Maptitude carves out middle ground

Not every map application requires the detailed and powerful map-creation tools found in the likes of ESRI's ArcGIS, and not every Web-based map application needs the diagnostic and adjustable load-balancing capabilities of MapInfo Corp.'s MapXtreme or ESRI's ArcIMS.

However, when we last looked at Caliper Corp.'s Maptitude, we found Version 4.0 to be the easiest-to-use desktop mapping program available. Although it didn't offer the higher-end capabilities of MapInfo Professional or ESRI's ArcView, Maptitude's map-querying and reporting tools are both powerful and accessible.

The new Maptitude Version 4.5 offers somewhat enhanced map-creation tools and broader file format support. What's more, the new Web publishing tools offered in Maptitude for the Web 4.5 are surprisingly easy to use.

With any map loaded in Maptitude, you can simply click on Application/New to begin working with the "Mapplication" wizard. Using the dialog box that pops up, you can select among the six predefined templates that enable various types of map queries: point, area, line, multilayer queries, themes and locator operations.

Once you've selected a template, Maptitude will create the application. You can then fine-tune the Web application configuration, specifying when pages expire and what data fields will be available and indicating whether users can toggle layers off and on.

That's all there is to it. Bear in mind, however, that if you want to combine the functionality offered in the six templates or provide any other capabilities, you'll have to edit the Visual Basic Script, JavaScript, HTML and XML code directly. Alternatively, you can link existing Web applications to provide additional functionality to users. And Caliper officials say they will add Mapplication templates for download from the company's Web site.

Maptitude for the Web does not include the kind of Web diagnostic tools found in MapXtreme and ArcIMS, but it does allow you to specify additional servers for any Mapplication, with load balancing performed automatically.

No, Maptitude is not backed by an extensive network of consultants, nor does it offer an array of add-on modules to bring new capabilities, such as 3-D analysis, to the basic package. And those wanting to develop custom applications will have to employ Caliper's proprietary scripting language — GISDK — which is now bundled with the program at no extra charge.

But if you're looking for a program that offers powerful and easy-to-use tools for querying and reporting, Maptitude is an extremely attractive value. And while the program's Web publishing solution doesn't offer diagnostic tools and the like, it makes it a snap to move basic interactive maps to the Web.

REPORT CARD

Maptitude for the Web 4.5

Caliper Corp.
(617) 527-4700
www.caliper.com

A developer's license for Web applications or Mapplications costs $995. To publish Web applications on a server, you'll need a server runtime license, which costs $2,995.

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