Using 3D Web Mapping to Model Offshore Archaeology

Ever since I started working in the renewables industry on offshore wind farms over 8yrs ago and had to analyse shipwrecks, I thought about how much more interactive and informative shipwreck analysis would be in 3D. There are many companies out there at the moment who produce the most amazing visualisations, where is the ability to move along a fixed track to view a 2.5D wreck but there is no ability to relate it to anything, no context and normally the cost is extremely high when the data captured is normally geospatial and used within a GIS such as QGIS, ArcGIS or Fledemaus.

Here is an example of the amazing model of the James Eagen Layne created by Fourth Element and the model of the Markgraf Shipwreck by Scapa Flow Wrecks

Please don’t get me wrong, I admire these models and they provide detail and information that would be almost impossible to render in a GIS web map without some serious development and a lot of modelling but technology has progressed. Five years ago I would have said that creating an offshore 3D web map was the thing of dreams, whereas today it is a few clicks of the mouse. Using ESRI software, I was able to combine both terrain and bathymetry, adjust for tide datum differences, import a 3D model and then add links and images to the web map (called a ‘scene’).

The most exciting thing we found in developing this, was the cost and time in implementing such a solution. With the ability to consume data from Sketchup, ESRI 3D Models and even Google Earth models, we can reduce the time which a scene takes to build from weeks to mere hours, the most time consuming part is adding the links & getting the colours nice!! Have a look below at what we created:

[iframe src=”https://cloudciti.es/scenes/SJaI7ZBO/embed&#8221; width=”836″ height=”470″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border: 1px solid whitesmoke” webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><p><a href=”https://cloudciti.es/SJaI7ZBO”>Wreck of the James Eagen Layne</a> from <a href=”https://cloudciti.es/users/54930bf17b2842080022f175″>Garsdale Design Limited</a> on <a href=”https://cloudcities.io”>CloudCities</a&gt;. ]

The model can be navigated in a similar manner to Google Earth, the model should also be interactive, with the ability to click on areas of the wreck with information returned on the right of the screen. If you look at the bottom left there are a set of icons which I will explain.

Overview of the buttons

Camera Button

 

The camera button, highlighted in green, provides access to the scene bookmarks, click on any of these and the scene will move to the view relating to the text. It will also alter the layers shown to provide the best view (according to the creator)

Animation button

The animation button, highlighted green above, animates the scene by cycling through the bookmarks

Layers buttonThe layers button allows access to the information relayed on the scene. By default, the tidal water is turned off and only one model is shown.

Light Simulation

The light simulation button provides ability to cast shadow and simulate specific times of day. Although not really relevant for an underwater feature, it provides a method for viewing internal features better.

Mobile User Bonus Feature!

For those of you using a mobile device, you will notice one further button:

Cardboard button

Yes, the scene is fully 3D and the viewer fully supports Google Cardboard, so go ahead and have a go!

Future development

This is just the beginning, as you can see this viewer is extremely lightweight and responsive Moving forward, we (Garsdale Design Ltd) are looking to adding further information such as nearby wrecks, more detailed bathymetry, objects which may cause risk such as anchorages and vessel movement in the area. The potential is immense and where this is geographic (hit the map button on the right) you can relate this to a real world location….in future versions we are looking to implementing Admiralty charts and bathymetry maps to view side by side with the site.

Disclaimer

I am not an archaeologist or diver! – Data is sourced from open data sources (Inspire, EA Lidar, Wikipedia) with the exception of the model(s) which were built by myself from images and multibeam data. Photos were obtained from Promare, on the Liberty 70 project – Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0, This data is not to be used for navigation or diving.

For further information or to ask how Garsdale Design can assist you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

GIS Tips – Quickly Scroll Through ArcMap Icons

Little trick to save yourself hours of trawling through point icons when using ArcMap (all versions)

It’s been a while since I posted a “GIS Tip” but this is a goody, especially if you spend HOURS scrolling through the ArcMap icons looking for that symbol which you thought was in one place but it seems to have moved…..

