Agile GIS : Need a better way to deploy
With growing interest in Agile GIS development, this might be a good time to suggest how ESRI could make Agile easier. Since the Agile Manifesto demands frequent deliveries of working software, ease of deployment becomes more important. Below is a suggestion to make ArcGIS desktop more Agile by making it more like ArcGIS Explorer.
I really like how ArcGIS Explorer custom tasks can be installed by end users without Admin privs. Details are here. This capability is Agile friendly. With Desktop however, I don’t see an easy way to build installation packages that don’t require Admin privs for installation. Since many sites I work with require someone from the IT department (with Admin privs) to come install software updates, things can really slow down, especially around the holidays.
While it would be possible to write an ArcMap extension that discovers and loads extensions from .NET assemblies in a manner similar to ArcGIS Explorer, loading commandbars is problematic. Last time I checked, accessing IDocument.Commandbars inside of IExtension.Startup crashes arcmap. Extensions really need to all be loaded before commandbars since the commands on the commandbars often expect extensions to be loaded. So while I could have an extension that loads other extensions via Reflection, Activator.CreateInstance, and IExtensionManagerAdmin.AddExtension, I don’t see a way to do this for command bars.
The crux of the problem seems to be exclusive reliance on COM Categories for discovery of customized components. It would be great if ArcMap would also scan special file folders at startup. These folders would be named similar to the COM Categories, e.g. ESRI Mx Commandbars. Arcmap would then use Reflection to instantiate these objects at startup. I guess we might need some metadata telling it which classes I want registered, or maybe it would be OK if there is no metadata just assume that if a class implements IToolBardef, then it should get loaded.
How do we prevent someone from replacing our assemblies with malicious ones? I’m not clear if/how ArcGIS Explorer accomplishes this, but we should probably think about it. I guess strong naming could be used.