Add mapping functionality to Web sites with Image_GIS in PHP

Image_GIS is a PEAR package for PHP that allows you to add digital maps to Web sites using free downloadable GIS files. Learn how to use the Image_GIS package to add mapping functionality to a Web site.

Image_GIS is a PEAR package for PHP that allows developers to add digital maps to their Web sites using free downloadable GIS files, which contain latitude and longitude information about certain geographic areas. In this article I'll demonstrate how to use the Image_GIS package to add mapping functionality to a Web site.

In order to use the Image_GIS package, you have to install the package through PEAR. The Image_GIS package accepts E00 format input via an .e00 file through the addDataFile() method. When you add the file, the information within the file is parsed; parsing involves reading each of the lines in the input file, deciphering the data, and storing the information locally. Once the information is parsed, you can then use the showImage() method to render the data as a PNG image. The data consists of latitude and longitude point-to-point information for drawing lines that create the final image.

The first step to creating this solution is to install the Image_GIS package. Once you've installed Image_GIS and its dependencies, you need to locate a file containing GIS data in ARC/INFO (.e00) format. Fortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site hosts downloads of GIS data in ARC/INFO format. In this solution, I'll be using county boundary data for the state in which I currently reside, Kentucky.

One obstacle is that the format of the data in these files is double-precision data, and the Image_GIS package can only parse single-precision data. The spectacular thing about PHP though is that the source code is located in the package, and in order to accept double-precision data, a slight coding change is necessary. Follow these steps:

  1. Locate the E00.php file underneath the installation directories of the Image_GIS package.
  2. Open this file and find the following regular expression search pattern:
    ([ -][0-9]\.[0-9]{7}E[-+][0-9]{2})
  3. Replace the 7-digit restriction on the search pattern with a 7- to 14-digit restriction, like this:
    ([ -][0-9]\.[0-9]{7,14}E[-+][0-9]{2})

Another problem is that the Image_GIS package expects the point-to-point information to end when the file ends. In the U.S. Census Bureau data, however, this is not the case; the point-to-point information ends when the line-set identifier changes to -1. In the input file, label information follows this particular line. The only things we have to do are search for this pattern within the input file and discontinue parsing when we reach this line:

else if ($numRecords == 0 &&
-9]+)\s+([0-9]+)\s+([0-9]+)#", $line, $a)) {
    if ($this->debug) {
        echo $line . '<br />';

Once we make these changes, we can use the package. The documentation on this package is quite limited, but there is an example at the beginning of the GIS.php file. This example maps out the hometown of one of the Image_GIS package developers. Using this example, I can create my own code to generate the PNG image of Kentucky:

require_once "Image/GIS.php";

$map = new Image_GIS(
                'width'  =>  1200,
                'height' =>  600,
                'debug' => 0

$map->addDataFile('X:\path_to_file\co21_d00.e00',  'black');



The first thing I do is require the Image_GIS package. Then I create an instance of the Image_GIS class with constructor information. In this example, I set the width and height of the resulting image and turn off debugging because debugging simply outputs verbose information as the data is parsed and rendered. Once the instance is created, the data file is added through the addDataFile() method. The lines are rendered in the color specified in the second parameter of the method call. Finally, the showImage() method outputs the image as a PNG image to the response using the underlying PHP imaging's imagepng() method. You can add more than one GIS file and specify different colors to map more regions within the same image.

Once you get a feel for coding this solution, crack open the GIS file and look at the contents of it. You will see that each set represents a series of interconnected lines. Each line of data represents a line on the resulting image in lat/long coordinates. When you understand this file, you can create your own GIS file to add to your image. This can be a useful device if you have an underlying satellite or map image bounded by the lat/long coordinates. You can overlay the map image with the new image created by the Image_GIS package, thus giving you a resultant image showing the locations of your mapped regions.

To view a working example, download the source code.

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