Frequently Asked Questions


General

How can I view a demonstration of an InstantAtlas report?
How can I take a free trial of the InstantAtlas software?
Who currently uses InstantAtlas?
Can the data in the report be extracted?
I am a GIS Manager, a GIS solution provider or a GIS user of desktop products
like MapInfo or ArcGIS - what additional value does InstantAtlas offer me?
Is InstantAtlas a plug-in for desktop mapping software?
Where can I get more information about Flash?

Requirements

Do I need experience of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to use InstantAtlas?
Do I need any specialised hardware or software to use InstantAtlas?
Do I need my own digital map files (geographic datasets) to use InstantAtlas?
Do I need a plug-in to view InstantAtlas reports?

Publishing

How can I make my report available to a distributed audience?
Is there any limit to the number of reports I can publish?
How do I put an InstantAtlas report onto my website?

Data

How do I integrate my data into a report?
Should I use the Excel or Access version of the InstantAtlas Data Manager?
Can I view metadata using my report?
Is there any limit to the amount of indicator data I can display in a report?
Is there a limit to the geographic data I can display in a report?

Features

Can I choose the types of map, table and chart to be displayed in my report?
How do I change the geographic data displayed in a report?
How are indicator data organised within a report?
How can I interact with the map(s) in a report?
Can reports be printed and exported?
How does background mapping work?
Can the reports aggregate values for selected areas?
Do the reports support data suppression?
What is the difference between the legend types?
Can a user define custom class breaks in the legend?
Can you use the map to drill down to a more detailed base geography?
Can I change the number of decimal places displayed in my report?
How can I change the colour of the boundaries in my map?
Can I add a watermark to the map in my InstantAtlas report?
Do I use the Designer or Style Editor to change the appearance of my report?
How do I know what each style class does in the Style Editor?
How do I change the appearance of contextual geographies in my report?
How do I make a categoric value in my report display with a specific colour?


General

How can I view a demonstration of an InstantAtlas report?

Please visit www.instantatlas.com/iashots.xhtml. You can also view reports created by our clients in the Showcase section of the InstantAtlas website.

How can I take a free trial of the InstantAtlas software?

Please visit www.instantatlas.com/freetrial.xhtml.

Who currently uses InstantAtlas?

Please view our client list at www.instantatlas.com/clients.xhtml.

Can the data in the report be extracted?

The digital map data in an InstantAtlas report cannot be extracted. InstantAtlas reports have been approved as a method of data distribution by suppliers of map files such as Ordnance Survey, the national mapping agency for Great Britain.

The indicator data values that appear in InstantAtlas reports can be extracted by opening the data.xml file in the browser. To do this manually, simply replace the text atlas.html to data.xml at the end of any web address of an InstantAtlas report. Alternatively, you can make it simpler for report users by creating a button, string of text, or image that links to the data.xml file. When the Data Table loads, you can copy and paste the information in the normal way.

I am a GIS Manager, a GIS solution provider or a GIS user of desktop products like MapInfo or ArcGIS - what additional value does InstantAtlas offer me?

As a GIS manager or solution developer there are a number of key benefits that InstantAtlas offers you.

For those relatively new to GIS, InstantAtlas is a complimentary rather than alternative product to a desktop GIS package like MapInfo Professional or ESRI ArcGIS. It does not offer the data management or analytical capabilities of desktop tools whether for geographic or statistical data. It offers you a specialist standalone tool (rather than a plug-in tied to a specific product) to supplement your existing software toolbox. InstantAtlas significantly extends the visualisation and reporting capabilities for publishing and presenting interactive maps, statistics and key indicators. You can produce richly interactive outputs (reports, dashboards, profiles, presentations etc) very quickly for putting on your intranet and Internet (or onto CD). In many cases this means you don't need to develop and support much more costly server-based applications. If you have an enterprise spatial data repository then InstantAtlas can source its spatial data from there to ensure data consistency and integrity.

Interactive atlases, dashboards and profiles may not be the 'classic GIS outputs' that you have tended to deliver in the past. However, as the market matures and user requirements broaden, it is our experience that focused 'data views' (also termed ‘dashboards’) using both maps and other best practice techniques in visual quantitative data display offer a more effective way to present and interpret data. When we demonstrate these applications we find that this is actually what many users want and, in the future, will increasingly expect.

InstantAtlas templates use features such as multiple linked graphics (brushing), enhanced fill, text rendering and animation to dramatically improve the user experience for your audience. Techniques like animation have generally not been part of the traditional GIS toolbox yet are ideal for bringing spatial data to life. InstantAtlas allows users to visualise trends and, more critically, to make sense of patterns. It is also highly suited to creating more controlled on-line publications to communicate information very effectively.

