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What is new in GISsurfer v 2.0

If you are new to GISsurfer, please take a few minutes to look over the information on the homepage. That information will answer many questions. (you will be redirected).

1. Surf GIS data

Anyone can now view data that is hosted on GIS (Geographical Information System) servers almost as easily as you surf the internet. No GIS savvy required! Works fine in most browsers from phones to desktops. If you know of any other software the provides a similar feature, I would enjoy hearing about it.

This feature lets you split your screen. The left side can display the table of contents from *any* public-facing (i.e. no login required) ArcGIS server. The right side displays the map. Drill down through the server’s table of contents, then click on a data layer that has a checkbox and that data appears on the map.

Here is a jpg showing a screenshot with the surfing sidebar open on the left side of the screen.

To use this feature, click the basemap button (next to the ‘Menu’ button) and look under the ‘Overlay’ heading where the following two new selections have been added. Mobile users might need to scroll down.

Add GIS overlays
A dialog screen will open that lets you:
* Enter the address for an ArcGIS server and then open the sidebar
* Open the prior sidebar you visited during this GISsurfer session
* Test the address of an ArcGIS server
* Get help

Manage GIS overlays
A dialog screen will open that lets you:
* Display a list of all the GIS overlays that the map can display, click one of them and the related sidebar will be displayed.
* Display a list just of the overlays that you added to the map via the sidebar during your current GISsurfer session and delete any of those overlays from the map.
* Get help

For more tips about surfing GIS data with GISsurfer, including using the sidebar, please see the GISsurfer homepage. Click the green 'Menu' button and select 'Help'. Near the top of the 'Help' page is a link to a PDF file with the complete documentation for viewing GIS data.

Of course this GIS surfing feature would be pointless unless you know the internet address of some GIS servers that might have data you would like to see on a map. Here is a list I curate with 3,500+ addresses for USA-based government ArcGIS servers. These servers range from the federal level down to the local level. All links are scanned by my code once per week and any bad links are fixed or flagged.

2. Sidebar parameter

If you want to have the sidebar automatically open when GISsurfer starts, then include the sidebar parameter in the GISsurfer link. Do it like so:
Replace the underline with the https:// or http:// link to an ArcGIS server.

3. Interface parameter

This parameter is for people that are using a laptop or desktop computer that has a touch screen. To tell GISsurfer to display a touch-friendly interface, include the following in your GISsurfer map link:

4. Mylocation parameter

If you start GISsurfer with the geolocation feature turned on, then the map will automatically center at your location. There is now a way to turn off that automatic centering. To use this new feature, include the mylocation parameter in your GISsurfer map link as follows:

5. State legislature districts

GISsurfer has two built-in overlays that can display state legislature districts for all of the states. Those district lines are now much more visible. Except for North Carolina, these are the current districts. Below are two GISsurfer links that display the current state legislature districts for North Carolina.

North Carolina State House,-79.947510&zoom=7&basemap=USA_basemap&overlay=NC_House_2019&inline=overlay^name=NC_House_2019^url=^layers=0

North Carolina State Senate,-79.947510&zoom=7&basemap=USA_basemap&overlay=NC_House_2019&inline=overlay^name=NC_House_2019^url=^layers=0

6. Bug fixes

UTM grid lines now display correctly

7. Known issues

a. iPhone
Depending on your iPhone model and iOS version, the map might not fill the entire screen. It might help to rotate your phone between portrait and landscape orientation.

b. Sidebar
If sidebar is open and you click the map to display attribute data from the ‘top’ GIS overlay, then you might need to click the map twice. Sometimes the first click is ignored. This only happens when the sidebar is displayed.

c. Rightclick
If you rightclick the map the display that appears is ‘underneath’ the information that appears in the corners of the map. Seems like this should be easy to fix but so far a solution has proven to be elusive. For now the solution is to drag the map a bit if any of the rightclick information you want to see is covered up. If you are using a cell phone you will likely need to rotate to landscape orientation in order to drag the map.

d. Dragging across international date line If the map is displaying GIS data and you drag the map across the international date line, then the GIS data will stop displaying at the international date line.

e. *** Fixed *** Added 3-4-2020. There is a problem that appears when you add a FeatureServer layer to the map and then toggle that layer on/off. The stacking number will be correct on the list of overlays, but visually the FeatureServer layer will not be stacked in the correct order with respect to the other overlay layers that are 'on. This is my #1 priority for fixing.

What is new in GISsurfer v 1.8

1. Canada basemap

The basemaps now include the Canada vector topographic maps.

What is new in GISsurfer v 1.7

1. Grid lines and labels

If you change the coordinate format to USNG (U.S. National Grid), MGRS (Military Grid Reference System) or UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator), then you will now see grid lines and labels on the screen.

To change the coordinate format, click Menu ==> UTM - USNG/MGRS - LatLng.

Tip: USNG and MGRS are the same except USNG in written with spaces so it is easier to read.

For a compelling description of the importance of USNG coordinates, see and under the 'Contents' heading click 'Commentary: Why the U.S. National Grid is important.'

For more information about USNG coordinates and links to resources, see and

Q: Can GIS surfer print maps to scale?
A: No. Even if this feature is added, it is likely at least a year in the future. You can print through most browsers but those maps are not to scale.

2. Political districts

Permanent built-in overlays have been added to show congressional districts and state legislature districts. This data is hosted a GIS (Geographical Information System) server operated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

If you click a district then you will see a display with all the attribute data the GIS server has for the district you clicked. You will also see a green button that says 'Make Google map'. If you click that button and follow the step-by-step instructions, then you can make a regular Google map that displays the boundary for the district you clicked.