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Mapping Interface Help

Introduction: With the mapping interface, you can spatially view where Murals are located throughout the various areas of the city, AND how they appear in relation to one another.  The interface is easy to use once you’ve gained familiarity with the various mapping tool functions.  Also, if you’re exploring one part of the city, the interface features an optional drop-down ‘Crib Sheet’ listing of all of those Mural locations that appear in the current mapping window.  This Crib Sheet Listing contains a quick summary of each Mural and is PRINTABLE for those of you who want to take an ACTUAL tour (rather than a virtual one) using the map and crib sheet as your guide.

The Murals: Mural location symbols (indicated by a red box with a numbered MuralID) appear and disappear at a scale of 1 to 15,167.  If your range is farther out than this, Mural locations will not be visible. (N.B. the scale of the current map view at any time is displayed at the bottom of the map window frame.) Clicking on any Mural symbol in the mapping window will result in loading the vital statistics for this particular Mural. A thumbnail preview of each Mural in your current mapping window is available by rolling your mouse over each of the Mural symbols.  This is a handy feature when you’re looking for one particular Mural and don’t want to actually click on each one in order to view it.

As mentioned above, clicking on any Mural symbol on the map will load the vital statistics in the panel to the right of the map window.  For any given location that has been selected, the complete information for this Mural (including larger photos, photo captions, multiple views of this location, and Mural commentary) is available- by clicking on either the Mural address, thumbnail photo or Mural ID.  This information will then appear in a new full-sized popup window.

The Mapping Interface page initializes with the global, citywide view.  Once you’ve begun exploring our city virtually, you may return to this citywide view at any time by hitting the  button at the top left of the mappings tools column at the left of the mapping window.

 There are three general ways of navigating closer to get to an area of the city you’re interested in exploring: 

  1. The Address/Location lookup dropdown box:  You may lookup and select any Mural location in the lookup window.  When selected, the map will reload at a preset scale of 1:2000 centered on that location you’ve selected.  Depending on the relative density of Murals in that immediate area, other Mural symbols may also be present in the mapping window, but your current selection is what is displayed to the right.  Clicking on any other Mural Symbol will of course change the current selection information.
  1. The Neighbourhood lookup dropdown box:  You may also lookup and select any Neighbourhood from the ones present in the lookup window.  When selected, the map will reload centered on that neighbourhood.  The scale (i.e., how close in the map has to zoomed to) will be dynamic (i.e., variable), depending on the size of the neighbourhood selected.  You may then preview and/or select any Mural location by rolling over/clicking its Mural symbol, respectively.  If clicked, that Mural becomes the current selection.  If Mural symbols are not present in your new window it means either that there are no Murals in this vicinity OR that it is a larger neighbourhood and the zoom level is still out too far (remember that Murals appear and disappear at a scale of 1:15,167).  In the latter case further zooming in is required.

 These first two methods of exploring have some advantages over the freehanding method described below.  Using either of these two methods described above, you are virtually assured of finding Murals immediately.  Furthermore, by exploring Neighbourhoods individually you get to peruse Neighbourhoods that you might not immediately be drawn to that have terrific and even outstanding artwork off in an area either by itself or where there is a lower density of Murals.  Whereas using the freehanding methods described below, most people tend to gravitate (at least initially) to those areas of the City with a higher density of Mural locations; and thus could miss out on seeing some of our best and lesser-viewed walls. 

  1. Freehand navigation using the drawing tools:  With a bit of practice, the mapping tools described below are the most efficient way of exploring our city.  Let’s briefly look at each tool and its function.  Please note that if you hold the mouse cursor over any of the tool icons, a tool tip appears displaying a short summary phrase of what it does.  Please note that using these tools, when you are required to click on some point on the map, it obviously must be a point other than an actual Mural symbol (Mural symbols are hotspots which perform a different function, as described above).  The mapping tool functions have been tested with various versions of IE , FireFox and Netscape 8 browsers.  Some functions described below may not work reliably with old versions of Netscape.

      Zoom In 3X at Mouse click:  First select this tool.  Result: button gets brighter (it’s been turned on and will remain on until you’ve completed the action or until you select another tool).  Now, click at a point on the map.  Result: Map redraws, zoomed in 3 times from the last scale, and re-centers the map on the point you’ve clicked. 

    Zoom Out 3X at Mouse click:  First select this tool.  Result: button gets brighter (it’s been turned on and will remain on until you’ve completed the action or until you select another tool).  Now, click at a point on the map.  Result: Map redraws, zoomed out 3 times from the last scale, and re-centers the map on the point you’ve clicked.

   Rubber Band Zoombox: Click and Move and Click:  First select this tool.  Result: button gets brighter (it’s been turned on and will remain on until you’ve completed the action or until you select another tool).

