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Home arrow Experts arrow Webmapsolutions arrow A Look At The ArcGIS Flex Solution and How To Build A custom Flex ArcGIS Viewer     

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A Look At The ArcGIS Flex Solution and How To Build A custom Flex ArcGIS Viewer PDF Print E-mail
Experts - Webmapsolutions
Written by Rory Biggadike   
25 April 2011

The Flex API for ArcGIS remains one of the best for developing Web based GIS applications. Read on in this interesting "how to" article to help get you up and running and developing custom web solutions with Esri's Flex API


The API provides the base for building highly customised applications.  ESRI have also made available the Flex 2.2 viewer which provides a quick and easy way to stand up a fully functioning Flex ArcGIS application. It comes with a number of pre-built widgets or tools. Many are provided by the user community.

But sometimes an ArcGIS custom Flex solution is what clients require. A solution which is lightweight and flexible. The ESRI 2.2 Flex viewer in these cases may not be the best solution. Here we provide discussion and code download for a custom Flex ArcGIS viewer.

A demo is available here. The code is available for download here

Flex ArcGIS Solution

The ESRI Flex 2.2 viewer is an excellent solution for clients who require a low cost out of the box Web GIS solution fast. But there are drawback. Developers find the organisation of the viewer somewhat challenging. Adding and extending components can be sometimes quite an effort. Styling the viewer is not easy. It is also usually quite obvious that an application is built on the viewer.

Flex ArcGIS Map Demo

Figure 1 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo

We decided to investigate building a new lightweight custom Flex ArcGIS viewer. Our goals were:

1. To use an Model View Controller (MVC) as the base pattern for the template. This helps organise and gives structure to the application. So programmers find it easier to work with and extend.

2. Decouple the components and thus allow for a modular design. Whereby new components or tools can be added and/or combined with those already existing.

3. Give clients maximum editing and styling flexibility. Thus controlling users access to tools (print, search, layers etc), which layers or endpoints to load, titles, logos and the styling of all components. We planned to allow all these to be changed by clients without the need to recompile the application.

Map Interaction

In a previous blog post, I discuss the principals behind the map interaction of the demo. The goal is to make only one tool available at any one time, and to not litter the screen with pop ups. Thus open pop ups are minimised when another is opened, functionality is temporarily suspended. The minimised pop ups are grouped together to the bottom right of the screen.

Flex ArcGIS Map Demo minimised pop ups

Figure 2 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo – Minimised Pop Ups

Basemaps and Layers

Basemaps and layers are listed, and can be altered, in the layers pop up. As Figure 3 below shows, satellite and map (streets) basemaps are available. The map layers are listed lower down.

Flex ArcGIS Map Demo Layers Pop Up

Figure 3 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo – Layers Pop Up


The header bar is easy to customise by clients. So the text in the header and subheader, logo and colour can be changed via a configuration file. It is also easy to change the header bar to fit specific client requirements.

Flex ArcGIS Map Demo Header

Figure 4 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo – Header

The available tools are listed in the centre of the header bar. Currently available are full extent, layers, print, help and parcel search. We have included the ESRI license file in the application. Both the print and parcel search tools are modified versions from those in the existing ESRI template.


Not only does this tool print in portrait and landscape orientation, it generates a PDF and allows users to preview before printing.

Flex ArcGIS Map Print Tool

Figure 5 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo – Print Tool

Parcel Search

This tool allows users to search for parcels by owner name, address and pin. It also provides a graphical search option; allowing the selection of single or multiple parcels. Selecting a listed search result highlights this parcel. Mouse over the highlighted area and a pop up provides more parcel information.

Flex ArcGIS Map Parcel Search Tool

Figure 5 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo – Parcel Search Tool

Client Editing and Styling

We are using two files to style and configure the application. The first, shown in Figure 11 below, is a style sheet.

Flex ArcGIS Map Style

Figure 10 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo Style

The second, shown in Figure 12 below, is config.xml.

Flex ArcGIS Map Config

Figure 11 – Flex ArcGIS Map Demo Config

Both are easily edited by clients, and allow the application to be customised to clients satisfaction.


ESRI have provided an excellent Flex API for ArcGIS. Clients often require their ArcGIS Flex applications to be built quickly, and cheaply. They also want to be able to easily customise and extend the application. The ESRI Flex template, though providing some excellent tools, is sometimes hard to work with for developers, and not easy to customise. The template described above overcomes some of current weaknesses of the ESRI Flex template. It will appeal to clients who:

  1. Would like to quickly and cheaply stand up a Flex ArcGIS Web application
  2. Want to easily configure and style the application
  3. Intend to add custom tools to a solid Flex ArcGIS Web application base
  4. Are looking to upgrade from an existing ArcIMS base application
  5. Find their current Web GIS application performing slowly

We think this application provides a robust, extremely flexible base for Flex ArcGIS development. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it for more more information.

Related Resources

See more at http://www.webmapsolutions.com 

Rory Biggadike is a Geospatial Developer with WebMapSolutions.com

Last Updated ( 25 April 2011 )
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