MapInfo hits new heights with Professional 5.0

Not one to rest on its laurels, MapInfo Corp. has released a 5.5 version of its industry-leading desktop mapping program, MapInfo Professional. When we last looked at geographical information system programs, MapInfo Professional 5.0 led the pack in a dead heat with Environmental Systems Research Institute's ArcView.

The improvements in Version 5.5 are in two major areas: enhancements in MapInfo's ability to display data and improvements in ease of use.

The flashiest new feature in MapInfo is decidedly the program's new 3-D-like relief-shading feature. Create a grid map that displays, say, elevation or temperature information, and MapInfo's relief shading tool lets you specify the horizontal and vertical angles of the light source and adjust the brightness and contrast. The tool then generates the map layer as a raster image with continuous shading. The results can be impressive. It's not true topographical analysis, but it makes for more attractive and effective maps.

Another welcome enhancement is the new graphing utility. In addition to being easy to use, the utility offers new 3-D effects. You can graph data using 3-D shapes, including round or square columns, pyramids, floating cubes and floating spheres. And the graphing tool offers excellent controls over graph formatting and angles.

MapInfo's chart types also have been expanded in other directions. The program now can generate area, radar, bubble and scatter charts in addition to 3-D charts and the usual set of line, bar and pie charts.

There are a dozen or so other less obvious but welcome enhancements, including support for Oracle 8i, new map projections and a new wizard for quickly combining data and maps. The new version also includes an Unselect All button, the ability to display lengths while drawing and the ability to set snap modes individually for each open map window.

These improvements, of course, are implemented on top of what already was an industry-leading desktop GIS solution. MapInfo continues to offer the strongest combination of power and ease of use of any desktop mapping program we've tested.

In addition to the standard set of line and curve drawing tools, for example, MapInfo offers a contour tool, polyline smoothing and even a tool for creating street intersections. The program also offers a broad set of attractively designed map symbols, the ability to use raster images with maps and easy-to-use geocoding and address-matching tools.

MapInfo's thematic mapping is powerful and easy to use for displaying data on maps. As noted above, in addition to the range, dot density and proportional-fill maps offered by most desktop GIS programs, MapInfo offers grid maps, graduated symbol maps, chart maps and continuous thematic shading. This latter feature takes point data, such as temperatures in specific locations, and generates graduated color coding across the map to display the different values.

MapInfo Professional's powerful data querying tools are unchanged, including utilities for building and saving queries of both internal data tables and external SQL databases.

Unless there is a specific tool or capability you need that is available only in a competing product, you'll want to take a long, hard look at MapInfo Professional 5.5. In our opinion, the product continues to offer the strongest combination of power, ease of use and value available on the market.

***

MapInfo Corp.

(518) 285-6000

www.mapinfo.com

Price and Availability

Available on the GSA schedule for $972.

Remarks

MapInfo offers the strongest combination of power, ease of use and value we've seen. Its strongest points include map creation tools enhanced with relief shading and strong optional modules for 3-D analysis and redistricting tools.

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