Atlas Developer Guide


This document describes how to use Atlas in a Web application. This includes both instructions to build the library from source if so desired, and how to include the compiled JavaScript in the application to create a 3D globe.

The intended audience is developers of new or existing applications that are implementing (or considering implementing) Atlas in their project. It is also instructive to developers of the core library of Atlas or any of its implementations who will likely need to build Atlas from source.


Atlas is a JavaScript library that provides a high-level API for 3D geospatial rendering. The Atlas API makes it easy to incorporate modern rendering technologies in Web applications, supporting the next generation of GIS tools.

When integrated within a “host” application, Atlas behaves like a component: it is completely self-sufficient and will run by itself once started. The host application communicates with Atlas in simple JavaScript by publishing and subscribing to events.

Importantly, the Atlas API is independent of any specific rendering library. This means it can be implemented with adapters for different libraries, and the application can switch between rendering technologies in real time.

For its initial release, Atlas was implemented for Cesium in the Atlas-Cesium library. For more information on how to implement adapters for other rendering libraries, see Implementing Atlas.

Project Layout

The Atlas project contains a variety of different configuration files and directories to support the associated tools.

Directory Description
/assets Assets available for testing the rendering.
/build Intermediate files created during the build process.
/coverage Reports on test coverage.
/dist Final output of the build process.
/docs The source Markdown files for this documentation.
/jsdocs Code documentation compiled with JSDoc.
/lib Downloaded Bower dependencies.
/node_modules Downloaded npm dependencies.
/resources Static assets used by Atlas, particularly images and styles.
/src The source code of the Atlas library.
/test Unit and integration tests of the Atlas library.


Atlas uses Grunt to automate the build process, and Grunt requires the Node package manager (npm).If you have Grunt installed, then from the root Atlas directory you can simply run:

npm install
grunt install
grunt build

The output of the build will be placed in the dist directory. Intermediate files will be in the build directory.

What does the build do?

Building Atlas performs the following tasks:

  1. Compiles all of the JavaScript modules and dependencies into a single file.
  2. Minifies the resulting JavaScript file using r.js.
  3. Compiles all of the Less styles into a single CSS file.
  4. Copies the compiled code and resources to the dist directory.

Building JSDocs

JavaScript documentation can be compiled using JSDoc by running:

grunt doc

The output of the JSDoc build will be placed in the jsdoc directory.