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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Location Intelligence Upgrades with MapInfo Professional 10.0
By Susan Smith
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PBBI global product manager, Moshe Binyamin talked about how MapInfo Professional 10.0 now includes a redesigned intuitive user interface, a built-in support for Layered PDF generation, and access to PostGIS, an open source database,.
MapInfo’s goal is to become the “industry leader” for business analysts and GIS professionals who are using location intelligence. “We believe we can achieve that by focusing on three major objectives, the first is improving the overall user experience, the second is interoperability and finally customization,” Binyamin said.
Improving the user experience means improving productivity, which in this release translates to the design of a new intuitive user interface that anticipates users’ next steps, and the ability to create cartographically pleasing maps that also convey the story the users want to convey. According to Binyamin, IT is taking a more active role in deploying and managing software and updates, so more efficient tools are needed.
Interoperability is an ongoing focus for MapInfo, with two aspects: first is accessing data where it lives which then means if data resides in a database, residing in a non marketable format, the user wants to be able to read that data directly without having to copy the data, and work with the data in its original form. “If you copy the data then you start to have multiple copies of it and you don’t know which one is the most current one, most likely you’re going to be working with the stale data because the original form is not the one you’re analyzing,” said Binyamin, adding that there are other challenges to copying data such as wasted space.
The second aspect is interoperability or functionality with other systems through the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) which is WMS, WFS as well as other PBBI products. MapInfo Professional 10.0 wants to be able to interoperate directly with PBBI products such as geocoding and DriveTime and leverage that functionality and bring it to the user.
MapInfo is also continuing to develop in the area of customization, with Basic and .net programming, as the most usable products are the ones that are customized for specific use.
“In the area of productivity you will see we’ve actually taken two major areas of the product, specifically the layer control and the toolbars and menus, which are basically the major mechanisms by which the customer is interacting with the software - and we redesigned them for efficiency and usability,” explained Binyamin. Customers reported that between 50 and 70 percent of an average project lifecycle is spent in the map window and there’s very little that can be done to the map window without using layer control. “That’s where we wanted to start in addressing the area of productivity.”
In the area of “accessing data where it lives, we are now offering an exclusive port for SQL Server 2008 Spatial,” said Binyamin. “Last year Microsoft announced the ability to store spatial data inside their database and with 9.5 we were offering the ability to read the data and display it in MapInfo Pro with no middleware required. With 10.0 we now offer the ability to read and write that data that you may choose to store in SQL Server 2008. We also extended support to Microsoft Office 2007, specifically two formats have changed from older versions. The Excel has a different format -- Excel XX. Microsoft Office has a new format, we support both formats, so now were supporting both the old and the new formats.”
PostGIS is the open source spatial database that allows users to store spatial data. Using MapInfo Pro they can read and write that spatial data directly.
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“If they want to change the map we introduced this concept of dynamic elements and dynamic scalebars that automatically change as you manipulate the map. We also have other capabilities such as the proportion overlap tool which is a powerful tool where you if you have a non standard geography that you would like to populate with populate layers and if you have another geography, say a county layer that has that population that you would like to aggregate, the proportion overlap tool will do it for you more quickly than in previous releases.”
The MapCAD toolset introduced in MapInfo Pro 9.5 has 40 new tools for CAD editing. In this release additional and improved existing tools have been added.
MapInfo 10.0 has icons that have been redesigned for clarity and to take into account users who may have color blindness in the red and green spectrum. Another feature is that users can now dock toolbars and menus around the application.
Enhanced layer control includes 30 separate enhancements. The primary enhancement is that layer control has become a dialog, that can be stretched and sized to accommodate layers, plus it doesn’t need to be closed. “As soon as you change something it immediately is reflected in the maps,” Binyamin pointed out. Users can size, float or dock the layer control wherever they want. They can also choose multiple layers within the same map or multiple layer in different maps.
Operations that took three or more clicks to execute were changed to one or two click operations.
MapInfo Pro 9.5 had read only support for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 including spatial data, but the 10.0 release provides direct native support for 2008 including spatial which means it can store, upload and download both geography and geometry of different spatial types that SQL Server Spatial supports.
Also included is a tool called Easy Loader that allows a user to take MapInfo tab files and populate the database without middleware technology required. “All you need in MapInfo Pro and SQL Server Spatial to start working,” said Binyamin.
PostGIS was also added to the release. PostGIS is an extension to PostGresSQL, which is an open source database that stores spatial data. PostGIS sits on top of that and allows users to not only store numbers and values but also spatial data and offers both read and write capabilities. Customers can download PostGIS, upload data to it and work with MapInfo Pro 10.0 to read and write spatial data into the database.
From the press release: "Location-based information offers a springboard to a wealth of important geographic analytics such as customer buying patterns, demographic and lifestyle information, routing directions, traffic patterns and more," said Mark Smith, CEO & executive vice president of research, Ventana Research. "The advancements in usability in MapInfo Professional 10.0 reduces the time it takes to perform simple to complex location related tasks and projects. This significant improvement benefits organizations when they are evaluating their competition, examining potential customer opportunities, aligning resources across geographies to maximize and predict market potential for improving operational and financial performance."