 

  1. Select the point icon you want to replace with a new icon and go to “edit”
Click on "edit"
Click on “edit”

2. You should then be presented with the following screen:

Point Icon selection screen
Point Icon selection screen

 

3. Now for the fun part…..scroll your mouse wheel up and down. Nothing right?….

    HOVER YOUR MOUSE OVER THE FONT SELECTION BOX AND SCROLL YOUR MOUSE

Like magic, you can scroll through the icons
Like magic, you can scroll through the icons

4. With your mouse hovered over the font box, you are able to scroll through the available fonts but ALSO it shows the relevant icons in the box below, enabling you to go through                 hundreds of icons quickly. Far better than individually going through each set of fonts in the search for the icon you are after.

 

There you go….you experts might already know it, but you new kids are going to love it!

 

Dragons8mycat

QGIS 2.14 v ArcGIS 10.4

Posted in xyht magazine 21st March 2016
This post almost didn’t happen, for over 7yrs I’ve been comparing GIS software in the hope that someone would be reading and take it upon themselves to fix a few of the issues which we all run into on a daily basis. With the new releases someone told me something and it almost stopped it all from happening…..

 

“ESRI is the Apple Inc and QGIS is the Google…”

 

As painful as it is to hear, it’s true. Even though I’ve been a hardcore user of QGIS for over 5yrs, I find myself falling back into using the ArcMap tools just to save myself rummaging through lists of plugins and I especially like that I can just drag and drop my data into the data frame and it just works.

As powerful as ArcMap/Arcscene/ArcGIS Pro/ArcGlobe/ArcGIS Explorer/ArcServer/Arc*add your own term here* is, it feels old and a little clunky, like using Windows XP. For a decade it has had the same comfy interface, the same basic functions and the same symbology. This is by no means a bad thing but the cartographic capabilities of QGIS are far superior and let’s not mention the true 64bit processing…

This year, there is a new contender from ESRI which I feel I need to discuss, ArcGIS Pro 1.2. Although it is in beta,  it is already proving itself a worthy successor to ArcMap. Unfortunately, until it is out of beta, I won’t be testing it as I feel it is unfair to compare an unfinished software/

Before we get to the crux of things, I’d just like to add that there have been no major interface changes to either software and I am GIS neutral. I just want a GIS that works and is reliable, I have no bias as to one or the other.

 

Let battle ommence
Let battle ommence

So what is new in QGIS 2.14?

The most talked about is the inclusion of a 2.5D renderer (covered in earlier blogs) but what you may not have noticed are the subtle changes, changes to the processing, caching, labelling and legend. Here is a full list which links to the QGIS changelog

 

What’s new in ArcMap 10.4?

There are quite a few new raster types available for the software, some of which I have to admit that I had never heard of but interesting to see that you can now export topology errors in the ArcMap Basic license. For those wondering why I haven’t listed all the changes, please remember that this is a comparison of the basic GIS software.

 

Data Management toolbox

New tools

Changes

Tool Changes
Add Rasters To Mosaic Dataset Two new parameters added:
Alter Mosaic Dataset Schema The raster_type_names parameter has 12 new options:
Analyze Control Points The out_overlap_table parameter is now Optional.
Apply Block Adjustment New parameter added: DEM.
Compute Control Points Three new parameters added:

  • area_of_interest
  • distribution
  • density
Compute Tie Points Two new parameters added:

  • distribution
  • density
Copy Raster Two new parameters added:

