Maplets – static images of maps for use in applications

Toolbox by Florian Richter

Toolbox by Florian Richter

For a while now, I’ve been using the Data Driven Pages functionality of ArcGIS to output static maps, indexed by feature, to include in database driven applications such as MS Access and/or dynamic websites including Content Management Systems. This is a neat way of providing contextual location information on forms and reports in Access or on webpages without having to deploy GIS.

This process can be scripted using Python within ArcMap to produce images using a standardised naming convention ready to be used in other applications: all that is needed is a way of dynamically generating a path to the image file within the application based on a record ID using the structured file naming convention, easily done using any language (eg I use VBA for use in Access; PHP for use online; .net or Java for desktop applications). By using a 6×4 landscape ratio for maplets, they can even be handled by the same routines used to manage other image types such as photographs.

Used in combination with Open Data base maps such as Open Street Map (OSM) or OS Open Data, the tool makes it very easy to produce maps to include which are free of restrictive copyright limitations.

I have tended to just use Python to produce maplets, tweaking it as needed, but increasingly my clients need to be able to regenerate the maplets themselves, eg if data, symbology or the template is changed. So I have now packaged up the tool as a Python Script within a Toolbox, complete with GUI elements and documentation. It’s available under a Creative Commons License so do grab a copy and have fun with it; it’s published here on ArcGIS Online. It currently supports exporting to jpeg format only but can easily be tweaked to support other formats; png and pdf are on my list to add.