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Frequently Asked Questions
















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?



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





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



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


No. One of the 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 statistical datasets as you wish.


How do I put a report published with InstantAtlas Desktop onto my website?


The first step is to copy the set of files comprising an InstantAtlas dynamic report onto your web server. All files making up the dynamic report must be copied to the same folder on the web server. If any files are missing or are not in the same folder, the dynamic report may not work correctly.


There are then two options:


  1. Create a link from one of your existing web pages to the atlas.html file. For example add <a href="atlas.html">My report</a> to the code of an existing web page. When this link is clicked, the dynamic report will open in a new browser tab
  2. Embed the report within an existing webpage. You may choose to do this if you want it to be come an intergral part of a website rather than show open in a separate tab. You can simply open the atlas.html file of an InstantAtlas report in a text editor to see an example of how to embed the report in a webpage. Note that embedding a report normally constrains the height/width, meaning that the report will no longer have a fluid width that takes advantage of large screens. We therefore normally recommend that you link to a dynamic report as described in option 1.




How do I add statistical data to my report?


With InstantAtlas Online, the statistical data in the reports come from feature services in ArcGIS Online. These can be public datasets other people have uploaded, or datasets that you have uploaded yourself using your ArcGIS Online account.


With InstantAtlas Desktop, you can add statistical data directly to dynamic reports from Excel or Access by way of add-ins that allow you to export data in InstantAtlas XML and JSON formats.


With InstantAtlas Server, there are a number of options for loading statistical data into the uderlying databases, including the add-ins for Excel/Access mentioned above, importing from remote databases and connecting to data website APIs.


How do I add spatial data to my report?


With InstantAtlas Online, the spatial data in the reports come from feature services in ArcGIS Online. These can be public datasets other people have uploaded, or datasets that you have uploaded yourself using your ArcGIS Online account.


With InstantAtlas Desktop, polygon/point/line layers are added to a report by uploading static shapefiles, MIF or TAB files into the Publisher. Background imagery can be added from ArcGis Online/Server, Google Maps, WMS or a collection of static images.


With InstantAtlas Server, the spatial data can either by added as static files (using the Desktop Publisher) or can be pulled dynamically from a geo-database via the Server Publisher module.


For InstantAtlas Desktop 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 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, our support team can suggest ways around 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.



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 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?



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)131 524 7250 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.



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