  • transform
  • format
Create Database Connection The database_platform parameter has a new option: DAMENG.
Create Database User When the tool is run against a geodatabase in Oracle or PostgreSQL, it now creates shared log file tables for the user. With the log file tables already created, the database administrator can remove privileges to create tables from the user, if needed, without negatively affecting the user’s ability to create large selection sets, edit data, or reconcile versioned data.
Create Enterprise Geodatabase When you run the tool on an Oracle 12c database, the sde user is granted privileges required to import data using Oracle Data Pump. This allows you to complete your Oracle Data Pump export and import workflows without having to separately grant these privileges.
Create Feature Class The geometry_type parameter has a new option: MULTIPATCH.
Create LAS Dataset New parameter added: create_las_prj.
Create Map Tile Package New parameter added: extent.
Create Mosaic Dataset The product_definition parameter has nine new options:
Create Pansharpened Raster Dataset The sensor parameter has seven new options:
Detect Feature Changes New parameter added: compare_line_direction.
Export Topology Errors You can now run this tool with an ArcGIS for Desktop Basic license.
Feature Compare The ignore_options parameter has a new option: IGNORE_FIELDALIAS.
Generate Tile Cache Tiling Scheme The tile_format parameter has a new option: LERC.
Project New parameter added: vertical.
Register Raster The transformation_type parameter has a new option: POLYSIMILARITY.
Synchronize Mosaic Dataset New parameter added: estimate_statistics.
Table Compare The ignore_options parameter has a new option: IGNORE_FIELDALIAS.
Warp The transformation_type parameter has a new option: POLYSIMILARITY.
Warp From File The transformation_type parameter has a new option: POLYSIMILARITY.

Editing toolbox

New tools

Multidimension toolbox

New tools

Python and ArcPy

ArcGIS 10.4 has been upgraded to include Python 2.7.10. Additional third-party libraries including SciPy, pandas, Sympy, and nose have been included, and existing third-party libraries including NumPy and matplotlib have been upgraded to more current releases.

The GetPackageInfo function has been added to return a dictionary about packages.

Editing

The topology edit tool now supports additional commands and keyboard shortcuts for selecting and moving nodes and edges.

  • Press the N key to select topology nodes.
  • Press the E key to select topology edges.
  • Move and Move To commands are now available on the topology edit tool context menu.

Parcel Editing

Parcel merge

The parcel Merge dialog box now has additional options for managing parent parcels. Parent parcels can be deleted, flagged as historic, or remain as current, active parcels.

Parcel division

When dividing parcels into equal areas, the number of parts on the Parcel Division dialog box can be set to 1. Set the number of equal area parts to 1 when a deed calls for a specific area to be divided from the parcel, leaving a remainder parcel.

Mean points

Performance improvements have been made to the Mean Points tool. Furthermore, the tool now always stays active and can be used repeatedly without the need to specify a tolerance.

Least-squares adjustment

Collinear line sequences in the same plan are straightened during adjustment postprocessing if they lie within the specifiedStraighten Collinear Line Sequences tolerances. These tolerances are available on the Adjust Coordinates dialog box.

Geodata

Geodatabases and databases

  • A new advanced option—All records for Tables—has been added to the Create Replica wizard. Checking this option allows you to designate the inclusion of all data from all tables in your replica. In earlier releases, you had to set the option to include data for each table individually.
  • Beginning with ArcGIS 10.4, you must set an additional option (Return Output Parameters As ResultSet) when youconfigure the ODBC driver to connect to Teradata.
  • ArcGIS now supports connections to Dameng databases. You can connect to view and analyze data in ArcMap. You can also publish map and feature services to ArcGIS for Server.
  • If you use SAP HANA 1.0 SPS10, you can now use ArcGIS to load data that contains z and m values and you can view and analyze existing data that contains z and m values.

LAS Dataset

  • There is a new scrollable LAS point profile view. Using the mouse/keyboard keys the area-of-interest profile window will move or rotate and update immediately in the profile window.
  • Location of the cursor in point profile window is displayed in ArcMap inside the profile area-of-interest.
  • Elevation is now displayed and updated when moving cursor around in point profile window

Raster

There have been five improvements for raster types.

  • The SPOT-7 raster type is now supported.
  • The UAV/UAS raster type is now supported.
  • The WorldView-3 raster type now supports the SWIR bands.
  • Support netCDF and HDF data stored as irregularly spaced arrays is now supported.
  • There have also been improvements within Chinese raster types.

There are several improvements with raster geoprocessing.

The Georeferencing toolbar now has three new first-order transformations available: Only rotation and shift, Only shift and scale, Only rotation and scale.

 

 

Testing

A lot has changed since I last ran this, I no longer have the 8 core 32GB RAM “beast” anymore for starters. I expect that times will be changed but by how much?

For those who want the spec of the machine I am using: System Spec

Although it is more home computer spec, I am reliably told that this is should be more than adequate for running ArcMap & QGIS.

