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Choosing ArcIMS Connectors and Viewers

Making the Choice

The audience and the functionality required are the two most important aspects to consider when choosing a connector and viewer.

  • Is the site an Internet or an Intranet site?
  • What browsers will clients use?
  • What is the user community's level of GIS knowledge?
  • What functionality is going to be used?
  • How much customization is needed?

If the site is going to be an Intranet site, one of the Java Viewers might be the right choice. Asking users to install plug-ins or pushing the plug-ins onto their desktop is much easier within an organization. The Java Viewers support additional capabilities, such as MapNotes and EditNotes, that the HTML Viewer does not. Once the applets are loaded by the client, data and maps are served very quickly but customizing either Java Viewer is limited compared to other viewers.

If the site will be an Internet site, the HTML Viewer, ActiveX Connector, ColdFusion Connector, or AppServerLink should all be considered. The major reason to use the HTML Viewer is that its functionality is robust without modification. ArcIMS Designer outputs a full suite of precoded functions. Documentation for the HTML Viewer describes its functions, variables, and methods, and the HTML Viewer is supported on all platforms for both client and server. The developer needs only to know HTML and JavaScript to create a site using the HTML Viewer. The HTML Viewer's major drawback is that it is thicker than other connector clients and response time can be slow, especially when accessing large datasets.

All the custom connectors create thinner clients because the code resides on the server and is not downloaded to the client. Choose a connector based on two major factors-environment and resources. If a Windows Server with Microsoft IIS is implemented, the ActiveX Connector is an easy choice. If this is not the case, any of the connectors is a viable choice. For those with a UNIX server, the ColdFusion or AppServerLink Connectors are viable options, but not the ActiveX Connector.

Another important consideration in choosing a connector is the availability of specific skill sets. If VB skills are available, then the ActiveX Connector can be used. Likewise, if staff have ColdFusion skills, then the ColdFusion Connector may be the best choice. HTML and JavaScript are the easiest skill sets to learn and are necessary for all connector options, so if skills in other areas are lacking, the HTML and Java Viewers provide the best options. Java skills, harder to come by and not as easy to learn, should be present if the AppServerLink option is considered. Although all connectors come with documentation, the Servlet Connector documentation is the most complete.

Table 1: ArcIMS Connector/Viewer Cross-Reference [PDF-65 KB]

Table 1 cross-references all the factors discussed and can be used as a quick guide to help in the decision making process when choosing a connector. Ultimately, any of the connectors and viewers can be used to perform just about any task. The information provided here should help ArcIMS developers make the most appropriate viewer/connector combination.

For more information, contact
Scott Steigerwald, Consultant
Idea Integration

About the Author

Scott Steigerwald has a master's degree in geography from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is currently a GIS developer with Idea Integration in Denver, Colorado.

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