Summer 2014

How Quick It Is...

Developing web apps with ArcGIS

This article as a PDF.


Want to build a new app from scratch in less than three minutes?

At the Esri International Developer Summit in March 2014, Julie Powell did just that on stage during the plenary session. Powell illustrated how—with ArcGIS—a focused, intuitive, and beautiful HTML5/JavaScript-based web app can be put together without writing a single line of code.

"We know you need more than just a great API. You need to be immediately productive. You need tools to get started, so we are constantly working on ways to help your development," said Powell, product manager at Esri. Specifically, she demonstrated a new upcoming wizard in ArcGIS for configuring web applications called Web AppBuilder.

Web AppBuilder, a pure HTML5/JavaScript-based application, lets you create focused, intuitive, and beautiful WebApp s in 2D and 3D without writing a single line of code.

Web AppBuilder, a pure HTML5/JavaScript-based application, lets you create focused, intuitive, and beautiful WebApp s in 2D and 3D without writing a single line of code.

The goal for Web AppBuilder is to create a really simple-to-use experience for application configurers, not add another layer of framework to the development process. Every decision during development of Web AppBuilder was made with that goal in mind. Web AppBuilder lets you spend your time building apps that solve real problems.

But it is a developer tool too. Custom-ization is built into it. You can configure it using the user interface (UI) or dive into the JSON and edit it directly from Web AppBuilder. Because it is built on the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, all the widgets can be styled. There are lots of ways to personalize these widgets and take an app to the next level. A number of widgets are already available. Esri teams will be adding widgets and Esri hopes developers will also share widgets they create.

In addition to widgets, Web AppBuilder lets you customize the overall look of apps through themes. Existing themes can be applied or new ones created. While you are using Web AppBuilder, you are working on a live app, and you can interact with widgets and themes from within Web AppBuilder.

Web AppBuilder is not an isolated program—it is fully integrated with the ArcGIS platform and can be used with either an ArcGIS Online account or Portal for ArcGIS. The workflow-driven, ready-to-use apps it produces run seamlessly across all devices or can be used to create Web AppBuilder templates you can share with others using ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS, who can take your app, tweak it slightly, and immediately put it to work.

The product was developed in responseto customer requests. Browser technology is constantly changing, and support for Flex and Silverlight has become limited.

Therefore, Esri encourages migration from Flex and Silverlight to JavaScript/HTML5 for web GIS. At 4.x, ArcGIS API for JavaScript will integrate additional ArcGIS platform capabilities such as 3D visualization, enhanced vector rendering, and stream layers. These capabilities are not planned for the Flex and Silverlight APIs, which will remain at version 3.x. Because the object model for the Flex Viewer is very similar to Web AppBuilder, the architecture will be familiar to experienced Flex Viewer developers.

Web AppBuilder will be released with ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS. Because it is built on the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, it can also use 10.1 and 10.2 services. Web AppBuilder is another developer offering from Esri that helps you save time by configuring, not coding. It lets you take advantage of what you already know and reuse your code, whether you are building apps for your organization or the ArcGIS Marketplace.

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