Workflow

MykleMykle Global Mapper UserPosts: 446Trusted User
edited November 2013 in Suggestion Box
To the Global Mapper Team,

I have been a user of Global Mapper since version 5, when one license cost $179. I have regularly upgraded to the next version as soon as it became available.

The program is used for work at my office where we have many survey projects in progress continually. These are live documents that are expected to change, to expand coverage, to add new field data, to export points with interpolated elevation values, to add new information from clients, and so on. A project is an iterative process.

The program is also used for “work” as a Search and Rescue Volunteer, where we hopefully do NOT have many missions in progress continually! However, a search that continues beyond the hasty search into subsequent operational periods does require flexibility to expand the search area, add search segments, absorb GPS tracks from searchers, and to add coverage manually, usually while internet resources are not available.

These applications stretch the legendary flexibility of Global Mapper beyond the design limits. I would like to encourage all of you to review the design of Global Mapper from a workflow perspective. Currently we have the complete flexibility of the program available at our fingertips, however users need to wade through all of that flexibility to get work done while normally needing only a limited set of options.

Scripting is certainly one method for getting work done, and focusing on the options required. I suspect that most users do not need repetitive bulk processing of consistent data files, but are manually composing their maps interactively with menu options.

The new addition of Favorites is certainly welcome as a method to simplify repetitive sequences of operations.

I am frequently switching between projects, and usually stepping on my toes since the configuration of the program is changed slightly for each project. Something as simple as the “default” shader, for instance, where different projects use a different shader (or just changes in lighting parameters to best show the data). The program forces the current global setting on the project.

Point, Line, and Area types are occasionally configured differently depending upon the needs of the project. I shouldn’t need to have a set of configurations for one point type, for example, to cover a range of needs. Sometimes a project with a few points will use one Waypoint configuration (including whether labels are visible, and label attributes), and sometimes a project has a dense set of Waypoints that require a different configuration.

Some options have a lengthy set of choices, with very few being used. The datum list, the projection list, the lists for Points, Lines and Areas, and so on. The default may require more work to get to the desired option. A default datum of WGS-84 is fine, but if I need to select NAD-27 it requires many (ten) PgUp keys to get there. In projections, pressing a “U” winds up at a non-relevant choice that requires a couple of down-arrows to get to UTM.

I’m sure that we can do better from a workflow perspective. Of course, being just a “user”, I have a simplistic feeling for how much work would be required to make useful changes.

That said, I think the process can be relatively simple.
  1. Global Program defaults: that’s what we have now.
  2. User Global defaults: menu selections used by the user.
  3. User Local defaults: selections specific to a project.
The Global Program defaults are stored as they are now.

The User Global defaults are stored in something similar (if a file), or in a configuration file in the program (or User) folder.

User Local defaults are stored in project workspace files.

The program starts by loading Global Program defaults, and are then modified by reading User Global, and if a workspace is opened the User Local settings are applied.

The User Global defaults can be used to note which choices of datum and projection have been used. That’s all that would be displayed for datum and projection menus, but with an option to display all available choices. I usually work with WGS-84, NAD-83, NAD-27, NAD-27_Mexico. Occasionally I’ll use Colombia_West, and recently I used the Finnish KKJ3 for the first time. All that I normally need to see are *my* usual choices, but with the option to wander the world.

I certainly don’t need to see a default UTM zone of -60 when I usually work in zone 11, but I do need to be able to see the full list when an area outside of my usual haunts is needed.

Likewise, I don’t need to select Projection and press “U” and see UPS North instead of UTM, *every*single*time*. I know what UPS North is, and appreciate it being available, but it needs to be behind the scenes and not a speed-bump on my usual roads.

A similar procedure would be available when selecting Point, Line, and Area types. I don’t use Picnic Area, Marine Route, or Ocean (I’m in Arizona [or Colorado with a nod to Mike] and not Maine [been there, best area on the East Coast]). So I don’t need to normally see the complete set of available types unless I ask for it.

The User Local defaults can include choices specific to the project, like modified standard types.

The workspace file may be a suitable place to keep these configuration choices.