InstantAtlas also allows you to disseminate rich, interactive applications on a CD or DVD. This has never been easy with a traditional GIS approach which has tended to rely on requiring users to install specialist ‘cut-down’ GIS software on their local machine. This can severely limit potential usage. With InstantAtlas reports all data and functionality is wrapped up in a small number of files that can be distributed in a completely standalone form. A ‘real’ example is that of a consultation process that relied on consultees providing relatively detailed feedback on spatial boundary data – see our Consultation section for more detail. Its standalone nature can also be of great value when presenting data in situations where you can't rely on an Internet connection - simply copy a small number of files onto your laptop and you can be assured of a fully interactive application to present.

As for regular and occasional GIS users, feedback on InstantAtlas from GIS Teams is that users have found its outputs extremely easy to use – much more so than online or desktop GIS. This means that outputs can be targeted at areas in organisations where traditional GIS have tended not to reach (for example Social Work Depts. in Local Authorities). In effect InstantAtlas is creating new user communities (or customers) for spatial data. This, of course, tends to reflect extremely well on those running GIS Teams who are looking to maximise the value of their spatial data repositories across their organisations.

Finally, InstantAtlas is designed to appeal to both the GIS community and also information professionals like researchers, analysts and statisticians. These information users may not have a frequent requirement for GIS yet still need to publish and present their data in a manner that makes best use of its spatial and/or statistical content. InstantAtlas, which offers Microsoft Excel based tools for data maintenance, is ideal in many of these circumstances. As such it helps to build bridges between the GIS specialists and other information professionals with complimentary skills.

Is InstantAtlas a plug-in for desktop mapping software?

No. A key advantage of InstantAtlas is that you do not need desktop mapping software (or any knowledge of desktop mapping software).

Where can I get more information about Flash?

The best place to look for information on Flash is on the Adobe Site (http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/).



Requirements

Do I need experience of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to use InstantAtlas?

No. InstantAtlas is designed for users with a wide range of backgrounds who may or may not have experience of GIS. A key advantage of InstantAtlas is that both the dynamic reports and the software used to create and maintain them are very simple to use. If you can use a web browser and Excel, then you can use InstantAtlas.

Do I need any specialised hardware or software to use InstantAtlas?

No. It is most likely that you already meet the technical requirements for InstantAtlas.

Do I need my own digital map files (geographic datasets) to use InstantAtlas?

No. If you do not possess digital map files corresponding to your statistics, GeoWise can provide map packs. Please refer to the InstantAtlas price lists at www.instantatlas.com/pricing.xhtml.

Do I need a plug-in to view InstantAtlas reports?

You you will need to have the Flash player plug-in installed. It may already be installed on your computer. If you have problems viewing Flash atlases then navigate to the following site and follow the instructions to install the Flash Player http://www.adobe.com/shockwave/download/download.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash&promoid=BUIGP.



Publishing

How can I make my report available to a distributed audience?

The reports can be deployed in different ways, including as part of an existing intranet/extranet/internet site. You simply need to put the folder containing your InstantAtlas report onto your web server. The file size of a typical report is less than 500 Kb. You can then create a link from an existing web page to the report's atlas.html file or you can embed the atlas.html file in an existing page. The deployment of InstantAtlas reports is flexible and unlimited: you just need to check that your chosen method of deployment is approved under the terms of your digital map data provider license.

Is there any limit to the number of reports I can publish?

No. One of the key benefits of InstantAtlas is flexible and unlimited deployment of InstantAtlas reports. Once you have purchased a license for the InstantAtlas software, you can publish as many reports displaying different geographies and indicator datasets as you wish.

How do I put an InstantAtlas report onto my website?

The steps are the following:

  1. Copy the set of files comprising an InstantAtlas dynamic report onto your web server

  2. Create a link from one of your existing web pages to the atlas.html file. For example add <A HREF="atlas.html">Click here to open the dynamic report</A> to the HTML for an existing web page. When this link is clicked, the dynamic report will open in a new browser window.

All files making up a particular dynamic report must be copied to the same folder on the web server. If files are missing or are not in the same folder, the dynamic report may not work correctly.

The alternative to creating a link from an existing webpage is to embed the Flash within an existing HTML page. Below is an example of the tag you should add to your HTML file:

<EMBED SRC="test.swf" WIDTH="1000" HEIGHT="1000">

The embed tag forces you to set the height and width of the displayed Flash graphic. We therefore recommend that you link to an InstantAtlas dynamic report rather than embedding it so that the Flash Dynamic Report will rescale when a browser window is resized. However, you may choose to embed the Flash if there are elements of your website (e.g. navigation bars, banners) that you wish to be visible around the InstantAtlas dynamic report.



Data

How do I integrate my data into a report?

