The convoluted user interfaces of most desktop GIS software is something I revisit from time to time. James’ most recent issue of his SpatialTau newsletter got me thinking about it again. A while back, I got caught up in a Twitter discussion about it. Tools like geojson.io and TileMill have fantastic interfaces, but they also perform narrow functions (data editing and map composition, respectively).
For a while, I’ve been thinking that this might be an approach worth investigating: rather than one piece of software with everything in it, a suite of tools dedicated to different aspects of the typical GIS workflow. This would not be a panacea as some tasks are just more complex than others. (Think of all of the editing options available in any piece of CAD software, and this is devoid of any analytical tools.) As attractive as this approach seems to me in concept, I suspect it would break down in execution. I think it could end up multiplying the problem with many overly-complex applications instead of just one.
Over the last year or so, I’ve become somewhat enamored of another approach: the search tool. This requires a little back story.