These ideas have been presented in bits and pieces to Mike over the past several years. Some might even be on the endless to-do list. This summary may be useful as a way to focus your thinking, and to stir the pot a bit, if only to show that I’m thinking of these ideas every time I use Global Mapper.

Thanks to Mike for a fine program and superlative support, thanks to BlueMarble for providing an even better structure and support program for a large and growing set of users, and thanks for listening (reading). I’m looking forward to version 15 already.

Mykle Raymond, Tucson AZ
Zonge International
Southern Arizona Rescue Association

Comments

  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited December 2012
    Mykle,

    This issue of filtering the projections and datums has been on the todo list for quite a while. We are actually preparing to have a release of Global Energy Mapper (GEM) which will allow using the traditional Blue Marble Geographic Calculator/Desktop projection libraries. If you had that then you can setup filters on projection systems and datum transformations to just the ones that you want. Often the mapping export at big companies will setup a company-wide profile to limit other users to just some subset of approved projections/datum transformations. This will be included in the next 6 months or so.

    For generic Global Mapper use I think what might be the best option would be to add some sort of 'Favorites' for projections/datums and maybe have those at the top of the projection and datum lists. That way the complete list will still be available, but if you want to limit yourself to some subset you could just always stay at the top of the lists. Or perhaps another method would be to have a set of 'Favorite' full projection definitions, perhaps as a folder of .prj files, and have those full definitions available as some quick-access list. This may actually be easier to do now that I think about it and could be more useful than the other method.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    gmsupport@bluemarblegeo.com
    http://www.globalmapper.com
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited December 2012
    Mike,

    These additions to the methods for selecting datums/projections certainly sound interesting, and will be welcome.

    However, that only addresses one of my points, that was used as a more obvious example of users confronted with a long list of options of which only a few are used by one person or group.

    I'm thinking of methods that the program could use in other places where long lists are offered to wade through. Global Mapper has become somewhat like a supermarket where you wander the isles looking for the few items that you need. Imagine a smaller store that has only the items you use. Much more convenient. Push a button and you see all of the variety of RELATED products offered by the supermarket, all from your small EFFICIENT store.

    To me, Global Mapper is where I get stuff done. It is not an entertainment event where I wander just to look at stuff that I have no intention of purchasing (well, yeah, GM *can* be fun to explore, but not when I'm trying to get a map done). Global Mapper does not need to evolve from supermarket to Walmart Superstore. To me, it needs to work towards becoming smaller, but with related options of the Superstore available when requested. And I think that this can be relatively easily done.

    I admit to being a programmer of specialized data processing programs. The incoming data has a lot of flexibliity, and a lot of redundant input parameters. This is where my configuration ideas were implemented and tested. The programs have their default config values. A global config file (kept in the program or user folder) holds values that customize the programs for a user and company. Local config files (kept with data files) further customize the program for particular data files, and they document the options used by the data processor. This config file structure works well, for me and other in-company users, and those in other companies (world-wide) who purchase our main instrument and process the data themselves.

    Thanks,
    Mykle
  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited December 2012
    Mykle,

    I think the new Favorites item is a step in this direction, and some things like feature type lists can already be filtered so that in some places you only see the types that you have turned on. But many more things could have some sort of filtering added. The problem though becomes that many users will turn things off and then forget how/what they turned off, then not be able to find options and contact support. We have to make sure that however things can be filtered for advanced users that we don't generate a lot of extra support when people mess things up and don't know how to get it back or even know that they aren't seeing everything. This is probably a challenge in most software where you have a huge variety of user capabilities between beginner and expert users.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    gmsupport@bluemarblegeo.com
    http://www.globalmapper.com
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited December 2012
    (I posted a quick reply shortly after the previous post, but I see that it did not get posted. Grrr. At least some of the post had been saved, so lets see if I can finish it up again)

    > The problem though becomes that many users will turn things off and then forget how/what they turned off,
    > then not be able to find options and contact support. We have to make sure that however things can be
    > filtered for advanced users that we don't generate a lot of extra support when people mess things up and
    > don't know how to get it back or even know that they aren't seeing everything.

    * I most sincerely agree !! * (how do I click "like" about a dozen times?!)

