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ArcGIS® and ENVI Interoperability Tips


What does it look like when you combine the raw power of two of the industry’s leading software platforms into one giant super-tool? In my mind, not unlike a cartoon episode where all of the heroes’ respective vehicles combine into one super-huge crime-fighting machine!

For years now, NV5 Geospatial (formerly Exelis VIS) and Esri have been teaming up to build their software platforms in an interoperable manner. The goal of this post is to introduce you to some of the tips for taking advantage of the interoperability between ArcGIS and ENVI.

I like to think of the interoperability story operating on two distinct system types: the desktop and the enterprise. Within each of these systems there are different levels of interoperability that can be leveraged, including the data level, the tools level, and the workflow level.


Data Level

At the data level, both NV5 and Esri have taken steps to ensure that their respective programs can consume and create file formats that are compatible with the other. From the ENVI side, this includes support for Esri Layer files, Grids, ArcGIS File and Personal databases, and ArcGIS Enterprise (SDE). From the Esri side, this includes the ability to incorporate ENVI file types into derived products such as Mosaics, Layers, and Image Services, as well as the ability to read and write ENVI header and image formats. Both platforms also support open source standards such as Open Geospatial Consortium web services. All of these steps help to ensure that the data you are using is compatible within each platform, and that the derived products you develop with them are consumable as well.


Tool Level

On the tool level, ENVI for ArcGIS allows you to run ENVI functionality directly from the ArcGIS interface. These tools are also available for ArcGIS for Server, which means you can run this functionality from custom built interfaces or via the ArcGIS Explorer interface. The outputs from these algorithms are fully consumable by both ArcGIS and ENVI, and can be shared direct from ArcGIS for Server, or shared via ArcGIS Online or the ArcGIS for Mobile App as an image or map service.

ENVI Tools for ArcGIS


Workflow Level

At the workflow level, there are a number of different ways to integrate ENVI and ArcGIS functionality. Both ENVI and ENVI|LiDAR E3De contain an ‘Open Selected Files in ArcMap’ button. This allows for single-click push of derived rasters and shapefiles, as well as extracted LiDAR Features, directly into a new or existing ArcMap session for integration into a derived product or to conduct further analysis.

Open ENVI Files in ArcMap
Open ENVI Files in ArcMap

Layers from ArcGIS can be dragged and dropped into the ENVI interface, and you can even geo-link ArcGIS and ENVI to display the same geographic location and zoom level in both platforms simultaneously. Finally, both ENVI and ArcGIS contain map templates that you can utilize to create consistent products from your data.

Esri’s model builder application is configured to accept ENVI files as input and output, and allows you to integrate ENVI analysis algorithms directly into your models. These can include ENVI tools for ArcGIS or for ArcGIS Server, as well as custom built ENVI algorithms that have been ported over to the Esri environment. When finalized, these models can then be packaged and distributed via ArcGIS for Server for consumption at the enterprise level. ENVI Functionality in Model Builder


Some Tips for ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online is a free online site that allows you to create and share interactive maps. This is a great tool for users who want to share their data and derived products with multiple remote users. Unfortunately ArcGIS Online doesn’t allow you to directly open and share raster datasets within the interface, however this can be easily circumvented by publishing your data as a layer file or publishing it as part of a larger map package. From ENVI, this can be done by using the ‘Open Selected Items in ArcMap’ button, then (depending on your version of ArcGIS) using the ArcGIS Map Service Publisher, the File > Share As > Service workflow, or other ArcGIS process for pushing your data to ArcGIS Online. For more info on publishing image services via ArcGIS Desktop go to www.esri.com.

You can also consume Esri map content in ENVI using custom extensions that can be downloaded for free from the Exelis VIS Code Library. Extensions such as the ENVI 5 – Create Esri Basemap Layer and the ENVI 5 – View Display Area on Map allow you to leverage the ArcGIS API specification to access Esri base layers directly in ENVI. These extensions can also be customized to access ArcGIS Online content.