 

QGIS_LoadTimetesting

 

1. Load Time

As this is a comparison of the 2 new updates, rather that witter on about my personal views, I thought it better to provide some test results. To make the test equal, the method I use was to start up the software being tested, leave it for 10 minutes (to ensure all elements have loaded) and the add ALL 2010 AIS from a folder in the root – C:GIS. If you wish to test the data yourself, it can be downloaded from here. The timer was started from the moment that the data is added to the data frame (through the add data button). The timer is stopped when all data has finished loaded, indicated in ArcGIS by the globe in the bottom right not spinning and in QGIS by watching the windows processes & seeing when the CPU demand dropped to zero again.

For those who wish to go further down the rabbit hole, I categorised the data for both QGIS and ArcGIS and saved the styles. The AIS was categorised using standard deviation (n0) with 8 categories. Data was loaded directly from the qml/lyr.

The time given is the average of the 5 runs which were made.

Results:

ArcGIS 10.2  =     27.27 seconds

ArcGIS 10.3  =     38.5 seconds

ArcGIS 10.4  =    24.04 seconds

QGIS 2.6 =     9.103 seconds

QGIS 2.8 =     8.201 seconds

QGIS 2.14 =   5.08 seconds

On average QGIS was 20 seconds faster to load the data, furthermore, there was a slight speed increase for QGIS from 2.8 to the newer 2.14

ArcGIS_AnalysisTest

2. Testing – Analysis

What use is your software if you spend your days waiting for it to finish a process? The amount of time I must have lost due to running processes is immense, so what if I could save some time? Because of this, I run a  a viewshed test. I put a single point down, Then, using standard settings (and OS Terrain50), I run a viewshed (ensuring the output raster resolutions are identical)

ArcGIS 10.2 =         42 minutes

ArcGIS 10.3 =         4 failed attempts & gave up*

ArcGIS 10.4 =         12m 55s

QGIS 2.6 =         58 minutes

QGIS 2.8 =     1hr 16min

QGIS 2.14 =   26.86s

It looks like either this machine is far superior to the old desktop OR both software has made significant improvements in its calculation algorithms. To confirm, both outputs were identical and can be obtained through the link at the end of the article.

*To eradicate any issues with the data input or user error, the ArcGIS 10.2 map was saved and then opened in 10.3, the exact same parameters were used with no success.

5. Testing – Map Export

I seem to lose days exporting PDF files from GIS, so for me, this test is one of the most relevant, so that I can compare the amount of time consumed by the simple “PDF Export”.

For this test, the same EFH shapefiles used previously were loaded, no styles applied, then the bathymetric contours (also from the Marine Cadastre website) and the ESRI world countries shapefile. I then opened the layout/composer & set the orientation to landscape & the size to A3. Scale was set to 1:50000,000 then centered on the EFH data.

Once loaded and left to settle of 10mins, I set the PDF export to 500dpi and then made sure that both the QGIS & ArcGIS settings were the same* (no layers, no georeferencing etc). This is the average times for 5 runs.

The results were as follows:

ArcGIS 10.2 =         3mins 18s – File size 795MB

ArcGIS 10.3 =        3mins 30s – File size 903MB

ArcGIS 10.4 =      7.04s – File size 1.9MB

QGIS 2.6 =         37.4s – File size 72MB

QGIS 2.8 =         35.5s – File size 69MB

QGIS 2.14 =      10.3s – File size 18.16MB

*Just to be clear, ArcGIS and QGIS were run separately

6. Stability

This is a new category, as a few comments I have had asked how many crashes I have had whilst testing. I am please to say on this occasion NONE.

6. Niggles

As I worked through, I must say that both software were pretty much as expected, nothing has really changed. The ONLY thing I would pick up on is that QGIS needs to add layers to their browser. When looking for data, QML & SLD are not visible in their relative folders.
The winner is....
The winner is….

7. Conclusion

As well as comparing the times above, I also run through both software by opening a list of tools which are used within the office on a regular basis to ensure that the software is safe to be used.

As stated previously, it would be unfair to compare the tools as some tools are unique or paid for plugins. Needless to say, I found no issues in my testing.