    There are numerous settings that complement each other, and are located in different places, so they can be aggravating to get set correctly. The program design of each added choice is certainly a major issue.

    An example of a way to limit the displayed frequently-used choices:

    Projection tab, entries for Projection, Zone, and Datum. A line for each entry would say
    "Showing frequently used options. [Show All]" where the [] indicates a button to push.

    Rather than providing a [Show All] tab for each list, add just one button for the entire tab.

    The "frequently used options" phrase implies that the program is keeping track of when to add to this list, and when to remove from this list. Otherwise you would need an "Add this configuration to the quick list". Yes, you could argue that the load/save to file options duplicate some of this capability, but not the simplicity of a quick list. I'm not very concerned about how quickly items would be added or removed from a quick list. Any use of a configuration would add it to the list with a date-last-used, a month or two for deleting from the quick list (possibly a user choice added elsewhere in a list of global settings).

    The quick list for a new program installation would be empty, so displaying the entire list would be an appropriate default.

    Another example:

    The Open File dialog provides for a wide variety of formats, and filters for Commonly used, Common elevation, Common vector, Common raster. Add a quick list of formats actually used. "Commonly used" becomes a list of formats that have actually been used. Common becomes common to that user, not to the community of users. Each entry might start with a column of symbols showing format types, like E,R,V for a format that provides for all three types.
    - - V Comma-separated Text) Files (*.csv)
    E R - GeoTIFF (Imagery, Raster Maps, and Terrain) Files ( ...
    E - - Global Mapper Grid Files ( ...

    The "Common elevation" choice, for example, becomes "All elevation" formats so we have a way to display all formats.

    Yes, I understand the complexity of changing the Open File dialog, but this is a convenient example.

    A method that lists the format types still does not solve an issue that affects me on occasion: a vector format may support point, line, and area items, and another vector format may support only one or two items. I specify a format for export and step through all of the dialogs and tabs, only to be presented with a message like "no point data found" when all I have are lines, but I don't have a way of knowing up-front what the format supports. But I digress ...

    The overall goal of this thread is to explore workflow efficiency improvements. Global Mapper adds new formats and options all the time, and users are confronted with all of them, all of the time (only slightly exaggerated!). Methods to reduce the visual impact while remaining flexible are where we need to be thinking. This also means that options need to be conveniently placed when possible and practical, so users aren't digging deep into generic lists of configuration options and generating support requests.

    Thanks,
    Mykle
  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited December 2012
    I do think that the easiest one of these to do would be making the 'Commonly Supported Formats' actually track the formats that a user is loading and make sure those are in the commonly used formats with some of the less common ones falling off. I will add a task item for that. Ideally I would rather have an 'All Supported Formats' option, but the Windows file dialog has a limit of 255 characters for each filename mask, so I can't create a single mask that lists all supported format extensions.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    gmsupport@bluemarblegeo.com
    http://www.globalmapper.com
  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited December 2012
    Our internal task item number for this is 11243 for future reference.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    gmsupport@bluemarblegeo.com
    http://www.globalmapper.com
  • JeffH@BMGJeffH@BMG Global Mapper Developer Posts: 324Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    I've been working on this ticket in spare moments (a bit of relief from reading about 3D formats, which can be pretty dry). Currently I have a new, separate filter that's based entirely on the files that the user loads:
    * When a user loads a data file, an access count entry for that file's extension is added/updated in the registry.
    * Based on those counts, I create a filter called "Recent File Types" that pulls in those counts, and adds the most-loaded set (bearing in mind the 255 character limit mentioned by Mike).

    At this point, I could check this in as-is, and I think that it would be useful. I wouldn't mind taking suggestions, though:
    * One thought expressed here is that we could just replace the existing "Commonly Supported Formats" filter. Pluses / minuses for this one?
    * Currently, the new filter doesn't add in any special extensions (like *.gmw, *.gms, etc.). Should we add special extensions like this, or just stick to what the user has selected.
    * Currently the filter doesn't track individual data files that are loaded in a workspace or script file. So, for example, if you load a workspace of SHP files, the ".shp" entry is not updated as a result of this. Is this something that you'd expect?

