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5ive Reasons to Use the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex

Configurable viewer for ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online services

By Derek Law, Product Management

This article as a PDF.

the Flex Viewer application, see enlargement

The Flex Viewer application

With the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex, you can easily create fully functional GIS applications on the web. Your GIS maps and analytic tools can be accessed by users inside and outside your organization with a simple web browser.

This configurable application can be downloaded and set up in a matter of minutes and includes many core GIS mapping functionalities: data display, map navigation, query and search, simple markup, printing, and data editing. The viewer's look and feel, analytic capabilities, and data content can be customized to specific business needs without writing a single line of code. If you have ArcGIS Server and want to quickly and easily create powerful web mapping applications, this is the product for you.

ArcGIS Viewer for Flex is a configurable web client application built on the ArcGIS API for Flex that enables you to quickly and easily create powerful GIS mapping applications for the web. It is a browser-based viewer designed to work with ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online services. The viewer application is hosted on premises and includes many core GIS mapping functionalities. It supports the latest capabilities offered by ArcGIS Server and has minimal system requirements: a web browser with the Adobe Flash Player plug-in installed and web server software to make the viewer available as a web resource. It is built with the latest Adobe Flash Builder 4 technology and practices. Distinct from the other viewer options offered by Esri, ArcGIS Viewer for Flex is configurable and hosted on premises. The viewer and ArcGIS Explorer Online, two other client viewers, are not configurable and are hosted by Esri.

The ArcGIS Viewer for Flex Resource Center is the main source for getting more information about the application. It contains all the resources needed to start working with the viewer including

icon for reason 1Reason 1: The viewer can be used immediately out of the box.

Getting started with the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex is a simple 1-2-3 process:

The entire process takes six to eight minutes. Once these three steps are complete, the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex application is ready for use. By default, it is preconfigured to access services from ArcGIS Online, so you can start to explore the viewer's capabilities immediately.

It is easy to get started with the viewer. It fully supports ArcGIS Server functionality and web services. Viewer functionality includes support for basemaps, operational layers, dynamic legends, data query, search, GeoRSS feeds, drawing, time-aware data, and data editing. It also works with maps created and shared with the viewer, so you can use the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex with shared maps published online.

icon for reason 2Reason 2: The viewer can be configured; no programming is needed.

The viewer's look and feel, functionality, and data content can be easily customized without any programming. The viewer configuration is designed with the nondeveloper in mind. You simply edit XML files to configure the viewer to meet your specific business requirements. A few simple edits to the application configuration file enable the viewer to work with your web services. This means an organization can brand and customize (e.g., use a company logo, custom data, and appearance) its web client applications with minimal effort—no programming or developer resources are needed.

Behind the scenes, viewer architecture has a plug-and-play design; its user interface and functionality are based on widgets (i.e., modular code chunks) that can be assembled in building-block fashion to create custom web client applications. The viewer's user interface and functionality can be changed by simply referencing different widgets in its application configuration file. Configuring the viewer makes it easy to create custom applications. Conceptually, the viewer is similar to a site starter template used for creating web client applications quickly, so it is an ideal solution for prototyping application solutions. For examples, see the live user sites at the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex Live Sites group on

icon for reason 3Reason 3: The viewer has an extensive widget library.

Widgets define the viewer's appearance and functionality. The viewer application comes with 20 widgets that provide many core GIS mapping functionalities. These widgets can be used in various combinations to create different, focused web mapping solutions. In addition, an online gallery of developer sample widgets contributed by the viewer user community and developer sample widgets provided by Esri staff and users is available in the code gallery of the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex section of the ArcGIS Resource Center. All widgets can be downloaded for free and used in viewer applications. As more people use the viewer, the number of widgets in this library will continue to increase.

icon for reason 4Reason 4: The viewer framework is extensible with the ArcGIS API for Flex.

The viewer is built on the ArcGIS API for Flex, and both the viewer and API follow a concurrent release schedule. When a new version of the Flex API is released, a new version of the viewer built on the new API is also released. Each version released supports the latest functionality available in ArcGIS Server. The viewer source code is also available online, enabling developers who are familiar with the Flex API to further customize the viewer. Developers can extend the existing viewer in several ways by

Some widgets in the widget gallery also include source code that can be leveraged by developers to meet specific business/application needs. This makes the viewer an extensible ArcGIS Server web client application for users who want advanced customization options.

icon for reason 5Reason 5: The viewer is free and fully supported by Esri.

The ArcGIS Viewer for Flex application and its source code are available as free downloads for existing ArcGIS Server users. This configurable client application is provided at no cost. It is frequently updated to support the latest ArcGIS Server capabilities and is fully supported by Esri. Users can call Esri Support and get technical assistance with the viewer when needed.

Learn more by downloading the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex and by joining the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex Live Sites group.

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