GeoPrime... BrownDog... Why more than one GIS mapping app? Which one should I use? Does one have more current data than the other?

Common questions I get lately, along with short answer plus a bit more explanation for those who really want to know more detail:
  • Why does Brown County offer more than one GIS mapping app? 
  • Are the map layers the same?  Is the data current on each?
  • GeoPrime ... BrownDog... Which one should I use? 
The short answer is:  Technology continues to evolve and we are doing the best we can to keep up without causing interruption to service.

Both GeoPrime and BrownDog use the same data source, so parcels and other information are up-to-date on each and in sync. 

However, we will have to retire GeoPrime (probably in 2018) because it is based on technology that is going away. Also in 2018, the Property Search page will be replaced with a new web portal for searching land records.  The new property search site will not link to GeoPrime for the GIS mapping.

If you want a more in-depth answer on the evolution of our online mapping sites, here is a brief history that might help explain:
  • In about 2001 or 2002, Brown County launched it's first online GIS mapping site. I don't think it had a name other than the generic "GIS mapping site"; All I can tell you is that was very clunky. But, it was better than nothing.
  • In 2008-09, "Adobe Flash" was all the rage when it came to internet graphics & web sites.  Around this time, we launched GeoPrime based on Flash technology to replace the old' site. The Flash software made our maps nice looking and made for smoother interaction. GeoPrime has been our flagship online mapping site for almost 10 years now.
  • Also around this time (2008-09), Apple released the iPhone and soon after iPads etc. The smart phones & tablets quickly became ubiquitous.  However, the Flash technology does not work well (or at all) on these devices.  A lot of our users began to complain that GeoPrime does not work for them. There have been security problems and other issues with Flash that have prevented many users from using GeoPrime at all.  Adobe has announced they will be killing Flash and discontinuing support for it.  Following suit, the company we purchased GeoPrime from also notified us that they are no longer supporting GeoPrime.  GeoPrime is not the future.
  • In response, Esri (our primary GIS software vendor) released "ArcGIS Online" several years ago. ArcGIS Online allows us to publish GIS maps and apps in a new way using modern, open internet technology.   It is on this platform we launched BrownDog and other online mapping apps that are designed to work within any browser or on any device including smart phones & tablets.
We have been putting time into building up the BrownDog to meet--and exceed--the capabilities offered in GeoPrime.  The BrownDog isn't quite there yet, but as of Dec 2017 we are getting close.  For example, just this week a new mailing label generator was developed since this capability began failing on GeoPrime.

We rely on our software vendor (Esri) to provide us with the tools and widgets, and they continue to release new and enhanced capabilities. From time to time I receive comments about the design, or questions like "can you change it to ....".  For this I rely mostly on the programmers and software design provided by Esri.

P.S.  Why is the site called "BrownDog"?
  • Long ago, our internal GIS had a custom button that helped our users do common GIS tasks more quickly.  To make this button stand out among the other ones, I gave it a unique icon that was in the form of a little brown dog.   Folks here in the office started to refer to it as "the dog".
  • When it was clear that GeoPrime needed replacement, we wanted to give it a name that was catchy and referenced Brown County somehow.  However, there isn't much we could do with "Brown".   "Brown Map" ...nope.  After kicking around other bad ideas and boring acronyms, we just decided to put our friendly puppy online.  We love our dogs, and of course I think my brown-ish dog, Sunny, is the best dog ever :)
One of the goals of this blog is to create a "user guide" to the BrownDog. Click the label "BrownDog" on this blog for articles about it. You might also be interested in some of the other news & information provided here.


Aerial photo update

The contractor was able to collect aerial imagery for parts of the county on Friday 4/7/17.  However, the airplane had engine difficulties and the mission had to be cut short.  The rest of the county will be flown at the next good weather opportunity.


New aerial photography

A spring 2017 flight is being planned for Brown County.  This flight will occur as soon as snow and ice are gone, as weather conditions allow.  We are looking to fly before significant leaf on. 

