April 7, 2015
By George Demmy
We've been using a couple of new words of late at TerraGo when describing part of what it is we do for folks: OpenGeoPDF and GIS-Lite. It's had the desired effect of stimulating some very interesting conversations, but has also caused a little confusion. Let me see if I can clear things up.
TerraGo makes software that lets people turn their static maps into interactive GIS-lite applications by letting ArcMap users target a client application (TerraGo Toolbar) with TerraGo Publisher. GIS-Lite is what we provide.
TerraGo mashes up industry standards, common IT practices and infrastructure, and best practices under the aegis of its OpenGeoPDF technology initiative to enable its customers to deliver GIS-Lite apps to their audience. OpenGeoPDF is how we provide GIS-Lite.
If GIS-Lite is what and OpenGeoPDF is how, then why?
According to an article in Forbes, people make 150 million maps a day with Esri software. 150 million. How many of those are paper? What is the cost to train people to be GIS experts, cartographers, geographers, scientists, analysts, engineers, designers, planners, etc., etc., etc., and how is that investment squandered if all that is made is a paper map? Or a PowerPoint with the power to sedate a hyperactive caffeine addict on his 8th venti latte cake in a cup addshot? Why would you send a flat file report (and don't give me any nonsense about words bouncing in from the left on your animated PowerPoint — I'm not interested!) when you could allow people to explore the map, find the features they're looking for, query attributes, measure routes and areas, and pull out the data used to make the map in an OGC GeoPackage and use it for other purposes by making a GeoPDF map usable in TerraGo Toolbar instead of a paper map or some electronic analog? Considering the investments made to make 150 million maps a day possible, those maps better be something more than a dead tree.
It's not either or.
One of the reasons we like using PDF as component of our solution is because of its printing heritage. There is nothing wrong with paper. It has its place. Paper maps are beautiful, useful, and they take a splash of coffee, a power outage, or a bullet to the table of contents and can still useful, even if you have to infer the blue bits are water. So make the paper map by all means! But if you're sending a paper map to someone, why not its GeoPDF representation as well? Anyone can download Toolbar at no cost and get so much more out of a GeoPDF document than is possible in any other document-based distillation of your work.