    Any other suggestions?
  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited October 2013
    Jeff,

    I wonder if we should at least keep the existing 'Commonly Supported Types', then add the Recent Files Types, but initialize it the commonly supported types, perhaps with a default load count of 1 for each of those. We might add an artificially high or special load count for types we always want in there, like GMW, GMP, GMC, GMG, SHP, etc., then let others be added/removed based on what is actually loaded. And also archive extensions (.zip, .tar.gz, .tgz, etc.) always need to be there.

    I would probably just update the count based on what a user selects from a file open dialog to avoid counting the same type repeatedly if they always work with the same workspace.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com
    Global Mapper
  • JeffH@BMGJeffH@BMG Global Mapper Developer Posts: 324Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    @Mike: Yes, my thinking was to keep the 'Commonly Supported Types' filter as is. The 'Recent File Types' are now initialized as follows (in order of highest ranking to lowest):

    1) A mask for GM files: *.gm?
    2) A set of masks for the archive extensions (as determined by enableReadFromArchive())
    3) The set of masks for files actually loaded via File / Open Data File(s)...
    4) The set of masks determined as isPopular()

    Relevant to the 255 character limit, I'm taking care that there are no duplicates when adding masks. The masks from #1 and #2 are guaranteed to be in there. For #3 and #4, they get added as room allows, from#3 first (high usage to low) and then from #4.

    I think that this is a pretty reasonable interpretation of the requirements. I'm going to check this in, and if there's anything I've missed, then we can fine-tune it to your liking.
  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited October 2013
    Sounds good to me, I'll build it and put it out here once I'm back from the conference and can more easily do builds.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com
    Global Mapper
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    Jeff and Mike,

    Your filter work looks very interesting. I have been quiet as I appreciate the complexities, and have deleted several ideas that didn't survive the fire of reality.

    I'm still thinking about modifying the list of file types to include format types:

    (extracted from a previous post)
    Each entry might start with a column of symbols showing format types, like E,R,V for a format that provides for all three types.
    - - V Comma-separated Text) Files (*.csv)
    E R - GeoTIFF (Imagery, Raster Maps, and Terrain) Files ( ...
    E - - Global Mapper Grid Files ( ...

    If each file type is marked to show classifications similar to this, then the list is more instructive to the user.

    This will be even more useful when displaying a list of mixed format types, as with "Recent File Types".

    Looking forward to working with the update!
    Thanks,
    Mykle
  • JeffH@BMGJeffH@BMG Global Mapper Developer Posts: 324Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    Hi Mykle,

    It's true, the "Recent File Types" that I added is somewhat simplistic by comparison with your idea. I certainly understand what you're going after, but implement it, we'd need to hook up some logic to report on format type (E, R, or V) after a file was loaded, since we can't know in advance what types are included in files of certain extensions (because they might contain a mix). So I probably wouldn't know that information without adding code all over the place (unless Mike knows some special facility for determining this, as he often does -- I'm just a Global Mapper Apprentice, after all, and not a Guru :)). My approach was simpler and more localized, as it is almost purely based on file extensions that were actually loaded. We'll see how that turns out.

    Anyways, thanks for the suggestion. We'll keep it in mind, and maybe we'll come up with a way to add it in down the road.

    ~Jeff
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    Jeff,

    I'm thinking of a static text addition to the list of file types, that may note that a variety of elevation, raster, and vector data can be represented by a single file type.

    For a first approximation, at least, I'm thinking of a simple addition to the description of each file type. A dynamic representation would certainly be much more involved.

    Thanks,
    Mykle
  • Ice Age MarkIce Age Mark Global Mapper User Posts: 302Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    My suggestion is to make it so it will turn off (like with a check box option), and allow one to simply view all files without going through 2+ steps.

    Mark
  • JeffH@BMGJeffH@BMG Global Mapper Developer Posts: 324Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    Mykle wrote: »
    I'm thinking of a static text addition to the list of file types, that may note that a variety of elevation, raster, and vector data can be represented by a single file type.

