Dimension Explorer in ArcGis 10.3: From Time Cursor to Multidimensional Cursor

With ArcGis we have a powerful tool to visualize the temporal evolution of the layers: the temporal cursor. With the Addin Dimension Explorer 1.1 these possibilities are extended to any dimensional variable. If, for example, you have ocean temperature data by date and depth, with the time cursor you could vary the display according to the different dates. With Dimension Explorer you can vary the display by date, or by depth.

The subject is almost endless, we will dedicate two articles to this topic where we will discuss:

  • the download and installation of Dimension Explorer 1.1
  • the data layers that can be used with Dimension Explorer
  • the Dimension Explorer user guide

Explorer Dimension 1.1 is a tool for temporal and multidimensional data in ArcMap that provides cursor-like controls to make navigation simple and easy across   “dimensions”  of the map layers. It works by building its own three-dimensional models based on the information of the dimensions contained by a layer. Explorer Dimension 1.1 supports the following types of layers:

  • the temporal layers
  • temporal mosaics and image services
  • multidimensional mosaics and image services
  • the temporal and multidimensional NetCDF Raster layers
  • the temporal and multidimensional vector NetCDF layers>

Required configuration:

ArcMap 10.3.1 or later
Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5


The download address is: http://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=ae8a79a0cce445b9bf38c51ac8988bae


  1. If another version of Dimension Explorer is already installed on your system, delete it by using Addins Manager in ArcMap.
  2. Close ArcMap. Also close all application windows for ArcGlobe, ArcScene, or ArcCatalog.
  3. Verify that the .NET Framework 4.5 is installed on your system.
  • Go to Start> Control Panel> Programs and Features (or “Programs> Uninstall a program»)
  • Check the entry ” Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5
    If  “Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 ” is not in the list, search for “.net framework 4.5 ” in the following address   http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/default.aspx

download and install it.

  1. In Windows Explorer, double-click the file “Timeliner2.ArcMapToolbar.esriAddIn”
  2. Click on the button   Install Add-in   “. Once the installation is successful, a message will appear letting you know everything is right.

To add the Dimension Explorer toolbar to ArcMap, click the Customize menu and choose Toolbars> Dimension Explorer . (Note: If the toolbar is not in the list, refer to step 1.)

If an error occurs or if ArcMap crashes when you click a button on the toolbar, try one (or both) of the following solutions:

  1. Uninstall Dimension Explorer using Addin Manager in ArcMap.
    2. Restart the computer.
    3. Reinstall Dimension Explorer.
    1. Uninstall Dimension Explorer by using Addin Manager in ArcMap
    2. Download and reinstall .NET 4.5, or   repair the existing .NET 4.5 installation using the Windows program manager.
    3. Reinstall Dimension Explorer.

Data layers exploitable with Dimension Explorer

If you do not have at your disposal multidimensional data, you can download NOAA data that provides climate data in NetCDF format .

For the rest of the articles we will use a NetCDF file downloaded from this site with the average ocean salinity data by level and by month for the year 2014. You can download it by clicking here . Be careful, it’s still 144 MB.

If you want to download another year, or if you prefer to download directly from NOAA, the address is: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/db_search/DBListFiles.pl? did = 98 & tid = 48995 & vid = 1914

Let’s take a look at the different types of data that can be used with Dimension Explorer.

Firstly, the simplest, temporal data. Subsequent to several ArcGIS Desktop versions, users can use the temporal attributes of a layer to create cartographic animations. Users can use the time dimension for each layer (vector or raster) from the moment it has at least one attribute describing a chronological marker (date, time, month, and year, period …). Activating temporal data on a layer makes it possible to apply the time dimension to all the data on the map. To enable the temporal dimension on a layer:

In the properties of the layer you have a tab “Time” to define the field (or fields) containing the temporal information. Then you will define the default time interval and the time range of the layer.

In addition to temporal data,   Dimension Explorer is specifically designed to work on multidimensional data with the Netcdf format.
Network Common Data Form (NetCDF) is a file format that stores multidimensional (variables) scientific data, such as temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction. Each of these variables can be displayed using a dimension (such as time) in ArcGIS by creating a layer or table view from the netCDF file.
The first source of information about netCDF data is the Unidata community.
To learn more about netCDF
Several organizations and groups of scientists from different countries have adopted netCDF as a standard method for representing certain scientific data.
To learn more about the locations where netCDF is used

The basis for using netCDF data in ArcGis is the “Multidimensional tools” toolbox


This box is the interface between ArcMap and the netCDF file. Without importing (changing the format) the netCDF file, the various tools allow you to create a virtual layer (raster or vector) and load it into ArcMap. You work on these layers as on any real layer.

You can add most data sets to ArcMap using the Create NetCDF raster layer geoprocessing tool

If you get the error “One or two dimensions have variable spacing in their coordinates”, use the geoprocessing tool Create a NetCDF feature layer.

If the data sets are stored as multiple files representing the data at different times, use the mosaic data set to temporally aggregate the files using the “NetCDF Raster Type”.


Start with Dimension Explorer>

To add the Dimension Explorer toolbar in ArcMap, you clicked on the Customize menu and chose Toolbars> Dimension Explorer.

Click both buttons on the toolbar.
The right button opens the Navigation window. This window is initially empty. It contains cursors for navigation, enabled when a dimensional model is active.
The left button opens the Settings window. This window contains tools and settings for creating, editing, and managing three-dimensional models.

Start by adding a layer of data.

If you have a temporal data layer, add it to ArcMap and remember to enable time management in properties-> time.

For our example, we will use the NOAA netCDF file:

Run the Toolbox tool Create a NetCDF Raster Layer

Simply point netcdf file to fill the Income NetCDF File field.

Leave the default settings and click OK.

The salt_layer layer is loaded in ArcMap.

In the Settings window, click on “New”   to open the panel.
Select the layer from the list “Select Layer”. The list contains the layers of the active data block, which are supported by Dimension Explorer. It is refreshed when a data layer is activated. You can also force the refresh manually by clicking on the button “actualize”  on the right side of the list.

The button “Model Build “  becomes active after a layer is selected from the list. This button starts a scan of the selected layer to find its dimensional information. Dimension Explorer uses this information to build an interactive dimension model for the selected layer.

The “spatial filter” options  determine the spatial extent of the data included in a dimensional model.

After selecting a map layer, click the Create Template button to begin processing the layer dimension information. When this process is complete, a cursor appears in the navigation window for each dimension of the selected layer map.

WARNING! The dimension Time is not a dimension like the others. In order for it to be taken into account by the template creation sweep, you have to activate the time management (layer properties-> time-> activate time management). If you do not do this, only the other dimensions (in this example the depth) will be taken into account for the model.

The screenshot below shows the navigation sliders for our two-dimensional multidimensional layer, “time” and” level”.

To navigate through the dimensions, drag and release a slider near the value of the desired dimension. When you release the mouse button, the cursor will be aligned with the value of the nearest line and the map will be updated to display the data for that value. You can also navigate by clicking on the left and right buttons on the cursors or by clicking on the right and left arrows when the cursor is the active control.

In the next article we will discuss the other parameter panels of Dimension Explorer 1.1.



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