Foxit Reader 3

Foxit Reader 3 has recently been released and it’s a worthy upgrade. Again, you can download the ZIP and simply extract the EXE in to any directory you want meaning you can run it from a USB stick). At 7Mb, and 1 file, it’s a pleasantly small and simple bit of kit. As with previous releases the speed of rendering PDFs is excellent, with functions supporting thumbnails and layers added in this release. The latter is particularly welcome as GeoPDFs (and layers) have become far more prevalent. Thoroughly recommended.

Major usability upgrade in ArcGIS

Yes it’s true, ESRI have finally ditched the requirement for the use a USB dongle (or old style parallel port dongle) in favour of a keyless authentication system. OK, so this is not a “feature” related in anyway to spatial processing, but it finally means the whole rigmarole of dongles is gone. Much of this patch is actually related to laptop usability. I’ve blogged before about the frustration of using a dongle based system and I think this move probably reflects the increased use of ArcGIS on laptops. In fact many of the other fixes in this patch related to laptop use and specifically the need to hibernate laptops and plug/unplug the dongle. I previously had set up a couple of batch scripts to manually start and stop the license server to get around this but its nice to see it sorted out properly.

GeoPDF Generation

I’ve been fiddling around with GeoPDF generation in ArcGIS 9.3 this week and its been quite frustrating. The added functionality is really very very good and considering this is their first release it works remarkably well. I have even had some maps submitted to the Journal of Maps that make good use of vector layers within the PDFs (and indeed some authors who don’t realise they are exporting GeoPDFs).

I am in the final stages of PDFing two large (in terms of filesize) maps, one with a large raster backdrop and some complex vector layers, the other with a very large raster backdrop!! The first map was being rendered almost exactly “as seen on screen” and incredibly quickly. However ArcGIS appears to be indiscriminately rasterizing some elements of the map and leaving others as vectors. It makes for a bit of a mess and to be honest its hopeless; really not fit for publication. I then switched to trying Terrago’s MAP2PDF which uses a totally different rendering engine, is much slower, but has greater control over the final product. It also deals with vector layers correctly and the final output looks much better. However it doesn’t work with one of the clipped raster layers properly, although a fix is supposedly coming.

The second map is really just a very large raster and needs to look good, but retain a small filesize. Whilst there is granular control in ArcGIS on the resolution, the JPEG “quality” is, well, pants! There are only 5 settings and only setting 3 or 4 is worth using. However the difference in quality can be significant. I wasn’t happy with the filesize/quality trade-off the ArcGIS 9.3 produces, so switched back to MAP2PDF which took 5 minutes to render the map before it crashed ArcGIS. Solution? Go back to ArcGIS 9.2 which seems to produce a better raster product

So there you have it, my totally unscientific and cursory exploration of producing PDFs of two complex/large vector and raster maps. This suggests that it is a far from mature product area. GeoPDFs are really starting to hit the big time and ESRI/Adobe appear to have big plans. But no one has got robust processing routine…. yet. I have no doubt that Adobe will get there, but its going to take time.