GeoExplorer is a map composition tool that comes bundled with the OpenGeo Suite. Most people know that you can use it as a layer browser for displaying content not only from your local GeoServer but from any compliant WMS, including MapServer and Esri ArcGIS Server. It even supports hosted services like Google Maps and MapBox.
But, if you think you know everything there is to know about GeoExplorer, think again. Here are five things you may not have known about GeoExplorer:
1. GeoExplorer has built-in tools for graphical styling and editing
Back in the halcyon days of 2011, we had three demonstration applications: GeoExplorer for map composition, Styler for graphical styling, and GeoEditor for graphical editing. Eventually, we realized our users preferred one tool that could accomplish all of these without having to switch back and forth. So, as we refined and rebuilt GeoExplorer, we added in those tools that allowed for styling and editing.
The styling tool has a rule editor, where one can set options such as color, opacity, and shape. You can also set conditions for display, such as scale rules. The results are saved directly back to GeoServer and are displayed in real time.
With the editing tools, one can edit both the attributes and geometries of a feature by clicking directly on the map. One can also create new features and delete features as well. The results are posted back to GeoServer through WFS-Transactions.
Styling and editing require that GeoExplorer be deployed in the same container as GeoServer and that GeoExplorer be authenticated to this GeoServer instance. After all, security is very important in web publishing—you don’t want to be able to allow read/write access to any application in the wild!
Note: Styler and GeoEditor are still available in the latest version of the OpenGeo Suite, however, development has been discontinued and they will be removed when the upcoming version is released in a few months. While not linked from the Dashboard anymore, they can still be found in the same place, by default
2. GeoExplorer allows uploading of Shapefiles and GeoTIFFs
While importing data to GeoServer has been possible for a while, you can actually upload Shapefiles and GeoTIFFs directly into GeoServer through the GeoExplorer interface. Just click on the Upload Layers button and select your files. Shapefiles need to be zipped but GeoTIFFs don’t. (While you can technically zip up a whole directory of shapefiles and upload them in one go, we recommend using the GeoServer layer importer, available from the Dashboard or GeoServer sidebar, for that operation.)
3. GeoExplorer makes use of server caching
Wondering what makes GeoExplorer so speedy? That’s because it uses GeoWebCache, the built-in caching server in GeoServer, to cache tiles on the fly. To avoid stale tiles, when a change happens to a layer in GeoExplorer (via styling or editing), a request is sent back to GeoWebCache to truncate the cache.
Don’t want to use caching in your GeoExplorer display? No problem. Simply click on the Layer Properties for the specific layer, got to the Display tab, and uncheck the “Use cached tiles” option.
4. GeoExplorer can export maps to PDF
With GeoExplorer, you can compose a map and click the Print button to export the map view as a fully vectorized PDF. While the tool is still a bit rudimentary for professional map publishing standards, it is often sufficient for basic uses.
5. GeoExplorer is built with the OpenGeo Client SDK
At OpenGeo, we not only build our own tools, but we use them as well. GeoExplorer is built using the Client SDK, a toolset (built on GeoExt and OpenLayers) for building web mapping applications using simple JSON for configuration. GeoExplorer is just one example of what is possible with the Client SDK. If you’re just starting out, we have a tutorial on building an app with the SDK.
What about you?
What cool things have you done with GeoExplorer? Let us know in the comments below, or by sending us a message on Twitter. If you haven’t tried out GeoExplorer, you can get it as part of the OpenGeo Suite.