Example: Formatting Tricks

The visualization capabilities of Manifold using the Style panel can be exploited to provide many visual effects.  This topic provides some examples of how to use Style in unexpected ways to create a range of more elaborate effects.   By presenting miscellaneous techniques we can stimulate creativity in using Style.


The key idea for most of these tricks is to make duplicates of data so that multiple versions of the same data can be stacked as layers in a map with each drawing formatted differently and, if necessary, offset using the Shift template in the Transform panel.   tech_tina_sm.png


Important: While there are effects that can be achieved by using multiple drawings based on the same table with each drawing formatted differently, when we use Shift we must make sure to copy both the table and the drawing so that what is shifted is a different data set from the original.


The examples below assume we are familiar with using the Style panel to change formatting in drawings.

Using Shift to Create a Drop Shadow

We will create a drop shadow effect to give the appearance of three dimensionality to areas seen in a map.    This is a limited effect as it tends to look best in only a limited range of zoom levels, but for that limited purpose it looks very good.


We begin with a drawing called Regions of the regions of France shown as areas, seen in a map below.   We have used the Layers panel to set the background color to a calm beige.



In the Project pane we ctrl-click on the Regions drawing and we ctrl-click as well on the Regions Table 2 used by the drawing to highlight both components.  



We then press Ctrl-C to copy both.



We press Ctrl-V to paste and two new components, copies of the ones we copied, appear in the Project pane named Regions 2 and Regions Table 2.  The properties for the Regions 2 drawing have been automatically adjusted so it uses the Regions Table 2 table.




We drop the new Regions 2 drawing into the map.   Since it is an exact copy, including formatting, of the Regions drawing there is no visual change in the map.  With the Regions 2 the active layer, in the Contents pane we choose the Style panel.





We use the Style panel to change the color and fill color for areas to black.




The Regions 2 layer now appears as a completely black display.   It exactly covers the Regions drawing underneath.



We drag the Regions 2 layer tab to the right, so the Regions 2 layer is rendered below the Regions layer.   The Regions 2 drawing is a copy of the data in the Regions drawing so the two line up perfectly and the Regions 2 drawing cannot be seen since it is under the Regions drawing layer.


We click the Regions 2 layer tab to ensure the Regions 2 drawing is the active drawing.  In the Contents pane we choose the Transform panel.





We choose the Shift template and use Shift X and Shift Y values of 10000 and -10000 respectively.   This moves the Regions 2 drawing down and to the right relative to the Regions drawing by the specified amount.




Manifold immediately shows a preview using blue preview color to show how the Regions 2 objects will be shifted.   How do we know the right amount to use?   We can experiment and see what the preview looks like in the map.  We press Update Field.



The map updates and we see that the lower drawing, the all-black Regions 2 drawing, has been shifted to the right and down, thus providing a 3D-like effect of a drop shadow or solid edge, as if the areas were cut out of some material with thickness.


We can see how the technique works by zooming far into the upper edge of the areas.   The lower, black layer has been shifted relative to the upper layer.   The effect breaks down when the display is zoomed too far into the scene but it works remarkably well to generate screen shots that can later be utilized in graphics editors.


We can also extend this technique by using additional layers.



In the illustration above, zoomed in slightly to show the effect better in a small illustration, we have made two more copies of the Regions drawing and in both we have deleted all areas but the area for the Centre region.  The lower Centre 2 drawing has been formatted with black fill color and gray outline color.   The upper Centre drawing has been formatted a light green and then Shifted upwards by 10000 Y units and to the left by -10000 X units.  The result emphasizes the Centre region as if it has popped out from the other regions.

Stacking Styles to Create Custom Symbology

When we do not need to use Shift we can simply make copies of drawings to have multiple drawings that use the same table.  Each drawing can be formatted differently, as shown in the Example: Style Properties in the mfd_meta Table topic.   See also the Example: Style Panel Quickstart topic.


We first create a custom point symbol by stacking two copies of the same drawing but formatted with different point styles.


The Some Cities drawing has points formatted as large, round, all-black symbols.


The Some Cities 2 drawing has points formatted as smaller white squares.


When both layers are seen together the result is a symbol for points that appears to be a square within a larger black circle.


We can do the same effect by stacking drawings with lines.



The Some Lines 2 drawing has lines formatted as thick, solid all-white lines.