These photos will be made into digital orthophotography which will become a map layer on our GIS sites, including the BrownDog site.    It is anticipated these photos will be online by this fall.
This year's flight is made possible through contributions by Brown County Municipalities, Wisconsin Public Service, and various county departments.  It is great that we all came together as a community to make this flight happen!

How to use the "swipe" tool to compare aerial photos or other layers

A lot of people use our GIS mapping to look for land use changes through time. The BrownDog interactive GIS map has a handy tool for this called the "Swipe" tool.

Follow the steps on the illustration below to learn how to use the 'swipe' tool. This example shows you how to compare the May 2014 aerial image to the Summer 1960 photo, but of course, you could choose to compare any of our aerial images.

How to measure using the BrownDog online GIS map

The BrownDog interactive GIS map has tools for measuring approximate lengths, acreages, and map coordinates.    Please contact a land surveyor if you need exact property measurements. Read carefully the initial popup message when you first open the online map: The GIS mapping is compiled from various sources believed to be reliable, but it is a general representation only and should not be used for legal or property determination purposes).

How to obtain measurements using the BrownDog interactive GIS map:

1)  Use existing mapped features such as text, lines, and polygons on the parcel map:
  • After zooming to a parcel of interest, you'll see the parcel dimensions as text on most of the parcel boundary lines.  The map text reflects the recorded document we have on file at the county (plat, CSM, deed, etc). 
    • Abbreviations used:
      •  M/L or +/-   =  More or Less
      • to S/L  =  To Section Line or other Government Line
      • C/L  =  To Centerline
      • '  =  Feet
      •  RODS or RDS:   Unit of measure, 1 Rod = 16.5 feet.
      • CH:  Chain (unit of measure).  1 chain = 66 feet
      • WLY = "Westerly"  NLY = "Northerly"   ELY = "Easterly" SLY = "Southerly".
      • ROW or R/W = "Right of Way" sometimes noted in measurements.
      • PCL = Parcel
      • ALG = Along
    • If you want to darken the parcel text:  In the Layer List, click the three dots ( .... ) to the right of the layer named Parcels.  This will bring up an option to set Transparency.  Drag the slider bar to the left to make the parcel text darker (opaque).
  • Most parcels also show acreage or square footage as text display with a fuchsia color. The area measurements are taken from the recorded plat, CSM, or deed associated with the parcel.
    • Abbreviations used:
      • SF = Square Feet
      • AC = Acres
  • Click on the parcel boundary to "select" (highlight in blue) the line of interest and view a popup box showing the approximate length of the line you clicked on. 
  • Click the interior of a parcel to "select" (highlight in blue) the entire parcel and view a popup box that will display, among other things, the size of the parcel.  
    • The size is based on the tax listing roll and may or may not include road right of way
2)  Draw a new shape to make a measurement using the BrownDog "Measure" tools.  Here's how:
  • Click the Measurement button (the upper left button with a ruler shape on it), then click one of the three buttons to set a measurement type (area, distance or location), then click on the map to draw your shape.  For lines & areas, a "single click" with your left mouse button will create an angle point (vertex), and a "double click" will finalize the shape and then show the measurement of it.  You can change the unit of measure (acres, feet, miles, meters, etc)  with the drop-down list that will appear on the measurement screen.   Again, keep in mind that this is not a very precise method and you should call a surveyor if you need more than just an estimated measurement.
  • BrownDog also has a "Draw & Measure" tool on the upper right (also shaped like a ruler).  This tool is useful if you want to create a map PDF or printout which includes your drawing & measurement.   Click this button, then select a draw mode (point marker, line, area, etc).  To see the size of the shape you drew, check on the "Show Measurements" option near the bottom of the Draw & Measure toolbox. Also, choose units of measure. Then start drawing your shape on the map.  This will put text on the map next to your shape.  For Area, the text will include the area measurement as well as the perimeter.  Experiment with drawing the various shape options (each type requires you operate your mouse in a slightly different way). 