 For Internet Explorer browsers: Click at the point on the map that will be the upper left corner of your zoom box.  Move mouse down and to the right until the box is the size you wish it to be.  Click again.  Result: Mapping window is redrawn zoomed inwards to include the area inside the zoom box.

For FireFox and Netscape 8 browsers:  Click at the point on the map that will be the lower right corner of your zoom box.  Move mouse up and to the left until the box is the size you wish it to be.  Click again.  Result: Mapping window is redrawn zoomed inwards to include the area inside the zoom box.

Older Netscape browsers: your mileage may vary, or be nil with this function tool.  We tried.

  Re-Centre tool:  First select this tool.  Result: button gets brighter (it’s been turned on and will remain on until you’ve completed the action or until you select another tool).   Chose a point off centre of the map window with your mouse cursor and click.  Result: the map is redrawn centered around your newly chosen spot.  This is a tool that can get used more as one gains experience with it and situations when it’s the most efficient tool to get the desired result.  It can bring about more subtle changes to a mapping area than the panning function (described below).  It can be particularly useful at certain ranges where, say, a neighbourhood label and a school label want to appear in the same space.  By re-centering the map off to the side of the school polygon, the school name becomes unobscured by the neighbourhood name.

The remaining tools perform fixed functions immediately upon selecting them (with no clicking on the mapping window involved).  They are:

   Zooms out farther, 2 times the current scale.  For example from a scale of 1:2000, will zoom out to 1:4000, then, if repeated to 1:8000.

  Zooms in closer, 2 times the current scale.  For example from a scale of 1:8000, will zoom in to 1:4000, then, if repeated to 1:2000.

Between the  and  symbols are five preset zoom scale levels. Placing the cursor on each symbol reveals a tool tip stating each preset range.  The second from bottom (the second largest symbol) will when selected draw a map at a scale of 1:15,167; which is EXACTLY the smallest scale at which Mural locations are still visible.

The Panning functions are denoted by the directional arrows around the perimeter (or frame) of the mapping window.  Clicking on any one of these will result in the mapping page panning, in the direction selected, by 80% of the current map width.  

The Reference Map is located at the top right of the mapping interface page.  It is both a display AND a control.  At any given time, the reference map displays the location of the current map window relative to the entire city by means of a small box inside it representing the current map window.  It is also possible to use this reference map as a control: by clicking on some new point on the reference map, the map window is redrawn centered on this new point.  This control tool is thus very useful for jumping from one area in the city to another very quickly.  Technically, its function is exactly the same as the re-centering tool described above, except at a more global level.

   This button, when selected, will redraw the map in a smaller window.  When completed, the  button will appear which when selected redraws the map in a larger window.  These buttons thus toggle back and forth between the two map sizes.

    This button, when selected, turns on the Crib Sheet Listing, which appears below the Map.  It is a quick summary of the vital statistics and thumbnails of all of the Murals in the CURRENT mapping window.  It, along with the map, is PRINTABLE, and can then serve as a guide for your own self-guided tour of a particular area of the city.  By default, this feature is turned off, but can be turned on with just one click! Please note: After you have clicked on this button you may not at first notice any perceptible change to the page, but scroll down and you will see it how a listing of the vital statistics and thumbnail of each mural in the current mapping window has been added to the page! You then can print out this entire page and you're off on your own self-guided tour of the selected area. This is another great feature which makes our entire mapping interface so handy to tourists, or anyone else, actually.

Shameless Plug: While on the subject of self-guided Mural tours, get The West End BIZ’s annual PASSPORT booklet, which is full of information about the Murals of the West End, and features self-guided Mural Tours, along with maps of the Murals in the area.  Please also note that in the summer months, they offer GUIDED tours of the Murals, with two different tour packages available.  Contact the West End BIZ office for more details at (204)954-7900.


Thanks/Acknowledgement for Help in Building this Site

 The mapping interface is based on the excellent University of Minnesota’s MapServer/MapScript product, an open-source internet map server supported by its community of developers and users.

The UMN MapServer Users List has been a constant and invaluable source of information about how to use and build MapServer and MapScript, the people who are members of this list are a tremendous help to MapServer users.

The City of Winnipeg donated the street, regional parks, rivers and neighbourhood layers, their data was the starting point for this project and remains an essential part of it.

John Lange of Open-IT was a tremendous help in providing support in building MapServer on the UNIX environment, he put many in hours helping us working through problems in building MapServer. He is the hosting provider for the Murals of Winnipeg and this map interface.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Digital Grove for their excellent Forestry GIS - fGIS – program which we used to produce and enhance the mapping data.

Michael Knight designed many of the graphics controls on the page (including the help button that got you here)

Frank Warmerdam extended the functionality of MapServer to add vector symbols to the imagemaps, which allows the murals on the map images to be hot-linked to display information about them.