In this comparison, I think that, although ArcGIS 10.3 has released a HUGE number of new tools and updates, they are, in large for specialists. These tools are unlikely to get used on a regular basis like you & I.

QGIS has shown some muscle and has, in this testing, shown itsef much faster. Furthermore one of my “niggles” from the last article has been dealt with, the shadows for points and fonts. Although there are only a handful of updates & new features, the tools (for me) are more likely to be used.

Again, as before, there is no clear winner as they are both great systems and suited to different professionals in different way. For basic use or an introduction to the world of GIS, you wouldn’t go wrong whichever you choose.

New Job, New Goals, same Dragons8mycat

In case you aren’t on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack, YouTube, Instagram or Geonet (don’t laugh I hear there are users) I decided that I needed a new challenge and to get behind a winning team.

There are many areas of the geospatial world that interest me, I am a huge fan hydrography and positional accuracy, though there is one area which I feel is getting under-represented…..3D. As I have stated before, we see, live and interact within a 3D world, in fact this year is set to be the year of the VR (Virtual Reality Headset) with sales estimated to be over $1bn. Having seen some of their work and hearing some of their plans, there was only one choice – Garsdale Design Ltd.

wedo3DGIS

Garsdale Design struck a chord with me, they were REALLY eager to point out that a visualisation wasn’t just a simple thing to look at any more. The conversations we always had were around the concept of 3D GIS, where the visualisation ends and the real analysis begins, more on this in another blog, but think to yourself….what defines GIS?

3DGISExample

Although it is early days, one of my drivers for Garsdale Design is to not only put 3D GIS on the map (apologies for the pun) but to be able to provide it in both proprietary and open source formats, providing platforms for all users to build and develop, create tools and have a product which we all have wanted.

Let’s be honest, ArcScene came close, though was too quirky, QGIS2ThreeJs is good but misses options for modelling larger areas….I could go on, but the future is ESRI CityEngine, Cesium & QGIS, no I’m not mad and no, I haven’t sold out either. CityEngine is by far the best tool for 3DGIS at the moment but Cesium is gaining ground with an open platform which could be developed to serve measuring and analysis tools. Then we get to QGIS who are developing things which most GIS users could have only dreamed of 5yrs ago….and are now talking 3D, can you imagine the possibilities?

As with all things, a week into the job and there are many, many more plans which are super exciting which I am forced to keep silent about, I am really glad I made the move.

 

2016-01-15 12.10.22

So, here we are, the dream team, I am the one with the Parka, note that the fells are covered in snow, I am not yet acclimatised and able to go sans jacket like these crazy northern UK people.

Parka or not, Garsdale Design now has a full suite of GIS services as well as 3D GIS services such as;

Geospatial Data Management & Processing
Asset Management
Cartographic Representation
Web Mapping – Mapserver/Open Layers/PostGIS
Constraints Mapping
Site Selection through Multi-criteria
Evaluation
GIS Model Production/Training
Spatial Analysis
Least Cost Path Analysis
Site Design & Layout
Design Refinement/Micrositing
Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV)
3D Urban & Site Modelling
Geospatial Data Standards and implimentation
Metadata Standards and implimentation
Geodatabase modelling
Geoprocess modelling
Ordnance Survey data structure and implimentation
Data distribution and implimentation, providing map sharing solutions
Interactive geospatial solutions
Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)

Feel free to contact me if you need help or training on any of the above!

Be rest assured that my blogs will continue as they always have, though from time to time I may well discuss 3D GIS a little more, watch this space….

Dragons8mycat

 

3D GIS is a thing and let's embrace it

“The world we live in is a three dimensional world, so why do we map it and analyse it in just two dimensions?” Dragons8mycat 2013

 

In the last 5 years we, the GIS industry, have made some fantastic advances. So why is it that we are so slow with the adoption of using 3D data? Surveyors take data based on a 3D location, where does this third dimension go?

 

Admittedly 5 years ago 3D visualisations were more a tool for allowing senior management to visually understand the three dimensional problems at hand or to get people to buy into your capability. They were cool times and even though the software was quite specialist, a 3D visualisation was part of every large project deliverable….though any GIS expert who has been part of those projects will at this point raise their hands and say that none of the GIS data was used at any time for the visualisation. Furthermore, until the last few years, sharing 3D data has been difficult, with many people stitching together snapshots or putting a movie onto DVD/USB for the client.

