Collaborating in geospatial context since 2000!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

GeoMarks and Marking up GeoPDF Files with Toolbar

Hrrmm... it's been a while, I see. High time for a new post!

We recently got an email from a customer who, let's say, had some justified questions about our marketing message and how he perceived our products to behave with respect to GeoMarks and markup. The Toolbar provides a set of tools for placing geospatial markups, or GeoMarks, on GeoPDF files. If you have the Toolbar installed in Adobe Acrobat of any flavor, you can markup GeoPDF and other geospatial PDF files such as those created by ArcMap or Microstation that have been GeoMark enabled. GeoMark enabling is essentially permission from TerraGo to use the markup tools in Toolbar. However, TerraGo's is not the only permission needed to mark things up using free tools: there is also Adobe's when using Reader. If a GeoPDF file is to be marked up in Reader with Toolbar, the file must be GeoMark enabled by TerraGo software and enabled for commenting by Adobe software.

GeoMark enabling can happen two ways. First, any GeoPDF file created by recent versions of TerraGo software are automatically GeoMark enabled. Easy enough. Second, TerraGo Composer has the capability to GeoMark enable any supported geospatial PDF file. As mentioned, GeoMark enabled geospatial PDF file can be marked up by the Toolbar in any flavor of Acrobat capable of hosting it. Using Acrobat has many, many advantages over plain Reader because Adobe's comment enabling restricts a variety of modifications and access to the PDF file that could be useful in different workflows. If Reader is required, then PDF files must be comment enabled by Acrobat software. The requirement is not unique to TerraGo's markups -- Adobe's markup tools share similar restrictions.

Adobe's comment enabling can happen in a couple of ways. The first is PDF file can be brought into Adobe Acrobat Pro or Pro Extended. There are two ways to get to the goods:

Commenting->Enable for Commenting and Analysis in Adobe Reader...

Advanced->Extend Features in Adobe Reader...
The other way to enable commenting in Reader is to use Adobe's LiveCycle server.

There are a variety of licensing issues surrounding comment enabling with Acrobat, so I kindly refer you to your friendly neighborhood Adobe account manager to explain the intricacies of their licensing policies.

To summarize:
* to markup any PDF file, use Acrobat
* to markup a PDF file in Reader, it must be comment enabled by Adobe software
* to apply GeoMarks to a geospatial PDF file, use Composer
* to apply GeoMarks to a geospatial PDF file with Toolbar, the file must be GeoMark enabled by TerraGo software
* to apply GeoMarks to a geospatial PDF file with Toolbar in Reader, the PDF file must be both GeoMark enabled and comment enabled

Hope this helps!


Blogger Tim B said...

Actually this post didn't help at all. With Adobe Pro 8 and/or Adobe Reader 9 installed I cannot geomark anything. I'm using the free terrago toolbar and a topo map from the USGS Store. One month ago I could use the terrgo toolbar and geomark with kml's, but then I updated to the newest version of terrago. I will uninstall this toolbar as it's now just taking up space and is useless. I will say it's does make all pdf's pretty with a cool tool bar at the top tho. Sorry, that about as positive a comment I can make about terrago.

9:01 AM EDT

Blogger George Demmy said...

Hi Tim,

If you are not able to apply GeoMarks to the USGS GeoPDF files with the Toolbar installed into Acrobat Pro 8, then the files must not be GeoMark-enabled. While the post might not be to your liking, it does explain the observed behavior. If an earlier version of the Toolbar did not enforce this policy, it was an oversight in QA, although I'd be wholly shocked if software shipped with a bug... I regret that you feel that our software does not unconditionally offer as much functionality as you might like. If you would like more functionality at no cost to you, perhaps you could contact USGS to see if they can enable their mapping products to do more, include granting rights for markup in Reader and/or by free TerraGo tools. The rules by which these rights are granted are, I believe, clear enough in the bullets that follow "To summarize:" in the original post. I'll let the account manager responsible for USGS know of your displeasure.

Thanks for your interest, and regards,


9:36 AM EDT

Blogger Tim B said...

George...Thanks, I keep all that in mind when looking into using other GIS software. But at least we tried to clear it up.

6:36 PM EDT

Blogger Larz said...

Thanks for the tip! I was getting an error message trying to generate markups as well until, as suggested, I opened Acrobat's Advanced -> Extended Features in Adobe Reader and enabled that feature. No problems drawing or exporting those drawings to a shapefile after enabling comments.

I do have a related question - is there a way to 1) generate, then 2) export, freehand/streaming vectors? The GeoPolyline and GeoPolygon functions require continual clicking to draw anything and that is very inefficient (and eventually painful) if you are trying to accurately map a shoreline or forest boundary (we are using Wacom Intuos Pen and Tablet input devices to do this rather than a mouse). The Pencil/Eraser tools in the Comment & Markup toolbar are perfect for this but there's no equivalent tool in the TerraGo toolbar that I could find. Thanks for any tips/advice you might have.

