in the layer hierarchy the feature will be placed. Newly created features are always grouped together by feature class name in a layer at the top of the layer hierarchy. After creation you have the flexibility of moving them--or even moving their entire layer.

    Attributes

    Once a feature is created, a user can add or edit its attributes using the menu. By default, it will always have the attributes that are specified by its feature class. However, you can add arbitrary attributes to any feature using the plus button at the bottom of the attributes list. This is a powerful feature that affords great flexibility to your data collection, for example when adding photos relating to a feature. However, be advised that attributes that are created arbitrarily (rather than in the definition of a feature class) will not be included in any Shapefiles. In cases where you need to export arbitrary attributes KML is recommended.
    Feature with Arbitrary Attributes
    Video Walkthrough


    Feature Classes

    Feature classes are a way of managing groups of features that have the same (or at least similar) attributes and style. They are especially useful for standardizing data for use in a collaborative environment. They are often referred to as "forms" and they also form the basis for Shapefiles.

    GIS Kit and GIS Pro are somewhat unique in their ability to create and manage feature classes directly on a mobile platform. Many mobile solutions simply consume this type of information but require them to be set up by desktop software or even on a server. While there are advantages to restricting mobile users to using what has been set up in the office, it often backfires when workers are in the field, money is on the line, and they do not have the setup they need to get the job done.

    Customizing feature classes is fairly straightforward. The following figure shows the steps to edit a specific feature class.

    Edit Feature Class

    Attribute Types

    At the bottom of the menu for the specific feature class there is an add button. This adds a new attribute of the type you select. All attributes have a name, and the default will be the name of the type you choose. For example, if you choose the Description type, the title will be "Description". You are free to change this name to whatever you like. Keep in mind that Shapefiles only support ten characters in field names, so when you see an attribute named "Descriptio" it probably came from a Shapefile. (Description is the only standard attribute in KML, so when exporting to KML all other fields will be formatted as an HTML table and inserted into the Description attribute).

    The available attribute types include:
    • Description - standard text or HTML
    • Photos - images (can be taken with camera or chosen from library)
    • Number - decimal or floating point number (tip: it is helpful to put the units in the name)
    • List of Values - selection of values, for example {True,False} or {Sand,Gravel,Dirt}
    • Address - street address, currently only serves as more standardized and easy text entry
    • Website - when a URL is present the user has the option to visit the address with one tap (see figure)
    • Date & Time - presents a simple interface for entering and editing the date and time
    • Telephone - call with one tape when a telephone number is present and device supports it (see figure)
    • Checkbox - simple toggle (see figure)
    • Auto-Incrementing ID - Automatically assigns an id to a feature. The Prefix to the id, number of digits, and the starting id can be specified in the settings portion of the app.
    • Elevation - looks up elevation from the Open MapQuest elevation service (point only)
    To change the style of a feature class, simply select the style representation in the upper left area of the menu, as shown in the following figure.

    Edit Style Button


    Feature Class Datasets

    Feature class datasets are groupings of feature classes that are customized for a particular company, industry, or project. They help you keep your feature classes organized. It also helps speed up the selection of a feature class. Dialogs such as the "Add Feature" menu attempt to speed the process up by preselecting the last feature class dataset used.

    Feature class datasets can be disabled on a project basis. When disabled it will not show up in the "Add Feature" dialog. The folder switch next to the name of the FC dataset shows its status and toggles when tapped.

    If there is a lock icon next to the feature class name that means that the feature class can't be changed. You can still add individual attributes to or change the feature class of an object that is part of a locked feature class.


    Feature Class Sharing

    In the Pro version, feature classes and entire feature class datasets are capable of being shared through "feature class" files (*.fcl). This is a proprietary file format that allows you to share feature classes to other devices within your organization or on your project to maintain standards, consistency, and completeness in data collection. It can also save a lot of time by allowing the work of setting up feature classes to be shared. To export a feature class dataset, simply tap the export button at the bottom of the menu while viewing the specific feature class dataset you wish to export. You can also export an individual by doing the same thing from within the desired feature class menu.

    FCL files can be imported via email or through iTunes file sharing. When you import them from an email attachment you will be prompted for the location, otherwise the destination dataset depends on which menu you import them from. The following diagram shows how this is determined.

    When exporting feature classes you will be given the option to lock the feature class. If you choose to send a locked copy the recipient will not be able to edit the contents of the feature class. You still will be able to edit the feature class on your device.


    FCL Import Buttons

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