 

This isn’t the case anymore, so why are we still flat-minded?

 

Flammarion

It is safe to say that thanks to the evolution of ESRIs’ CityEngine and QGIS’ QGIS2Threejs, 3D has become a GIS tool, and here is the basic and most core reason why – 3D visualisation of the past used to require that you stripped data of its coordinates so that you furthest  most extent would be your basepoint, a little like AutoCAD. Even with the most complex 3D modelling tools which allowed you to use georeferenced 3D data, you would find that once processed, these models had no reference in the real world and were no more than objects.

 

Here is a simple 3D model built using the QGIS tool ‘QGIS2Threejs’

 

[iframe src=”http://www.dragons8mycat.net/OS3D/OS3D.html&#8221; width=”800px” height=”600px” scrolling=”yes” ]

 

 

As you can see, the tool allows the user to not only manipulate the object in 3D but you can also take coordinates from the objects, this provides context to the model and changes it from a mere visualisation to an informative model.

 

Another great example is the ESRI campus 3D model:

Clicking around the campus retrieves attribution for objects and also hyperlinks to further information.

 

These 3D models are no longer just simple visualisations, these are informative models which are scale representations of real world objects.

 

Digitales_Geländemodell

Admittedly, the collection of the data limits the “realism”  a little, therefor data collected to 2m accuracy would not show detail such as roof direction or an exact building outline, but does this really matter if it is to understand how things interact with each other or to understand visibility at a high level?

When we analyse line of sight or visibility analysis, we use a 5m DTM [SNH guidance] as an industry standard and no-one bats an eyelid.

 

So, here’s the thing, we need to get over the level of detail [LOD] issue when talking about 3D models, it isn’t always about how accurately the model mimics the real world. For many users 3D enables the ability to see the issues in context and see where conflicts may occur.

 

3D isn’t a fad, there are many geospatial analysis which can ONLY be done in 3D

 

OS3D

 

There have been many times where I have been glad I invested my time into learning 3D tools and for me, the prospect of GIS becoming more 3D is one which I embrace. Take for example volumetric calculation – A client has a lot of mud which needs clearing, how do you get an accurate volume which needs extraction?

Fall out areas, on a 2D map they are a simple buffer of the centre, though these issues rarely lie with just the flat plane, so to be able to calculate the extent as a dome buffer or set of dome buffers, changes the calculations entirely.

 

The issue lies that most 3D tools have to be used with 2D GIS and then visualised in a 3D environment, there isn’t (currently) a software whereby you can perform the analysis in 3D in realtime…..though it is close, with ArcGIS Pro and also QGIS talking and demonstrating solutions which aren’t far off.

 

With more use of 3D and promotion, it will mean the we realise the true 3D GIS sooner rather than later. I for one, look forward to the day I can use a 3D model whereby I can click on objects and extract information or analyse something to ensure the right decisions have been made.

 

We need to actively promote extending the integration of 3D tools into 3D GIS as the clever bloke at the start said:

“The world we live in is a three dimensional world, so why do we map it and analyse it in just two dimensions?”

Lacking geoinspiration? Might be worth looking here….

Every now and then we all lack a little inspiration, whether it is a new client looking for that special something or a personal goal to get your work noticed, inspiration seems to fly out of the door as soon as you get to thinking.

Every now and then we all lack a little inspiration, whether it is a new client looking for that special something or a personal goal to get your work noticed, inspiration seems to fly out of the door as soon as you get to thinking.

Help is at hand, believe it or not, the main GIS software providers now host themselves “showcase” sites where you can see what can be done with the software. Don’t be afraid to contact the creators too, if there is a specific technique or an effect which has been used, contact the creator! In my experience, they are usually more than happy to help [to a limit] because the great thing about cartography and creation is that someone else WILL create something better, this new technique will provide a better way of doing what you did before and then you can create something even more amazing….and so on.

