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New Join Areas feature in MAPublisher 8.4

The upcoming release of MAPublisher 8.4 introduces many new features. One of the new features is called Join Areas. We have received a lot of requests from our customers to create area objects by merging common attribute values. This geoprocessing function is generally known as “dissolve”.

The picture below shows polygon objects from a USA Counties layer. The goal is to create a layer with state boundaries and summing the population count by joining the objects of the counties layer.

USA County MAP

In the MAP Attributes panel of the USA Counties layer, every object of the counties layer contains attribute information including county name, state name, FIPS codes, area in km2, population and so on. We’ll be using the StateName attribute value to combine all the county polygons into one polygon per state.

MAP Attribute of the USA County layer

This is the new Join Area dialog box. On the left side, we’ll specify 1) target layer, 2) destination (output) layer, 3) join type and 4) join method. We are trying to create state boundaries from the counties target layer so we’ll select a join type based on the StateName attribute and output it to a new layer called USA States. The join will create compound paths and since our goal is to create state polygons, we’ll dissolve borders between adjacent sub-areas.

On the right side of the dialog box are attribute value operations available for each column. These operations determine what kind of the values will result for every attribute and the operations available are different for each data type (String, Real, Integer). The screenshot below shows the attribute value operation set to Sum for Population attribute (Integer data type). When the Join Area is complete, each state polygon will have the sum of the population of all the counties that belong to it.

After running the Join Areas function, county polygons are dissolved into state boundaries.

The population values show the total sum from all the counties for every state.

This is just one example of how Join Areas can be used. It was initially a feature request and with some discussion and planning, it became real. If you have any feature requests for MAPublisher, Geographic Imager or PDF Maps, please feel free to drop us a line at support@avenza.com. We’re happy to hear from all of you!

Styling a MAPublisher Scale Bar

After generating a scale bar, it is placed in a MAP Legend layer. You can accept the default look of it, but majority of users will want to customize and style it to match their map.

Now I’ve just generated a simple scale bar. If you expand the Legend layer, you can see the object “MAPublisher Scalebar” is placed within it. This is a special object generated by MAPublisher and there is currently a dynamic link between the MAP View information (i.e. spatial information) and the scale bar object.

Generated Scale bar in the MAP Legend layer

In order to make a custom scale bar, you will have to break the dynamic link between MAPublisher and the scale bar object. In your own workflow, it’s important that you setup the scale before breaking the link because it will not rescale dynamically after the link is broken. Break the link by expanding the generated object.

From the main menu, choose Object > Expand.

From Adobe Illustrator Menu, Object > Expand

In the Expand dialog box, click the “Object” check box, then click OK.

Expand diaog window

The result: the object <MAPublisher Scalebar> is replaced by an object called <Group> in the Layers panel. The connection between the scale bar object and MAPublisher is removed. The art in the scale bar object simply became grouped objects.

Expanded Scale Bar Object

At this point, select objects in the group and change its colors and lines by using the direct selection tool Adobe Direct Selection tool. The direct selection tool allows you to select individual object even if select objects is a part of a <Group> object.

If you are more comfortable with the selection tool Adobe Illustrator Selection Tool, you will want to read the suggestion below. It works, too.

Take a look at the Layers panel again more closely. The screen capture of the Legend layer above shows that there is a <Group> object under the “Legend” layer. When the object tree under the “Legend” layer is expanded, you can see another <Group> object nested within a <Group> object. (a <Group> object containing a <Group> object). Since all the objects are still grouped, you can simply “ungroup” the art.

Expanded scale bar in the Layers panel

Select the <Group> object (i.e. the scale bar object for this example), then from the main menu, choose Object > Ungroup.

Adobe Illustrator menu: Ungroup

When you ungroup the object once, you now see only one <Group>. This <Group> object contains all the text, lines, and area objects composing a scale bar object.

Ungroup Once

Now, ungroup the object once more. Finally you do not see the object <Group> anymore under the “Legend” layer. It indicates that every object in the layer can now be selected individually using the direct selection tool.

After the grouped object is ungrouped twice ....

Select the objects to edit and style them using Adobe Illustrator tools!

