MapInfo adds depth to GIS

If you need to generate complex custom maps and combine data and geographic

analysis — such as doing demographic studies, making marketing reports or

tracking environmental hazards — you need a full-fledged geographical information

system (GIS) application. MapInfo isn't the easiest GIS program on the market,

nor is it the least expensive. But if you want to combine data with maps,

you won't find a stronger combination of power, ease of use and affordability.

The recently released Version 6.0 of MapInfo Professional doesn't add many

dramatic new features, but it does round out what was already a strong product.

The sexiest new feature in MapInfo 6.0 is the program's new 3-D map display

capability. Version 5.5 enabled you to employ gradient shading to display

data on a grid map, such as temperatures or elevations. With Version 6.0,

this feature has been enhanced to offer full 3-D viewing. You can specify

the angle and color of light that is applied to the 3-D display, and you

can select specific camera angles for viewing. The program offers freehand

tools for tilting and rotating the 3-D image, and you can also employ pan,

zoom and info tools.

Version 6.0 also adds new controls over placement of labels and street names.

Two new rotation tools allow you to rotate all symbols or labels in a map

with a single operation. And new geocoding controls enable you to specify

how far to offset street names from the street segments or corners.

Users who need to create regions from scratch will appreciate the program's

new ability to create polygons around existing map objects. Although this

may not at first glance seem like a big deal, when you combine it with the

ability to clip the existing underlying regions, the result is faster, easier

creation of sharp-looking maps.

No program we've seen makes it easier to create detailed custom maps. MapInfo

offers not only the standard line and curve drawing tools, but also contour

tools, and polyline smoothing. MapInfo's set of map symbols is broad and

well-designed, and the program supports the use of raster images.

The program's thematic mapping tools are powerful and generally easy to

use. In addition to the new 3-D maps, MapInfo offers the range, dot density

and proportional-fill maps offered by most desktop GIS programs. MapInfo

also offers grid maps, graduated symbol maps, chart maps and continuous

thematic shading.

MapInfo Professional's powerful data querying tools are unchanged in this

version, including utilities for building and saving queries of internal

data tables and external SQL data bases. The program has, however, been

updated to support Oracle Corp.'s Oracle8i Spatial Version 8.1.6 and Microsoft

Corp.'s Access 2000 databases.

MapInfo Corp. has enhanced MapInfo's support for getting data in and out

of the program. MapInfo can now read in raster files from Earth Resource

Mapping Inc.'s ER Mapper as well as files in VPF and SDTS vector formats

from Autodesk Inc.'s AutoCAD 2000. As for output, MapInfo now includes support

for 24-bit color, including control over color dithering methods, and transparencies.

Finally, MapInfo Professional 6.0 has enhanced input and output support

for the World Wide Web. You can now attach a URL to any map object so that

when a user clicks on the object, the browser will be launched and the appropriate

Web site will be loaded. There's also a new MapBasic applet that you can

load that makes it a snap to print maps to HTML for use on Web pages.

MapInfo doesn't offer quite as extensive a set of optional add-ins as Environmental

Systems Research Institute Inc.'s ArcView. Nor does it have the low price

and ease of use you'll find in the likes of Caliper Corp.'s Maptitude. But

MapInfo offers a combination of power and ease of use that can't be beat.

It's also worth noting that MapInfo has an extensive support base of consultants

you can call on if you need help in creating custom mapping applications.


MapInfo Professional 6.0

Score: B+

MapInfo Corp.

(800) 619-2333

Price: MapInfo 6.0 costs $1,495 on the open market.

Remarks: MapInfo is an industry leader in desktop geographic informationsystems, and this version offers welcome enhancements. A new 3-D map displaymakes it a snap to create attractive display maps, and broader databaseand file format support make it easier to integrate MapInfo with other products.

BY Patrick Marshall
September 27, 2000

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