The Some Lines  drawing has lines formatted as thinner, dotted white and gray lines.


When both layers are seen together the result is a custom appearance for a line that looks like a white roadway with a dotted center line.


By combining thicknesses, colors, line styles and two or even more layers we can create a wide range of visual effects for lines.


The above example uses a lower layer with all-black thicker lines and an upper layer with all-green thinner lines.

Offsetting Labels

The display will be more legible if labels are offset from points so they do not cover or are not covered by the points.  With a bit of tinkering that is easy to accomplish.   We first make a copy of both the points drawing we will use and also the table for that points drawing.


In the above illustration we have copied the Some Cities drawing along with the Some Cities Table that it uses.  We then renamed the newly copied drawing Cities Labels, formatted the points so they are big circles with transparent Color, background value and then using the Shift technique from the first example in this topic we shifted those points upwards to the distance seen in the illustration.   


When we create labels using the Cities Labels drawing those labels will be centered on the big transparent circles and not on the original points.  When we copied and pasted the Some Cities drawing along with the Some Cities Table that drawing uses, we also carried along a copy of all the other fields, such as the names of cities, in addition to the geom field that gives the location of the points.  So the names used to create labels correspond perfectly to the points above which they have been offset.


If after creating the labels we remove the Cities Labels layer (or, just double-click its tab to turn it off) we have the display we want, labels for each of the Some Cities points but offset from the points so that the label or the point icons do not obscure each other.

Using Rotation to Create Diamonds and Inverted Triangles

We can use the  Point rotation property in the Style panel to create custom effects for point symbols.



The three illustrations below show the same drawings as the illustration above, but with default formatting altered by using the Style panel and overall background color set using Contents - Layers.



In the above illustration thematic formatting is used to control the Point rotation of the point symbols, with thematic formatting also used to specify the background color of areas.  Contents - Layers was used to set black background color for the drawings.



In the above illustration points are all set to use the same icon and color, with thematic formatting also used to specify the background color of areas.  Contents - Layers was used to set light beige background color for the drawings.  This illustrates how the square icons look without rotation.




In the above illustration when square icons are used for points but with a Point rotation of 45 they appear as diamonds.  Area borders are set to use a dotted line style and the same color is used for all areas.   Contents - Layers was used to set light blue background color for the drawings.



In the above illustration all points use a Point rotation of 180 degrees to flip the default triangle style used for points,



Historical regions - The illustrations in this topic use data from the US government, which show the regions of France as they were before 1 January 2016, when regions in France were reduced from 22 to 13.


Wasteful of Storage? - When copying drawing layers to create visual effects if the drawing is large and involves many objects that can involve copying a large drawing and thus requiring twice the data storage size.   But in many cases drawings used for visual effect are not large, perhaps a few megabytes or a few tens of megabytes in size.   Given the virtually free cost of disk storage space in modern times there is little downside to making and using copies of data if the upside is a much more appealing display.


See also

Getting Started


User Interface Basics




Editing Tables






Style: Drawings


Example: Style Panel Quickstart - A tutorial introduction to using the Style panel in the Contents pane to apply color, symbology, size and rotation to areas, lines and points in drawings.


Example: Format a Drawing using the Style Panel - In this example we provide a first, step by step look at how to format areas in a drawing using the Style panel.  We can specify the same formatting for all areas or use a field to automatically set formatting, a process usually known as thematic formatting.


Example: Format the Size of City Points by Population - A common GIS task is to format the size of points in a drawing based on some value.  For example, the size of points that represent cities might be formatted based on the value of the city's population, with cities that have larger populations being marked by larger point icons.  This is an example of thematic formatting and is easy to do using the Style panel.


Example: Add, Delete and Edit Thematic Formatting Intervals - This topic provides a step by step example of adding, deleting and editing intervals in the Style panel that are used for thematic formatting.


Example: Style Properties in the mfd_meta Table - Style properties for drawings such as colors for areas are stored in human readable JSON values as properties in the mfd_meta system table.   This example shows how we can copy formatting from one drawing to another by simply copying values between records in the mfd_meta table.


Example: How Not to Format a Drawing -  When using Style to format a drawing it is a really bad idea to use the same color for objects that is used for the background color.    It can also be a bad idea to use transparent color.   This topic illustrates why.