Yewondwossen Assefa gave me pointers on building MapServer/MapScript on my Windows system, which allowed me to further extend the functionality of the MapServer to individually index the mural symbols on the map.



A Background Story about the creation of this page

             When I started on this project I had already used the CGI version of the University of Minnesota’s MapServer and felt that it would complement the existing Murals of Winnipeg website quite nicely, allowing a map interface for virtual tourists to locate the murals in the city and to browse through the city to find murals.  However, for this project the PHP MapScript programming interface for MapServer would have to be used to provide the level of control over the map information that we needed for building web pages that display detailed information about the murals, and to provide map links to the murals. So the two Bobs held a planning session at a local Tim Horton’s while our wives were working at their stained glass projects, and we developed a conceptual design for the mapping interface for the site. This was in September of 2004 and the work on this project began at that point.

            The next step was to build a mock-up of the page to visualize the interface and to give us a target to develop to. This was done and referred to often during the development of the site.

            Then we had to obtain mapping data for Winnipeg to base the interface on. This was not as easy as it might seem since we did not have any budget to purchase commercially available data. However, after we contacted the City of Winnipeg they graciously agreed to give us some mapping layers since we are a not-for-profit operation and since we wouldn’t distribute the data to others. This was the starting point of the mapping part of this project, we then obtained orthophotography from the Province of Manitoba’s MLI site, the free Forestry GIS – fGIS – mapping tool, some hard copy maps of Winnipeg, particularly the Sherlock’s guide. After some mapping training, we put Bob Buchanan’s nose to the mouse and monitor and began enhancing the data and making more data. Bob started by enhancing the City of Winnipeg’s centerline street data by adding attributes to classify the streets into major, medium and minor streets, to indicate whether they were single line or divided, and to add the route numbers to the major city roads, the Trans Canada and provincial trunk highways and provincial roads- all of these attributes being used to build a better map. Bob then went on to map such things as golf courses, points of interest, community clubs, schools, local parks, museums and traffic signal lights. This stage of the project took about two months. Bob’s mapping allows a rich map display with many of Winnipeg’s features displayed which enables the user to see where the murals are in relation to landmarks they can easily identify.

            We then started looking into who would host this mapping interface. Our previous hosting provider was very reluctant to do this, so after some investigation we found John Lange of Open-IT here in Winnipeg who was enthusiastic about the project and provided hosting services at prices that compared favourably to our provider in the US. John has been a tremendous support to us throughout this project since we had to build a custom version of MapServer with the extra functionality that we developed. This was challenging at times and John stuck with the project, to his credit.

During all of this I worked on developing the mapping page. I realized early in this stage that the imagemap capabilities of MapServer would not map the mural symbols, which would prevent us from having the mapping interface work as we designed. I turned to Frank Warmerdam for help in adding this to the product and he programmed the mapping of vector symbol areas in the imagemaps. Unfortunately we still couldn’t identify the individual murals on the map since the structure of the programming didn’t allow the symbol indices to be passed down to the function doing the imagemapping. So I programmed this functionality into MapServer, this required changes at a high level in the function calls since this is the only location to get these indices. This meant that we had to build a custom version of MapServer with these features.  This was not easily done and I turned to Frank Warmerdam and Yewondwossen Assefa of the MapServer community who helped me with this. I had some difficulties getting this working but eventually got it working on both the Windows and UNIX environment thanks to more information from the UMN MapServer Users List. This allowed the map interface to be finished, and after all of this effort the development of the PHP portion of the page was easily done to get the interface to work the way that we had originally envisioned.

Another challenge was developing a rubber-band zoombox that would not override the imagemap on the map image. The MapServer community has an excellent JavaScript library for this (which includes more functionality than just a zoombox), but I could not get this to work without destroying the imagemap, which is needed to dynamically display murals thumbnails. To overcome this I developed my own JavaScript zoombox, and although this is not as reliable as the publicly available one, it works together with the map’s imagemap. This required quite a bit of research into the various coordinate systems used in web pages, and I used a utility from the MapServer website, which was developed by Gayathri Swaminathan, as a starting point and eventually I had a functioning zoombox.

The final step was to improve the icons for navigating the page and to integrate the mapping interface into the main Murals of Winnipeg website. We turned to Michael Knight, a local graphics artist who agreed to do this. His appealing graphics completed the design of the page and we thank him for that.

These are the main details of how this site was developed, needless to say that it presented many technical challenges, but we feel that it was well worth the effort. Bob Buchanan and I hope that you enjoy using this mapping interface.  Your comments or suggestions are welcome and would be much appreciated.

Bob Bruce, P.Eng., Handyside Web Programming Services.