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GeoExpress 7 - A Whole New Animal?

by Matt Fleagle, Technical Writer, LizardTech

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For years geospatial professionals have relied on GeoExpress to manipulate or compress their imagery or both. The improvements in GeoExpress 7 make it almost a whole new animal. Not only did LizardTech add a number of features that make the usual manipulation and compression workflows easier in a lot of little ways – a kind of "something for everyone" approach – but through integration with LizardTech's other geospatial products GeoExpress has emerged as a command center from which users can easily manage image storage and distribution tasks as well.

Let's look at some of the improvements and new features. Many of these came from user requests in surveys and interactions with LizardTech Support. Some of them, such as 64-bit support and the addition of ECW (.ecw) files as a supported input format, are not very show-offable. Others, such as the new treatment of reprojection options, new metadata editing tools, and commuter licensing, will make users breathe a contented sigh of relief. And the new interoperability with Spatial Express and Express Server are the final leap in making GeoExpress the go-to interface for geospatial users at every point along their imaging workflow.

Exporting to Spatial Express and Express Server
Along with GeoExpress, Spatial Express and Express Server make up the LizardTech Express Suite. Spatial Express enables users to store MrSID and JPEG 2000 imagery natively (that is, in compressed form) in an Oracle 10gR2 database. Express Server is the fastest and most stable means of distributing MrSID and JPEG 2000 imagery on the Web, via WMS, or in ArcMap. But preparing georaster tables in a database and adding catalogs in Express Server used to be rather complex jobs involving command line tools.

Now users can export imagery to Spatial Express and Express Server with a few clicks in the GeoExpress user interface. Imagery can be exported directly to Spatial Express or Express Server as part of the encode process, or existing imagery can be published without reencoding.

What's more, a new Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Snap-in application called the Express Server Management Console is included on the installation CD or DVD as an optional install. Users can open and run the Express Server Management Console directly from inside GeoExpress, creating and indexing catalogs of imagery on any accessible Express Server.

For the first time, all of LizardTech's geospatial products operate seamlessly together and can be purchased together as the LizardTech GeoExpress Suite.

Commuter Licenses
LizardTech has made licensing GeoExpress even more flexible than before with the addition of "commuter" licenses. This just means that floating licenses, introduced in GeoExpress 6, can now be used off the network. Field personnel and employees that travel can check out a license and work on their laptop whether they are connected to the network or not.

64-Bit Support
Sixty-four-bit support means users can take advantage of 16+ GB of memory in today’s most advanced systems for creating mosaics of imagery terabytes in size.

Reprojection
The reprojection controls were once buried on a remote tab within the Encode Options dialog box; now there's a button icon right on the main toolbar. A "Recently Used" drop-down menu has been added that enables users to click instantly on their favorite coordinate reference systems (CRS) instead of having to wade through the list of thousands of supported CRSs each time they need to select one.

ECW Support
Support for ECW files as input means users switching to GeoExpress from other products will have no trouble working with their legacy files.

Support for Generating ESRI AUX Files
To ensure that the metadata in your MrSID and JPEG 2000 imagery will always be read in ESRI applications, the ability to generate ESRI AUX files when encoding has been added.

Support for Cropping by Vector Overlay or GML Coverage
By selecting a vector overlay, such as a shapefile, or a GML coverage, users can crop images according to a complex polygon rather than a simple square. This improvement offers greater flexibility and efficiency in image manipulation.

Despeckling
New in GeoExpress 7 is a set of controls (again with their own button icon on the toolbar) for removing compression artifacts at the edge of images and making mosaics look cleaner.

In the first illustration below, speckling from prior compression appears in the image collar that might show up in the neighboring tile if this image is encoded as part of a mosaic. The second illustration shows the image after "despeckling". Note that the collar is now free of artifacts. (Editor Note: Border added to image for visuals)


Before Despeckle


After Despeckle

Improved Metadata Tools
Users can edit custom metadata tags in MrSID and JPEG 2000 imagery and add new ones of their own. This enables them to edit the coordinate system of an image or a set of images without having to reencode them. These custom metadata tags can be used to build robust, flexible Web applications with LizardTech Express Server.

Export to GeoTIFF
GeoExpress 7 enables users to "demosaic" or "tile out" their imagery by specifying a grid, easily decoding all or part of their MrSID or JPEG 2000 image to GeoTIFF directly within GeoExpress. Once again, they don't need to learn command line tools to do this.

We don't have space here to do more than call out JPEG 2000 alpha band support and a host of improvements to the GeoExpress user interface that make using this industry favorite just a little more intuitive. We do want to mention that with the release of GeoExpress 7, a portal site has been created on the LizardTech website that enables GeoExpress users to upload imagery to a LizardTech Express Server and preview how easy it is to serve their images in a variety of platforms, including WMS, ArcMap, and Web applications such as Javascript, Flash and Ajax (http://portal.lizardtech.com/).

Also timed with GeoExpress 7's release is the rollout of LizardTech forums (visit http://www.lizardtech.com/forums/) and a community blog (visit http://www.lizardtech.com/blog/), two new ways that LizardTech hopes to engage users and partners in the geospatial community in an ongoing constructive conversation.

- Written February, 2008


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