BrownDog search pointers

The new BrownDog interactive GIS map will quickly fetch information for you. A few pointers on how to use the search tools to retrieve a property or map of interest to you (woof!)

Simple Search (address or parcel ID number)
Most people have an address in mind when searching our records.  Others may have a parcel ID number.  The simple search lets you enter an address or parcel ID number in the search box on the upper left.  Then simply click "enter" on your keyboard to zoom to your location of interest.

Advanced Search
Click on the Advanced Search button directly underneath the simple search input box (scroll to the bottom of this article to see the screen shot if you can't find it).  After pressing this button, the following list of search options appear.  Most contain a search entry box or pick list, after entering your search text click the green "Execute" button to perform the search.  Many of the advanced search results will appear as a new layer in your layer list, which may be helpful for the map you are creating.  Also, you may need to use the tabs and/or back arrow that will appear near the top of the advanced search box to switch between search results and input screens.
  • Parcel ID search:  Similiar do the Parcel ID search on the simple search box, except with advanced search you can scroll through a list of similar parcel ID numbers and then click to zoom to each.
  • Land Owner search:  Before you begin with this type of search: Our privacy policy requires you first register on this page (click here)  to request a login and password via email.  Once you have received your login & password, you can search by land owner name (you'll be prompted to enter the user name & password when you use this tool).   Enter the land owner's last name (or business name). You are not required to enter the land owner's first name, but this option is available to help you narrow down your search if needed.  Another way to narrow down your search geographically is to use a "spatial filter", where you can zoom to a specific area first, then set the spatial filter to "only return features within the current map extent" to bring up land owners only within your zoom extent.  The default spatial filter setting will return land owners within the entire county.   
  • Address / common name search:  Search business names or other landmarks. Initial results are a subset from which you can choose the final location to zoom to. For example, a Common Name search on McDonalds will list all of these restaurants along with the address & city; From this list click on which McDonalds you want to zoom to it on the map.
  • Street search:  Enter a street name or pick the drop-down list to get a list of all streets in & near Brown County (by municipality). Clicking in the results list will highlight the street you chose and zoom to it on the map.
  • Subdivision / CSM search:  Enter a subdivision name (partial name is OK) then press the green Execute button.  If searching for a CSM (Certified Survey Map) number or Register of Deeds Document Number, you may enter and click "Execute". 
  • PLSS search:  The best way to use this search option is to click the drop-down box to get a list of all Town, Range, and Section number combinations available in Brown County, then click "Execute" to zoom to the section you chose.  You can also start typing and then choose from the options that appear.  This works for Town/Range/Section PLSS (Public Land Survey System) types as well as Brown County's Private Claims, Williams Grant, Fort Howard Military Reserve lots, etc.  The search result will highlight in red and appear in your layer list as a PLSS search result. 
  • Park search:  Type a park name or click the drop-down box to choose from a list of all parks in Brown County.  The results will zoom you to the park address and list the amenities available within the park (whether it has a shelter, playground, sports facilities, and more).
  • School search: Enter a school name or pick from the list then click the green execute button to zoom to the school property. 
  • POWTS search:  Enter the county zoning internal number for the POWTS (Private Onsite Waste Treatment System).  Note:  This type of search is intended for plumbers/installers and others who use this internal number.  If you simply want to look at what system is available on a particular property, use the address search, or another method to find & zoom to the property of interest.  Then simply turn on the POWTS layer in the layer list. This will show the POWTS system on the property.  Click on the system symbol to bring up the type of system and other information about it. 
The above summarizes the types of searches available at the time of this writing (3/3/2017). Other searches may be added in the future, and the above searches may be improved.   
How the search tools first appear on the BrownDog interactive GIS mapping app

Of course, with GIS, there is a different way to find information about a location even if you don't know an address or any of the other search options above:  You can always use the map navigation tools to zoom to an area of interest & then just click on on the map to call up the various popup boxes.  In other words, just zoom in, then poke at the map to call up information.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact the Brown County Land Information Office at (920) 448-6295 or send a message.

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