COINAtlantic Search Utility

The COINAtlantic Search Utility (CSU) is a free online utility that allows users to access geospatial information (Web Map Services (WMS) and Keyhole Markup Language (KML)) that meets user’s search criteria, lists the results in the form of data layers, and displays chosen layers on an interactive map. Layers can be organized and added by the user to create informative maps quickly and easily.

The CSU displays relevant geospatial information layers to the user based on their search terms and an internet search. New users can be introduced to the tool without in-depth training or any specialization. Geographic information meeting the user’s search criteria can be brought to a user’s screen in a few easy-to-learn steps. Data layers can be turned on or off to suit the users desired criteria. The user can share their work by saving it as a map image (PNG, GeoTiff - suitable for use as an image in a GIS, or Geospatial PDF) or it can be uploaded to the CSU online map gallery. The user can also add web mapping service (WMS) map layers that they know about but are not found by the internet search.

What is a WMS/KML?

  • A Web Map Service (WMS) is a standard protocol for serving (over the Internet) georeferenced map images which a map server generates using data from a GIS database.
  • Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is a file format used to display geographic data in an internet mapping tool such as Google Earth, or our COINAtlantic tools.

Figure1: Map from the Sydney Harbour Custom CSU at: 

How is the COINAtlantic Search Utility ‘Open Source’?

The CSU is based on Open Source software, and leverages Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) interoperable standards to access remotely shared geospatial information. The tool uses WMS and KML responding to users who desire reliable services that properly describe all of their spatial layers through standard metadata and that can then work in any GIS software. Other related standards for accessing data such as Web Feature Service (WFS) and Catalog Service for the Web (CSW), and GeoJSON (Geographic JavaScript Object Notation) will be examined for use in future versions.

The CSU interface is based on the JavaScript frameworks GeoExt ( and OpenLayers ( Communication between the client and the server is done through the PHP scripting language ( Metadata pointing to remote layers is stored in a PostgreSQL database ( Exporting map images through various formats is done through the popular Web mapping engine MapServer ( (see Figure 2).

CSU Architecture

Figure 2: COINAtlantic Search Utility architecture. Only metadata pointing to external remote data is stored locally in a database. No local data is used in the application.

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to comment or ask questions about the CSU.

Learn more about the COINAtlantic Philosophy underpinning the CSU.

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