Thursday, May 05, 2011

Shape2Earth 2.0

Shape2Earth for MapWindow GIS provides simple tools for converting shapefiles to Keyhole Markup Language (KML) for viewing GIS data in Google Earth. It runs as a plugin to the free and open source MapWindow GIS, which is an excellent .NET based GIS desktop application. The purpose of releasing Shape2Earth as a plugin to MapWindow was to take advantage of all of the shapefile tools that MapWindow makes available.

One drawback to this approach was that using MapWindow required a little bit of knowledge on general GIS workflows. Users needed to download MapWindow, then download Shape2Earth into a specific directory so that MapWindow could see it as a plugin, activate Shape2Earth in MapWindow, load a shapefile, and then know how to adjust the symbology of the shapefile using MapWindow, and then export the shapefile to KML using MapWindow.

Shape2Earth 2.0 works on top of the new Shape2EarthEngine, and greatly simplifies the process. Users can run Shape2Earth 2.0 without having to launch any additional programs. Shape2EarthEngine provides its own shapefile reader and symbol rendering engine. It does not require the use of MapWindow GIS, or any of its components.

While Shape2EarthEngine has been decoupled from MapWindow GIS, it can still run as a plugin to MapWindow, just like the original Shape2Earth. This lets users take advantage of all that MapWindow has to offer in terms of managing shapefiles and cartographically defining the symbology for export as a KML file.

Besides being able to run stand-alone, or with MapWindow, Shape2Earth 2.0 offers many new and improved options for letting people create compelling Google Earth maps using shapefiles.

Shape2Earth 2.0 and Shape2EarthEngine are still under development. I hope to have it available for beta testing by current Shape2Earth customers in the coming months.

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