GeoWise has created InstantAtlas Data Managers that generate the XML data file(s) read by a report. There are currently Excel and Access Data Manager formats. You can chose to add your data file to a report during or after its publication:

  • Addition of the data file during the publishing process. You will be given the option to upload your data file during the publishing process and it will be validated against the geographies you have chosen for your report.

  • Addition of the data file after the publishing process. If you choose not to add a data file during the publishing process, the publisher will create your report with demonstration data. Once the report has been published, you simply replace the data file containing demonstration data with a new data file that you have created.

There is an Excel and Access Data Manager - which one should I choose?

The Access Data Manager is suitable for people with some Access skills. It helps with:

  1. Managing a significant number of indicators, say over 100

  2. Using one 'data store' to maintain reports for different geographies

  3. Makes updating existing indicator values and adding new indicators on a regular basis less time consuming

You can use either the Excel Data Manager or the Access Data Manager with the Batch Publisher to batch create large numbers of reports.

Is there any limit to the amount of indicator data I can display in a report?

As you add indicators to a single stand-alone InstantAtlas report you will eventually notice an increase in load time. Typically this will not be until you are adding hundreds of indicators to your report (although this depends on how many features there are in the base geography of your report). However, we can offer solutions to those interested in displaying hundreds or thousands of indicators in InstantAtlas dynamic reports and have already developed InstantAtlas reports that do just this.

Is there a limit to the geographic data I can display in a report?

There are two issues: the number of geographic features you wish to display and the level of detail of the geographic data.

As the number of geographic features published in a report increases, the load time of the report increases and the operating speed of the report decreases. This is because there is more information to render on the screen, more information for the functions to handle and because the data file(s) for the report get bigger. However, there is no hard limit on the number of map features you can display and we have published InstantAtlas reports showing several thousand map features.  Remember that you can publish as many reports as you wish and can therefore split geographic feature between a number of separate linked reports that individually perform well.

As the level of detail of the map data increases, the load time of the report increases and the operating speed of the report decreases. This is because there is more geographic data to render on the screen. We suggest a limit of 1 Mb for each digital map file (.shp or .mif) published in an InstantAtlas report. If your map files are larger, they can be simplified (generalised) before use in InstantAtlas. Different software packages and methods can be used to generalise digital map files. Please contact the InstantAtlas support team at support@geowise.co.uk or call +44 (0)131 6248935 for further information.

Note that the speed of a report is also dependent upon the processor speed of the computer being used to view it (and potentially other factors if the report is being viewed across a network).

Can I view metadata using my report?

Notes buttons are provided in InstantAtlas reports to link to any files of your choice containing supporting information or metadata. The InstantAtlas Excel Data Manager can generate metadata pages containing any geography and indicator metadata you specify.



Features

Can I choose the types of map, table and chart to be displayed in my report?

The InstantAtlas templates offer different combinations of map, table and chart components. You choose a template for your report based on the number of maps, the type of chart and the features you desire for the report. If you have specific requirements that are not addressed by the pre-defined InstantAtlas templates, GeoWise can offer a custom template solution.

How do I change the geographic data displayed in a report?

The InstantAtlas Publisher allows you to choose the geographies to be published in a report.

How are indicator data organised within a report?

Data displayed in a report are selected using the Data Explorer. Data are organised hierarchically by theme, by indicator and, in the case of time series data, by time period. You can specify the theme, indicator and time period labels in your InstantAtlas Data Manager.

How can I interact with the map(s) in a report?

Animation enables GIS-like functionality such as map navigation (zooming, panning, resizing) and feature selections. Clicking on a geographic feature results in different actions depending on the template chosen for your report. For example, selecting geographic areas from a report which includes time series data freezes their corresponding time series trends in the line chart for side-by-side comparison.

Can reports be printed and exported?

All of our InstantAtlas templates have printing and export features. These enable you to capture the whole report or specific objects of interest within it. We recommend capturing the report graphics and pasting them into a suitable application (e.g. Word, Power Point, graphics package) before printing. This gives you complete control over the appearance of the report when printed.

How does background mapping work?

Background images can either be read from a collection of images on your computer or network, or can be retrieved from a web map server. You can add as many layers of background mapping as you wish in an InstantAtlas report. With a single layer, the same background images are shown irrespective of map scale. With more than one layer of background mapping, the images change according to map scale - as you zoom in, the level of detail of background mapping increases. You can set the map width at which each layer of background mapping switches on and off. You can use your own images or purchase images from GeoWise. Any images can be used as long as their file size is not excessive (we recommend no larger than 1Mb). To use images for background mapping in InstantAtlas, they must have a corresponding index file (XML) format that provides a lookup for their size and geographic coordinate. An example index file is supplied with the evaluation version of InstantAtlas that can be downloaded from www.instantatlas.com/freetrial.xhtml (in the 'images' folder created during installation).