4:03 PM EDT

Blogger George Demmy said...

Hi Larz,

I'm glad you found the post useful, and I'm sad to hear that the tools provided don't adequately address your needs. I understand perfectly what you request and why, and we've had the request before. I have added your voice to the enhancement request and I hope that we will be able to address it soon. I don't know of any tips I can offer related to this, although perhaps if you walked me through your work-flow maybe I could come up with something.



4:19 PM EDT

Blogger Larz said...

Thanks for the reply, George. I've also contacted TerraGo Tech Support with the same enhancement request.

There's an interesting continuity between the TerraGo Toolbar icons and those of the Adobe Comment & Markup Toolbar. Do you know why, in light of the requests for such a feature, the Pencil/Eraser Tool was not (or has not been) included? This app is right in the tablet PC's wheelhouse (small RAM/CPU footprint compared to alternative GIS apps) and could offer amazing functionality with enhancements such as these.

We intend to get multiple tablets for veg mappinig fieldwork and I know of others in geologic mapping that are considering a similar move away from paper maps and into an entirely (or nearly so) digital map production process. It's a great app as it is but there also seems to be a lot of untapped GIS potential.

Regarding field workflow, we perform aerial triangulation on digital imagery for generating both stereo models and individual orthophotos and orthomosaics. We'll load the mosaics (compressed JPEG200 images) on to the GPS-enabled tablet PC's SSD and make vegetation notes and delineations directly on top of the imagery. It may be that we just save the Pencil Tool sketches for reference but it would be nice to export those out to be viewed atop the stereo imagery once we're back in the office and ready for photointerpretation.

Thanks as well for lobbying on my behalf - much obliged! I love the blog and will continue to keep up with it.

1:51 AM EDT

Blogger George Demmy said...

Hi Larz,

Thanks for the feedback! What is the ultimate disposition of the markups? You export them to shapefile and import them into some sort of image analysis package like IMAGINE? I guess that for your purposes, the "pencil" tool would create either a polyline or polygon for export to shapefile purposes. Any ideas for how you would like to see it work?

There is a very close association with the current GeoMark tools and Adobe's. The whys and wherefores are enough for a blog post, which I'll queue up for the next one. Now, just to get some time!

Thanks again for the excellent feedback!



8:32 AM EDT

Anonymous Larz said...

Ultimately the markups will be used as 'refreshers' back in the office. Photointerpreters will make notes directly on the imagery using the tablets active touchscreen and, if possible, export those notes/delineations as shapefiles for use in ArcGIS. You may visit a site in the fall of 2010 but may not delineate the land cover types at that site until a year or more later.

I imagine the Pencil Tool working similar to the Tablet Toolbar in ArcGIS. It's already pretty close and in many ways works better. The ink/sketch/note is immediately vectorized (and generalized) and stays nailed to the ground as you pan/zoom. You can do the with the Tablet Toolbar but it's not as clean. Exporting the lines out as a polyline would let you create polygons that can be cleaned up and attributed.

The main drawback for me with the Pencil Tool is that if you get too close to an existing line, you end up selecting it - you can't start where you left off. You can finish up on top of an existing line, you just can't start on one. I'd like to see something like a 'hold to select' or a separate selection tool. Another option is to config the Pencil's selection setting to something much smaller(such as a single pixel). This way you could get right next to line w/out accidentally selecting it. BTW, if two features are in close proximity, say a few pixels, selecting one markup selects the markup as well so more flexibility here would be a very good thing.

Hope this gives you a little more background on why this enhancement would be so useful. Look forward to that future toolbar comparison blog!

4:09 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting this. None of this info was presented to me in the beginning and I had to learn it the hard way - by trial and error and lots of calls to your team. Thanks again for presenting this info up front for those new and future GeoPDF users - users, pay attention to this post because you will need it. Of course, my experience was before GeoMark Enabling was automatic, so it is simpler now.

How does this subject of GeoMark Enabling with Composer and Comment Enabling with Adobe relate to GeoJavaScripting. In other words, can you break it down for me what is required (software, software versions, licenses, etc.) by both the script writer and the end user of a custom GeoJavaScript tool in Reader? Using one of your team's GeoJavaScript examples and presenting what is required up front to execute these example GeoJavaScripts would be helful. This leads into another subject, where I expect a need to do a little GeoJavaScripting, which I currently have very little knowledge of.

Also, on a different topic. Could you guide me on how a user with a GeoMark and Comment Enabled GeoPDF in Reader can click on the map and pass the coordinates of that clicked location to a database file, table in a database management system, and/or a database form? I am looking for a way to bypass the creation and management of point shapefiles by using a form connected to a database table and passing events/points (i.e., their coordinates) on the map to the table and/or form. Any references or guidance on doing this would be greatly appreciated.


4:52 PM EDT

Blogger George Demmy said...

Thanks for the feed back! I'll work up something on GeoJS and its various permutations. We build on top of Adobe's JavaScript which has been a moving target.

8:51 AM EDT


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