MapInfo adds depth to GIS
- By Patrick Marshall
- Sep 27, 2000
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
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.