GIS-like power with the ease-of-use of a word processor.
It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve made some great progress. Here’s some of the UI features we’ve built to make this possible
The core of the TrueNorth UI system is the “dockable” window manager. The philosophy is this: as a developer we can’t predict how many monitors you’re going to have, how many maps you’ll want to have open, or what kind of plug-ins you’re going to be running. In order to support these unpredictable needs, we decided to enable the software to open as many views onto as many maps as you want, and to move them onto any screen. The windows can be “docked,” or snapped together in different formats as required. The software will remember the layout, and attempt to re-created it the next time you run it.
This means if you want to look at your data overlaid on an OpenStreetMap base map in one window, while viewing the same data on a contour map, you can do it.
The UI doesn’t just stop at maps. A modern mapping system may need to display all sorts of data, from free form text, photos, or fields from a database, to the satellite coverage, magnetic declination, or the sunrise/sunset times for a position. Any map, layer or utility plugin can create a new window to display information, and that window behaves just like the rest of the UI — it can be docked, put on another monitor, and the system will remember it’s position next time you launch.
The “Ribbon” toolbar is what user interface developers call the approach Microsoft used in their Microsoft Office line of products. There has been much discussion about the pros and cons of this design, but we decided to built it into TrueNorth. Our main reason was our wish to put the tools you need at your fingertips, and not hidden in several layers of menus. The ribbon allows the UI to adapt to what you’re currently doing. If you switch to a layer that exposes a new function, the Ribbon UI will let you know by showing you the tools available. If you’re using a layer that has some event-driven model embedded in it, the Ribbon will change to show you the new event. In it’s simplest mode, the Ribbon will show you what mode you’re in, either dragging the map, or editing an object on it.
Mapping is a very visual activity, and our Ribbon UI attempts to tie into that. However, sometimes you just want to see the map, and we understand that. By using “full screen” mode, the Ribbon UI will vanish into the background and let you concentrate on the data or navigation task at hand.
Finally, the ribbon is very “tablet friendly.” No need to fumble with your fat fingers through a sub-menu when what you need is a tab or a button away.
Drag and Drop
Need to open a file? Drag and drop it onto whatever map you have open. If TrueNorth can read it, it will appear on your map. Want to put an image on the map? Do the same thing: drag and drop, and the image will be placed. Want to read a feed, or web format? Try dragging and dropping, and TrueNorth will read the URL and attempt to consume the data.
Of course you’re free to use the menu to open files if you like doing that.
Multiple Coordinate Systems
We understand that many of you need to work in more than one coordinate system at the same time. For instance, Ground SAR units typically use UTM, but need to interface with rotary and fixed wing aircraft that use geographic coordinates. TrueNorth can display multiple coordinate systems at the same time, and can accept input in multiple variations of any format you choose.