Welcome to GISWeekly! The most recent version of MapInfo Professional, version 8.5, location desktop analysis environment, has at its heart, a focus on allowing users to benefit from location analysis faster than ever before. Why does that seem necessary? According to Moshe Binyamin, senior product manager, MapInfo, more businesses are thinking about location awareness now as a result of such geographic exploration systems as Google Earth, Microsoft's Virtual Earth and more. Find out about how the new version of MapInfo Pro addresses these new trends in this week's Industry News.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Location Desktop Analysis with MapInfo Professional v8.5
by Susan Smith
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New in MapInfo Professional v8.5 is the ability to connect to MapInfo's Envinsa location platform and/or MapMarker in one of three ways:
1) MapInfo hosted online services (EOLS) for geocoding and driving region capabilities using MapInfo Professional v8.5 with an out-of-the-box free trial account.
2) For those who want to own, they can buy Envinsa or MapMarker and host either one in-house.
3) If you already have MapMarker, you can connect it with your latest version of MapInfo Professional.
MapBasic programmability access to Geocoding services is also available. A new MapBasic command now provides access to Envinsa or Map Marker Geocoding service. MapBasic programmatic access to Drive Region generation via Envinsa service is also provided.
Prior to v8.5, MapInfo was always able to read CSV and Excel files, as well as databases like Oracle or SQL Server, and it could bring data into tabular format. “The next challenge after having the tabular data and an area map was, how does one put the two together in an easy and effective way? Until now, there was only the standard 'address matching' capability which requires that the customer has to have up-to-date street data. This 'address matching' capability allows customers to do a type of geocoding, but not to the degree that you can with MapMarker engine which is designed for very advanced and highly accurate location enablement. MapMarker also includes capabilities such as Soundex (the ability to detect typical spelling errors and still geocode the address) and enables more refined interpolation of locating a street number along a street segment,” explained Binyamin. “With web services, many of these complexities are hidden from customers so they don't have to deal with them. They just need to tell us which fields in the data they just opened represent the location such as street, city, zip code, etc., and we will automatically append the geographic x and y's. These services also offer the option to write back the correct address information to the original data source.”
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“We want to allow customers to do a lot more with MapInfo Pro, things that require three or more steps. We are looking to simplify. We want to make files more intelligent or produce icons instead of a 2-3 step menu option,” Binyamin said.
Every enhancement in the 8.5 release is in response to customer requests and to also align the customer's needs with new trends, such as the ability to use Google Earth with MapInfo Professional v8.5 and other tools.
As is the case with most users of software, customers don't always know about or use all the functionality that resides in the product, noted Binyamin. “When we see questions about capabilities that are in the product but seem to be obscure, it's an opportunity for us to question ourselves--there's got to be a better way to expose this capability. A lot of work was done in this release to put the capability where customers can quickly find and use it.”
Binyamin said that another development in the past two years that has influenced functionality in MapInfo Professional v8.5 is that the use of raster data has become more popular and more readily available through various sources - the obvious ones being Virtual Earth, Google Earth, and WMS Servers. “State organizations providing raster imagery are popping up left and right. The challenge with raster imagery was the projection of the data itself, obviously. The raster was shot in WGS-84, but if you're working in state plane then you may see your map squint or do something in order for everything to line up. In MapInfo Professional v8.5, we allowed the capability to reproject that raster data to match your vector data so if your vector data is in state plane, but you want to overlay your aerial imagery that is in a different projection, yet you still want to continue working with state plane, MapInfo now allows you to reproject the raster data on the fly to match your vector data. The same goes for grid data. For continuous surfaces like elevation data that you can download from the USGS site or others, you can now reproject the data to match your map environment. It's just a setting inside the map to say, 'I don't want to change the map projection, I want the raster and grid files to automatically reproject to match my map projection. From that point on, we automatically do the work for you.”
MapInfo also looked at what customers do in MapInfo Professional. “It is a location tool but it's also a location intelligence tool - a lot of people do a lot of analysis in the product. They want to see calculated values or drive the appearance of points and lines based on attribute data.” This means that their files should not be just repositories of data but actually repositories of intelligence. With the release of v8.5, we now allow you to store expressions both for attribute data and your geographic style data with the table. For example, if you have data representing total revenue and number of transactions, and you now want to create another column, you can add and store the average transaction expression within the table, making the value more dynamic like in Microsoft Excel.”
Binyamin said that you can store a lot of other dynamic information as with the table. Plus, the information travels with the browser. Until v8.5, this information could only be saved within a workspace. “Now, as soon as you open the file, that information immediately becomes available to you.”
“We offer the same capability for map object styles through what we call default themes. If I have data that represents city points and I would like to drive the symbol based on the city population, cities with different population ranges will have different symbols. In this case, we provide the ability to store the default theme (a ranged theme for instance) with the table. As soon as you open that table, we automatically look at the default theme expression. If there is one and you asked us to use it (by an application preference setting), we will automatically run the analysis on your table and display the data based on that theme.”