Ozri 2015 GIS Generations

Web AppBuilder: A new way of sharing data, maps and GIS processes

It’s always great to hear about new products emerging that allow users to be more productive and get results much faster than doing things in a traditional way.

Although Web AppBuilder has been around for a while now, it’s getting more and more integrated with the ArcGIS platform which makes it almost a new product on every release. I’m not talking about new basic GIS functionality like creating bookmarks, a ‘new zoom slider’ or a new set of icons – which is also really good to have, don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about the possibility of bringing to the web advanced GIS functionality in just a couple of clicks.

It is not long ago when I was working on a project in Seville, Spain, where my team had to spend long hours of development creating new features to adapt a web GIS application to the requirements of the project. Nowadays, I look back and match my old client’s requirements with the ArcGIS platform as it is today and realise the time and headaches I could have saved. Almost all the requirements of that project could have been satisfied today using Web AppBuilder and the local government solution for ArcGIS, off the shelf, without touching a line of code.

Let me mention some examples:

  • Bring real-time data to the web in just a couple of clicks
  • Streamline the process of field data capture, integrating the data collected in the field with a corporate geodatabase
  • Offline field data editing
  • Add attachments (pictures, videos, documents, etc.) and store them in the corporate geodatabase
  • Geoenrich a map with demographic data, weather, etc.
  • Integrate street view
  • Bring any complex GIS process to the web using geoprocessing services and the geoprocessing widget

Web AppBuilder provides a whole set of out-of-the-box features including themes, styles, layouts, and a constantly growing repository of widgets. For those who have very specific requirements, there is a developer version that allows you to extend the app to match virtually any web GIS requirement.

In addition, and in my opinion a very innovative feature – Web AppBuilder allows a completely new way of sharing data and processes. Besides using Web AppBuilder as the platform to create your corporate Web GIS, it allows the creation of ad-hoc/short lifespan web applications. A user can create web apps in minutes to share maps and GIS functionality, store them in his/her content directory and delete them when they’re no longer needed.

Web AppBuilder provides great business benefits to the organisation that are worth mentioning here:

  • Firstly, it reduces development and deployment costs. Web AppBuilder is built on top of the ArcGIS API for JavaScript and HTML5 which allows you to develop once, deploy everywhere.
  • Web AppBuilder will adapt seamlessly to all your users’ needs, regardless of the device they use. Your web application can be used on any device, at any time.
  • It reduces the cost of development and maintenance. There is a high probability that more than 70 per cent of your Web GIS needs are covered by one of the solutions for ArcGIS and Web AppBuilder, out-of-the-box. It can drastically reduce the development times and maintenance efforts.
  • Your web application will be completely and seamlessly integrated with the rest of the components of the ArcGIS platform. This means a workflow which involves storing data in the corporate database, editing the data in desktop, mobile and web applications, and finally publishing using a web application, can be undertaken without any interruption.

How can you start using Web AppBuilder? Choose between one of the three editions below:

  • Embedded in ArcGIS Online
  • Embedded in Portal for ArcGIS
  • Download the Developer Edition and deploy it on premises

All three editions of Web AppBuilder have the same functionality. However, because of the nature of the release cycles, sometimes the three editions may not be functionally equivalent.

Typically, new enhancements are first added to Web AppBuilder, embedded within ArcGIS Online next to Web AppBuilder Developer Edition and lastly, Web AppBuilder embedded in Portal for ArcGIS. Therefore, there may be certain periods of time where the three different editions of Web AppBuilder are not quite in sync in terms of capabilities.

Web AppBuilder Developer Edition also has some functionality designed to support users who want to extend Web AppBuilder with custom widgets and themes – specifically in the ‘builder’ user experience.

If you have ArcGIS for Desktop Basic, Standard or Advanced, or ArcGIS for Server Standard or Advanced, you already have Web AppBuilder.

If you need help to start using it or to get the most out of it, contact us – we will be very happy to give you a hand.

Walter Simonazzi is a senior consultant with the professional services team, based in Esri Australia’s Melbourne office.

2 thoughts on “Web AppBuilder: A new way of sharing data, maps and GIS processes

  1. Matt

    You mentioned integrating street view as something that could be done with out-of-the-box web app builder and local government solution for ArcGIS. Could you explain how this is done? I am trying to incorporate street view into a story map, and it seems that every method I find of doing this involves the developer edition. Thank you!


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