Autodesk Provides Raster, Vector Mapping for the Web

State and local government agencies looking to use the Internet for sharing maps and map-related data might take a look at Autodesk Inc.'s MapGuide Release 3.0, which hits the market this month. Release 3.0 includes a suite of tools that allow users to build and deploy a raster or vector map-driven World Wide Web site.

"With previous releases, one of the biggest barriers to the state and local market was that the product could not display raster data, and virtually every city, county and state government has access to raster data," said Michael Fitzgibbon, product manager for Autodesk MapGuide.

The new version bundles Microsoft Corp.'s ActiveX components and Allaire Corp.'s Cold Fusion Studio, which is aimed at helping users get applications online easier. The WYSIWYG authoring environment

creates customized map documents, specifies vector and raster data that users want featured, sets map display properties and links to external data sources. "It opens the door for organizations to share data much more efficiently with each other," said Mike McGill, Autodesk's market development manager.

This is the third major release of MapGuide since it was introduced in 1996. Using Version 2.5, Oakland, Calif., created the Virtual Oakland Web site (www.oaklandnet.com) and its Dynamic Map Room, giving citizens online access to full-color maps and current city data. "Our Web site gives you the ability to look for specific lists of parcels that meet your search criteria," said Frank Kliewer, manager of the Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA), which created the Web site. Roughly 100,000 parcels-nearly the entire city-are online.

The site helps real estate developers and community groups negotiate building planning, and it helps the public and community groups track projects, comply with regulations and bring accountability to properties that need attention by the city.

When a citizen accesses the site and requests a map view, an image is created on the fly from raw data rather than from a copy of data posted on the Web site. Two big advantages to this approach are that information on parcel boundaries, zoning and property ownership can be kept current, and additional layers of information and spatial data can be plugged in as they become available.

Autodesk MapGuide has a "very user-friendly authoring environment-an important factor in keeping down the cost of implementation and development," said Kliewer, whose Oakland staff maintains and updates data without the help of programmers. They have been using Release 2.5 for 10 months and testing Release 3.0 for three months.

For CEDA's staff, one of the most powerful features of MapGuide is the ability to "pull a radius" on the screen. "What could conceivably take a day or two can now be done in a matter of seconds," said Kliewer, explaining that staff members, with just a mouse click, can select all parcels within a given radius and can generate a list of addresses, property owners and even a mailing list. The previous process involved cutting and pasting maps, researching microfiche and manually creating mailing lists.

Autodesk MapGuide also provides an ability to calculate precise distance measurements on a screen to quickly and easily find the first available parcel beyond a set distance. "It's a planner's dream to be able to look at the configuration of buildings, zoom in and pull back, identify areas for redevelopment and how it would affect the surrounding areas and have access to demographic data and other databases," Kliewer said. "It's really a revolutionary planning tool."

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