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American Society of Landscape Architects


March 2008 Issue

Sharing Digital Data
A number of applications allow landscape architects to send and receive large digital files.

By James L. Sipes, ASLA

Sharing Digital Data

It is a common scenario—you are hard at work trying to meet a deadline on a project and you get a call from a client telling you that he or she desperately needs information for a big meeting. And of course the client needs it ASAP, which is supposed to mean As Soon As Possible, but in the design world it seems to mean Right Now! Patience is supposed to be a virtue, but that does not seem to be the case in the design world, especially when it comes to sharing digital information.

When we hit send on an e-mail, we expect it to be zapped across the country in the blink of an eye. This works great for simple messages and text documents, but it is not a viable option for many of the large files that landscape architects produce. CAD, GIS, building information modeling, and raster imagery applications all produce large files, in large part because they use high-resolution aerial images, detailed terrain models, and increased detail in vector-based drawings. Microsoft PowerPoint is still the program of choice for putting together presentations, and files can be massive in size. I have a tendency to create presentations with lots of slides and lots of graphics, so the files often exceed 50 megabytes in size.

How, then, do we share large CAD, GIS, and other files in a way that is fast, simple, secure, and affordable? One option is to burn a CD or load files on a portable drive, then send the files via traditional mail or an overnight delivery service. But no self-respecting design professional would make a client or colleague wait three or four days to receive information by “snail mail.” FedEx is always an option, although it is expensive. Why pay $15 or more to send a CD when you can send the same digital file in a fraction of the time for free?

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