InstantAtlas supports use of JPEG and PNG image formats for background mapping as these formats are supported by the Adobe Flash Player and are suitable use over the Internet.

Please contact the InstantAtlas support team at support@geowise.co.uk or call +44 (0)131 6248935 if you need help to process your images or to create an index file.

Can the reports aggregate values for selected areas?

InstantAtlas reports can be used to display any data values you like and these may be aggregated or non-aggregated. A report simply maps the values that are entered into the InstantAtlas Data Manager used to create its XML data file(s). It will not perform aggregations on-the-fly so aggregations must be pre-calculated and entered into the Data Manager as such.

Do the reports support data suppression?

Yes. You can enter text values for numeric indicators in your InstantAtlas Data Manager. For example, you could enter the value "Suppressed" if you want this to appear in your report for a particular geographic feature. Text values will be displayed in the main data table and will be given their own class in the legend.

What is the difference between the legend types?

Continuous: every geographic feature is shaded a different colour using a continuous scale.

Quantile: each class contains an approximately equal number of geographic features. Many users are accustomed to using quartile (4 classes) or quintile (5 classes) classifications for data visualisation and interpretation.

Equal Interval: the interval between class breaks is always the same irrespective of the number of classes.

Natural Breaks: data are assigned to classes based upon their position along the data distribution relative to all other data values. An iterative algorithm is used to assign values to classes such that the variances within all classes are minimized whereas the variances among classes are maximized.

Standard Deviation: geographic features are classified according to the number of standard deviations they lie above or below the dataset average.

Can a user define custom class breaks in the legend?

Yes, the person publishing a dynamic report can define custom class breaks for each theme, indicator or time period separately. This is done as a metadata property in the Excel or Access Data Manager.

Can you use the map to drill down to a more detailed base geography?

You can use the linking buttons in the main data table of an InstantAtlas report to link from a particular area to a new report displaying a more detailed geography for that area. It is also possible to include some JavaScript into the atlas.html file which allows the end-user to double-click an area in the map so that another report opens. This other report can then display a thematic map for more detailed areas within the selected area. Please contact the InstantAtlas support team at support@geowise.co.uk or call +44 (0)131 6248935 for more information.

Can I change the number of decimal places displayed in my report?

You have complete control over the number of decimal places displayed for any data value in an InstantAtlas report.

How can I change the colour of the boundaries in my map?

You can change the colour of the base or contextual geography features using the Style Editor and editing the style class called '.baseLayer' for the base geography or the respective contextual layer style classes.

Do I use the Designer or Style Editor to change the appearance of my report?

Both. The Designer is used to edit the configuration file (config.xml) of a report. The configuration file controls the position and size of components (maps, tables, charts) in your report and further settings for these components. It does not control the background and outline colours for components.

The Style Editor is used to edit the style sheet (default.css) of a report. The style sheet controls the background and outline colours for your report components and the colour, font and size of most text in your report.

How do I know what each style class does in the Style Editor?

A description has been included for all the commonly used style classes. This is displayed at the top of the Properties pane (top right of the Style Editor).

How do I change the appearance of contextual geographies in my report?

Open the default.css file for your report using the InstantAtlas Style Editor. Look for the style classes with names that start .contextualLayer. To change the appearance of the uppermost contextual layer in your report, edit the .contextualLayer1 class. To change the appearance of the next contextual layer down in your report, edit the .contextualLayer2 class, and so on. For each contextual layer you can change the border colour and the fill colour. Save the default.css file and refresh your report to view your changes. Please note that you will not see any changes in the fill colour unless you have set the fill opacity of the contextual layer to be different to 0 (a value between 0 and 1) in the Publisher. The border thickness of the contextual layer features can also just be set during the publishing process.

How do I make a categoric value in my report display with a specific colour?

Lets say you have a categoric indicator in your report with possible values High, Intermediate and Low. You want areas with the value High to be shaded in red, areas with the value Intermediate to be shaded in yellow and the areas with the value Low to be shaded in green. Open the config.xml file for your report using the InstantAtlas Designer. Click the Palettes icon in the toolbar to open the Map Palettes and Colour Schemes dialog. Click the Colour Schemes tab. Click the colour array for the uppermost colour scheme in the list to open the Edit colours dialog. In the Key column, double click in the uppermost cell and enter the name of a possible data value (e.g. High). Then click the colour in the Colour column and choose red. In the next cell down in the Key column, enter the name of your next data value (e.g. Intermediate) and choose a colour for it. Repeat for each of your possible data values. Delete any surplus rows (you would only need three rows if your possible values are High, Intermediate and Low). Click Ok and Ok again to close the dialogs and then save your config.xml file. Start your report and to see your changes.