Below are my current favourite sources of inspiration, though I have to admit that I also have a style….yes a little predantic but it is a way of identifying my work, so although I might gain a little inspiration from the below galleries, but my work is always in my own style. Also, look carefully, you might see a few of my maps littered amongst the galleries.

Inspirational places for the map maker

British Cartographic Society:

International Cartographic Association:

CartoDB:

ESRI:

ESRI UK:

QGIS:

Have fun!

Nick D

QGIS v ArcGIS…The rematch

In an update to my previous post, QGIS v ArcGIS, I compare the new releases of the software to see whether either has the full package (for me)

Originally posted on xyHt: http://www.xyht.com/spatial-itgis/qgis-v-arcgis-rematch/

QGIS v ArcGIS….the rematch?

Thank you to all of you who commented and discussed my last QGIS v ArcGIS article, many of you pointed at some of the perspective taken with the article, for example, there was mention that it wasn’t fair as ArcServer wasn’t tested or that the 3D tools weren’t compared. Yes, you are correct, it would be unfair to compare tool to tool. QGIS is far superior in some areas and ArcGIS superior in others, but aren’t those the reasons why we choose the software?

This comparison is based on basic “GIS” functionality, the best way to see it is, “what would my 8yr old daughter use? “ it is easy to get too technical and start tearing apart the extensions or plug-ins but in an everyday use situation our lives are going to be wasted in the amount of time it takes to export a map or load a file.

This time around I will be comparing QGIS 2.8 (on windows) and ArcGIS 10.3 (on windows) and new boy on the block ArcGIS pro. These software were tested on identical Dell Xeon E5 1620 CPU workstations with 32GB of RAM and using Windows 7 Enterprise with no customisation and on fresh installs.

Slightly better than my last machine....
Slightly better than my last machine….

1. Price

Price hasn’t changed for either product, QGIS is still open source and ArcGIS is still propreitary, for more information see the original article.

2. New Features

New in QGIS 2.8:

  • Advanced Digitising – Provides tools like parallel, perpendicular, locked angles etc.
  • Map frame rotation – Not just limited to the Layout/Composer
  • Embedded Heat Map Style
  • Group Layer Styles (QLR) – Save groups of layers and their styles
  • PostGIS performance improvements – BIG improvements!
  • Updated legend styling – More options for expressions & display
  • New function editor – Create your OWN functions!

New in ArcGIS 10.3

  • Buffer tool – Now has planar AND geodesic options
  • Spatial Join – Now has geodesic options
  • Conversion Toolbox has “From PDF” – Currently only supports from PDF to Tiff
  • Data management Toolbox, Create Raster Type
  • Data management Toolbox, Diagnose Version Metadata
  • Data management Toolbox, Diagnose Version Tables
  • Data management Toolbox, Repair Version Metadata
  • Raster Mosaic Toolbox, Apply Block Adjustment
  • Raster Mosaic Toolbox, Analyse Control Points
  • Raster Mosaic Toolbox, Append Control Points
  • Raster Mosaic Toolbox, Compute Control Points
  • Raster Mosaic Toolbox, Compute Tie Points
  • Spatial Analyst Toolbox, Viewshed 2 – uses geodesic methods
  • Server gets mxd to WebMap – Although this listing is “like for like” I had to add this in…it is pretty cool and a nod to how far we have come in the industry.

2. Interface

Between the last versions of both software there have been no interface changes, with the exception of the introduction of ArcGIS Pro (This needs discussion separately). For more information about the 2 interfaces, see the original article.

Testing (in dual screen) ArcGIS 10.2 Load times
Testing (in dual screen) ArcGIS 10.2 Load times

3. Testing – Load Time

As this is a comparison of the 2 new updates, rather that witter on about my personal views, I thought it better to provide some test results. To make the test equal, the method I use was to start up the software being tested, leave it for 10 minutes (to ensure all elements have loaded) and the add ALL the EFH shapefiles & 2010 AIS from a folder in the root – C:GIS. If you wish to test the data yourself, it can be downloaded from here. The timer was started from the moment that the data is added to the data frame (through the add data button). The timer is stopped when all data has finished loaded, indicated in ArcGIS by the globe in the bottom right not spinning and in QGIS by watching the windows processes & seeing when the CPU demand dropped to zero again.

