Monday, September 12, 2011

Exporting to KML, putting layers together

I'm still learning quite a bit about using ArcMap and Google Fusion Tables together to publish  maps online of the homes destroyed in the Bastrop County Complex fire, and two things came up late last week that are worth sharing.

First, I usually use a wonderful tool called Shape To Fusion (or SHaPeEscape as we call it, after the domain name shpescape.com) to upload my ArcMap shapefiles (my map data with points, polygons and other such goodies) to Google Fusion Tables. It's a freaking awesome tool by Josh Livni that is free to to use. But on this particular day, there were several files in the queue and/or it was backed up, so my files were not processing quickly enough for me.

I figured there had to be a way to export KML (the map file format that Fusion Tables/Google Earth needs) directly from ArcMap. I searched around and found this Export to KML 2.5.4 script for ArcGIS Desktop. It's a public domain plugin that you can download and install, allowing you to export our ArcMap layers into KML. I found it a little clunky, and it didn't seem to export all my other data -- just the columns with the shapes -- but it got me where I needed to be in a time of need. I still prefer ShpEscape, but the Export to KML plugin is worth playing with. Are there other, better plugins out there for this?

My next challenge was to layer together a shapefile of the fire boundary behind the dots of all the houses. For this, I used the Fusion Table Layer Builder tool. This allows me to show a single map with two (or more) different Fusion Tables. I thought at first I would just merge the tables, as I've done in the past with Census shapefiles data, but in this case there wasn't a foreign key to merge on. (In other words, I didn't have something in the boundary table that was the same in the list of houses.) The layer builder allowed me to start with the fire boundary, and then add the house list on top of it, giving me resulting javascript code that I could publish and pull into my site as an iframe. You can also set the size of the map, the centerpoint, the zoom level and what other Google Maps controls you want to display. It's a sharp little tool.

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