At the end ... now ready to be customized

Using MAPublisher and Illustrator tools to create great looking road layers

Here’s a question we receive at Avenza support quite often: I’ve located and imported a GIS layer of road lines with attributes for the city I’m mapping. How can I turn this:

into this:

Getting Started

The workflow for this process involves the use of both MAPublisher and Adobe tools, specifically MAP Stylesheets and MAP Selections along with Illustrator’s Graphic Styles and the Appearance Panel.

This process works on roads that have an attribute on which you can base classification rules. My road data has a column named “CLASS” with four categories: Controlled, Controlled-Ramp, Highway, and Street. I’ve created a graphic style for each and loaded them using “Open Graphic Style Library”. I keep the road styles I have created in a template document titled RoadStyles.ai so that I can import the graphic styles I need into whatever map I’m making from my template (see Adobe Graphic Styles Help).

Controlled Access Highway: Controlled Access Highway
Controlled Access Ramp: Controlled Access Ramp
Major Road: Major Road
Minor Road: Minor Road

These styles all have been created using the Illustrator Apprearance panel to overlay two strokes, the top stroke with a smaller weight and different colour than the bottom stroke (see Adobe Appearance Panel Help).

With our graphic styles set I can now apply the MAP Stylesheet I built using the following expressions:

Cleaning up with groups

Once we apply these styles using MAPublisher Stylesheets, we will see what steps we muys take to get the appearance we want. Our roads look like this:

but we want them to look like this:

Why does this happen?

This occurs because MAP Stylesheets applies graphic styles at the path level. To look like intersections, each road classification must become one object, whether by being grouped or by turning the various paths into a compound path. Grouping is the preferred method for managing these objects since a compund path will delete the attributes of all paths that are being compounded. In this case, the street names field would be blank for our compound path object as dozens of streets are turned into one compund path. The consequence of this would be to make automatic labelling with MAPublisher Label Pro impossible. A set of paths turned into a group will not have their attributes available to MAPublisher while in a group, however these objects can always be ungrouped making individual paths and their original attributes available again.

Grouping Objects

In order to group our road classes we will have to select the road paths belonging to each class. The expressions we created when defining our MAP Stylesheet rules are available to us to use again through the Expression Library (new in MAPublisher 8.3). We can use MAP Selections to individually select each of our road classes. Once selected the street classes can be grouped using CTRL+G on your keyboard or Object > Group from the menu (See Adobe Group Help). The final step is to re-apply the graphic style appropriate to each group using the Adobe Graphic Style panel.

If we want to get technical here in considering what has happend to our artwork, using the Appearance panel we can see that each of the paths we initially imported now has a graphic style applied to it on two levels: at the path level (done through MAP Stylesheets) and at the group level (done by grouping and applying a graphic style to the group). It is possible to symbolize our artwork even further, at the layer level, by slecting the target symbol for our roads layer (See Adobe Layers Help). If desired we could apply a transparency at the layer level that would supersede all graphic styles used on objects in the layer. Our artwork will now have symbolization that suggests intersections, giving our road map a much neater appearance.

Tweaking

Now that our roads are grouped together, they are much easier to manage in the Illustrator Layers panel.

Groups can be stacked easily. My preference is to arrange with minor roads at the bottom, increasing to multi-laned divided highways at the top of the hierarchy. With our objects grouped it is easy to move objects between groups. Any path can be selected using the Direct Selection Tool and dragged in the Layers panel between groups. This is much simplier than having to use the Appearance panel to strip the path of both graphic styles and apply the desired style. There will be some situations where we will need to override the intersection appearances that result from grouping. In this image we have onramps that definitely do not interesect as this line work suggests!

To do this we must select the road lines that will be on top of the intersection, and using the Illustrator Layers panel, drag them from their group (it does not matter where in the layer hierarchy the are placed).

Our ungrouped ramps can now be sent backwards and forwards relative to other paths, giving a truer representation of the road network:

Using MAP Stylesheets to create a Legend

So why use stylesheets if we must manually group the objects after use? For a few reasons: it keeps us organized, it adds the expressions to the expression library, and most importantly MAP Stylesheets can automatically generate a Legend for us that reflects our Stylesheet rule names:

Good luck creating customized road styles! A deeper understanding of the Illustrator object styling hierarchy can go a long way in helping you use MAPublisher to leverage your GIS datasets!