The time given is the average of the 5 runs which were made.

Results:

ArcGIS 10.2 =     27.27 seconds

ArcGIS 10.3 =     38.5 seconds

QGIS 2.6 =     9.103 seconds

QGIS 2.8 =     8.201 seconds

 

On average QGIS was 20 seconds faster to load the data, furthermore, there was a slight speed increase for QGIS from 2.6 to the newer 2.8

4. Testing – Analysis

What uses is your software if you spend your days waiting for it to finish a process? One test which I always run is a viewshed test. I put a single point down, in this test, a shapefile at 526451, 78576 (OSGB36 BNG). Then, using standard settings, I run a viewshed (ensuring the output raster resolutions are identical)

ArcGIS 10.2 =         42 minutes

ArcGIS 10.3 =         4 failed attempts & gave up*

QGIS 2.6 =         58 minutes

QGIS 2.8 =     1hr 16min

*To eradicate any issues with the data input or user error, the ArcGIS 10.2 map was saved and then opened in 10.3, the exact same parameters were used with no success.

Testing (in dual screen) QGIS 2.8 export
Testing (in dual screen) QGIS 2.8 export

5. Testing – Map Export

I seem to lose days exporting PDF files from GIS, so for me, this test is one of the most relevant, so that I can compare the amount of time consumed by the simple “PDF Export”.

For this test, the same EFH shapefiles used previously were loaded, no styles applied, then the bathymetric contours (also from the Marine Cadastre website) and the ESRI world countries shapefile. I then opened the layout/composer & set the orientation to landscape & the size to A3. Scale was set to 1:50000,000 then centered on the EFH data.

Once loaded and left to settle of 10mins, I set the PDF export to 500dpi and then made sure that both the QGIS & ArcGIS settings were the same (no layers, no georeferencing etc). This is the average times for 5 runs.

The results were as follows:

ArcGIS 10.2 =         3mins 18s – File size 795MB

ArcGIS 10.3=        3mins 30s – File size 903MB

QGIS 2.6 =         37.4s – File size 72MB

QGIS 2.8 =         35.5s – File size 69MB

 

6. Review of Niggles & Life savers

Although not entirely consistent with the rest of the test, I think it useful to keep track of the “niggles” to see whether they get addressed, my aim is to keep this open to readers to provide their own and as long as they are sensible, I’ll add them to the list. I would like to keep this to a maximum of 10 items per software.

QGIS "Niggles"
QGIS “Niggles”

Note: With reference to point 5, although there is a metadata plugin, there is is not a metadata engine or facility in the core, to be a fair comparison, I therefore have to dismiss this, even though it is quite good.

Note: With reference to point 6, there are some great methods for table joins outside of the core of QGIS, as above this cannot be taken into consideration unfortunately.

ArcGIS "Niggles"
ArcGIS “Niggles”

 

7. Conclusion

As well as comparing the times above, I also run through both software by opening a list of tools which are used within the office on a regular basis to ensure that the software is safe to be used.

As stated previously, it would be unfair to compare the tools as some tools are unique or paid for plugins. Needless to say, I found no issues in my testing.

In this comparison, I think that, although ArcGIS 10.3 has released a HUGE number of new tools and updates, they are, in large for specialists. These tools are unlikely to get used on a regular basis like you & I.

QGIS has shown some muscle and has, in this testing, shown itsef much faster. Furthermore one of my “niggles” from the last article has been dealt with, the shadows for points and fonts. Although there are only a handful of updates & new features, the tools (for me) are more likely to be used.

Again, as before, there is no clear winner as they are both great systems and suited to different professionals in different way. For basic use or an introduction to the world of GIS, you wouldn’t go wrong whichever you choose.

Nick D

Update:

Since posting this I have been made aware that QGIS “Niggle” number 4 isn’t an issue. I could argue that the interface doesn’t make it clear that multiple field categories are possible but to be a fair comparison I must say that the function is possible and comparable with ArcGIS.

My apologies to Nathan Woodrow who had to endure a few hours of my stupidity to get to the bottom of it.

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