    For a first approximation, at least, I'm thinking of a simple addition to the description of each file type. A dynamic representation would certainly be much more involved.
    Oh, you mean rather than seeing this:

    GeoTIFF (Imagery, Raster Maps, and Terrain) Files (*.tif*, *.itif*, *.gtif*, *.drg, *.btf, *.fx3, *.tar.gz, *.tgz, *.zip)

    you'd want to see something like

    "E R - GeoTIFF (Imagery, Raster Maps, and Terrain) Files (*.tif*, *.itif*, *.gtif*, *.drg, *.btf, *.fx3, *.tar.gz, *.tgz, *.zip)"

    with some added indicator of format types possible? That's probably easier that what I thought you meant before. Will think about that. Thanks.
  • JeffH@BMGJeffH@BMG Global Mapper Developer Posts: 324Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    My suggestion is to make it so it will turn off (like with a check box option), and allow one to simply view all files without going through 2+ steps.
    A checkbox on the File Open dialog that selects either the full-blown current filters or the "All Files (*.*)" filter entry that's at the bottom of the standard filter list?
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited October 2013
    Jeff,

    Yes, since the "Recent File Types" will include a variety of file types (for many users), having an idea of what general types apply to each file type will help.

    Showing the general types for each file type is a simplistic approach, but we'll see how it works. Later, we can think about more complex issues like a vector file type that can handle Areas and Lines but not Points.

    Ideally, the documentation for file types would have a similar one-line summary about what is supported. Imports are less of a problem than exports, so a user would know what is not included in an exported file (gotta Read The Fine Manual though). Many of the descriptions are written from the perspective of native users of each format. That is good, but a few words from a GM perspective would be even better. But I'm drifting from the topic.

    It's nice to see the (growing) count of people interested in this topic!


    For Ice Age Mark,
    Yes it would be more convenient to have a set of buttons in the Open File dialog, one for each set of filters (Elevation, Raster, Vector, Common, Recent, and All), rather than having to rummage through the drop-down list of file types. The new Recent filter will certainly help.

    I suspect we are at the limits of what is supported in a Windows dialog, so I'm not holding my breath. However, Mike has a reputation for pulling rabbits out of hats :-)
    Mykle
  • global_mapperglobal_mapper Administrator Posts: 17,238
    edited October 2013
    Mykle,

    I've included all of the latest changes and made a new build available. I have placed a new build at http://www.bluemarblegeo.com/downloads/global-mapper/global_mapper15.zip with the latest changes for you to try. Simply download that file and extract the contents into your existing v15.xx installation folder to give it a try. If you are using the 64-bit v15 version there is a new build at http://www.bluemarblegeo.com/downloads/global-mapper/global_mapper15_64bit.zip .

    You are correct we would have to come up with a custom file dialog to start adding stuff to the File->Open dialog. It is certainly supported in Windows to do that, but if we can get most of the useful stuff working in the standard dialog that would be much easier of course :) You might also check out the Supported Files web page at Global Mapper Supported Formats as it has pretty good descriptions of most supported formats. Now perhaps we could link to that from the export format selection dialog or something if that seems useful. In general people know what particular format they need though.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Global Mapper Guru
    geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com
    Blue Marble Geographics for Coordinate Conversion, Image Reprojection and Vector Translation
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited November 2013
    Thanks Mike! I am looking forward to giving the changes some exercise.
    Mykle
  • MykleMykle Global Mapper User Posts: 446Trusted User
    edited November 2013
    Jeff and Mike,
    What I have seen using "Recent File Types" on a few recent projects is looking very nice. Of course, I need to create more activity to qualify for "Recent" and wring out the addition. So far, great!
    It's also going to help having our programmers keeping the "Workflow" perspective in mind as more and more useful additions are introduced into Global Mapper.
    Many thanks,
    Mykle
  • JeffH@BMGJeffH@BMG Global Mapper Developer Posts: 324Trusted User
    edited November 2013
    Mykle,

    Right -- when you haven't loaded any files before, the filter (apart from items from the categories #1 and #2 above) gets filled by the "commonly used" extensions. As you load more and more file types, the list should get filled more and more by "recently used" file extensions, and squeeze out the "commonly used" ones. If there's overlap between the files that you work with a lot and the ones that we deem to be commonly used, you may not see a lot of difference.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    ~Jef
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