ArcGIS StoryMaps

What’s new in ArcGIS StoryMaps (April 2020)

ArcGIS StoryMaps has yet to have its first official birthday, but it’s already packed to the brim with storytelling punch. Here’s a rundown of what’s been added in the April 2020 update:

Before you begin…

If you like a challenge, you can first take a scroll through these gorgeous new stories and see how many new features you can spot.

A new look for collections

Collections has received a big update! The layout of the collection overview has been redesigned so readers can see more items in the collection, and the experience of moving between the collection items and the overview has been simplified. Additionally, the navigation controls are now located in a compact sidebar so readers can easily browse between items without returning to the overview. These controls are also useful when using a collection to deliver a presentation.



The collections builder is now even easier to use and also got a corresponding visual update.



In addition to stories made with ArcGIS StoryMaps and the previously supported Apps:

you can now add several new types of items to a collection including:

Collections is still in beta because we’ve got a long, bulleted list of features planned for it. So be sure to keep tabs on this blog for news of future updates…hint! hint!

Learn how you can use collections to showcase your stories and how to make a great one here.

New sidecar layout

If you’re a fan of the classic Cascade template, you’ll likely be excited about this next new feature. Sidecar now has two layouts for you to choose from: the previously available docked panel layout and the new floating panel layout.

The new layout brings many of the best things about sidecars and classic Cascades together. You can build an immersive block with narrative panels (that can contain images and media as well as text) that slide across the screen as readers scroll through your story. Best of all, you can add map actions to those panels (something not previously available in Cascade).



As you build a sidecar you can swap between layouts to try them out, which can be helpful if you’re not sure which one is the best fit for your story. When switching layouts, note that a sidecar block uses the same layout throughout all its slides.



Want more info on sidecar? We’ve got plenty! You can start by reading this blog that compares both layouts, then walk through this nice tutorial that covers the basics and lots of tips, and finish up by learning some of the many ways you can use sidecar to tell stories here. If you still haven’t had enough, you can run through another sidecar lesson.

Duplicate a story

Yep, that’s right! You can create a copy of any story you own. (Administrators can also copy any story in their organization.) Just open a story in builder and find the Duplicate story option in the More actions (…) menu in the header. This can be used to create a backup copy of a story or to use an existing story a template for a new story. You can duplicate a collection too.

Story navigation

Many of you have requested the ability to add a table of contents or bookmark links that let readers jump to different parts of a story. The April 2020 update has added a new story navigation feature to help with this. The nav bar contains links to headings in your story.



The navigation bar can be toggled on in the Design panel. Once enabled, you can hover over the bar and click the gear to fine tune your readers’ navigation experience. You can choose which headings in your story are included as navigation links (up to 10), and you can change the names of the headings (we recommend being concise).



Guided tour enhancements

Guided tour is an immersive block that lets you present a set of places to your readers. You can upload video media to your guided tour places to bring them to life even more for your readers. Additionally, media items can be easily reordered while building a tour.



If you are building a tour where you expect readers to be walking around the tour site with their phone you can add a “current location” widget to the tour. This lets readers track their location as they view your tour on their device. Finally, guided tour content now appears in the print layout of your story.

Learn more about making a great guided tour here. Also, here’s a nice tour of Georgetown that showcases using video.

Hide an immersive slide

You can hide slides in all types of immersive blocks (sidecar, slideshow, and guided tour). This is useful if you want to publish a story but there are a few slides that aren’t quite ready to share or if you have a story you use as a presentation that has slides you want to add or remove depending on your audience.



Hiding a slide is tracked as an edit to your story, so you’ll need to republish for a hidden slide to be shown in a published story (or for a visible slide to be hidden).

Style express map annotations

Express maps now include new annotation styling tools. Annotation boxes, leader lines, and arrows now have several visual treatments you can choose from to improve the readability and communicative value of your express maps. These styles are themed, so the colors and fonts always match the rest of your story. Just select an annotation element and you’ll be able to adjust aspects of its appearance (color, line style, etc.) in the styling panel. You can select and update multiple elements of the same type.



Learn more about express maps and how you can use them to enhance your storytelling here.

New themes

Story themes package cohesive sets of colors, fonts, express map basemaps, and other visual flourishes so you can quickly change the mood or tone of your story with a single click. Two new themes are now available: Tidal and Slate.

With a deep blue background and substantial feel, Tidal is a dark theme (paired with a light header/footer) that’s suitable for telling stories about the ocean and other vast or weighty topics. It uses muted accent colors, clean sans serif fonts, and the Ocean basemap to highlight natural features. The background of stories that use the Tidal theme gets darker as readers descend into the story, giving them feeling of diving deeper and deeper in to the topic. Here’s a story about sea ice that uses the Tidal theme.



Slate is inspired by newspapers and print media. It’s a light theme (paired with a dark header/footer) that evokes a journalistic tone by using serif fonts, bold color tones, and the stylish Newspaper basemap. Check out this story about cherry blossoms that uses the Slate theme.



These new themes not only have new color palettes, fonts, and basemaps, but they also introduce additional quote, separator, background, and header/footer pairings that provide visual differentiation. The new fonts from these themes are available in the Design panel’s font pairings menu if you’d like to use them with another theme.

Learn more about themes and adjusting the appearance of your story here.

Browse more Living Atlas maps

It’s even easier to find and use content from the ArcGIS Living Atlas in your stories. In the story builder, you can browse by category through all maps and scenes available for your region and the World region. If you are looking for content from a different region, or need additional filtering options, visit the Living Atlas website to continue your search. Once you find the map you need, simply favorite it and it will be available to add to your story from your My favorites tab.



And lots more…

And now for the bonus round! Here are more enhancements that should make your storycrafting enjoyable and more engaging.







Banner photo by Shane Avery on Unsplash

About the author

Owen is the lead product engineer for ArcGIS StoryMaps and has been with Esri since 2004. Before joining the StoryMaps team, he spent 11 years as a solution engineer on Esri's National Government team helping people understand the value and utility of geospatial thinking.

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