June 23, 2008
MapInfo Professional 9.5 Released
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MapInfo Professional 9.5 Released
By Susan Smith
This month Pitney Bowes MapInfo announced the release of MapInfo Professional 9.5 at the company’s user conference in Las Vegas. MapInfo Professional 9.5 is the latest version of the company’s flagship business mapping software, complete with three major improvements that customers had asked for.
MapInfo product manager, Moshe Binyamin, outlined what those improvements are and how they came about. Before embarking on development of v.9.5, Binyamin said MapInfo formed a series of focus groups conducted with customers worldwide to find out what areas they would like to see focused on. The areas they chose were: improved precise data creation, improved map cartographic quality and improved productivity by improving the ease of use of the product.
Product development is heavily influenced by what customers want embodied in the product, but also must take into account the direction of the industry. In the case of v.9.5 it would seem that the two directions merged into “themes” that carried the development forward.
Major themes in v 9.5 include:
• Ease of use
• Better looking maps
• Data creation and editing tools
• Enhanced data access
• Expanded programmability to .NET and
• Enhanced deployment
“Our release has always had major themes and underneath each theme we basically introduce a series of capabilities to support the themes,” explained Binyamin. “For example, we’ve introduced a theme called ‘better looking maps’ that falls into the category of cartographic quality. It’s not just the map that’s better looking that helps customers but when they produce the map and give it to their managers. If it’s more aesthetically pleasing, it’s easier to read the map and therefore understand the message the map is trying to convey.”
Being able to articulate maps then led to the ability to create more precise data by using CAD creation tools, 40 of which have been implemented in the latest release.
Another theme is ease of use or productivity. “We did a survey of users to find out how they interacted with the product. Where do they spend most of their time?” Binyamin said. “In response we found opportunities to improve the application’s responsiveness or ways that we can anticipate their next step.”
Improvements made in each one of these “themes” or categories are as follows:
Ease of use
“We found that customers spend 70 to 80% of their time inside the application with the map and with different layers,” said Binyamin. “We found out a map is constructed from many layers, maybe more than 15. You’ve got regions, lines, points of interest, etc. that can make a map pretty detailed, but at same time, customers do not always remember the name of the layer the information is coming from. Sometimes they need to edit that layer. What we allowed in this release is that as long as a customer can click on any one of the layers or any one of the objects on the map, they can now view the entire layer on which they clicked. Also, as soon as you click on an object on the map,
the layer is placed in bold so that you can quickly find it. We’ve also added grid controls to tasks like picking the same color pattern icons or bitmap to represent different things on a map. Every icon has an address that can be documented, and users can tell somebody what address or number they used for fonts, colors, etc. so the other person can also use it to maintain consistency.”
Better looking maps
In this area, MapInfo Professional 9.5 improved labels. “In 9.0 we added ability to curve labels along linear objects like streets. In 9.5 we’ve extended that capability in two ways. One easily labels points of interest that are sometimes very close to each other or on the same point. 9.5 has one setting to say, try alternate locations and you’ll see up to 9 different locations and labels using that setting.” The same capability works for centroids, i.e., central points for linear objects like lines like counties and zips.
Another addition in this area are translucent region areas and also translucent labels. These were created because customers need to build maps in ways outside the typical hierarchical way of creating maps. They needed the ability to highlight a region area but also to be able to see through it. 9.5 shipping right now has all the elements of this feature but the translucent maps is not yet active, and will be activated with the November release.
Data creation and editing tools
In the area of data editing, customers of MapInfo Professional are varied in their vertical focus, according to Binyamin. They range from working in design departments in the public sector, to real estate management to telecommunications. What they have in common is that they want to document or create precise objects on the maps, i.e. fiber lines, cadastre mapping, parcel mapping, road, rail, transport network data.
“We partnered with AGIS, a German company, a long time partner of MapInfo that has been operating in the precise data management field for over a decade,” said Binyamin. MapInfo OEM’d their CAD package and are shipping it free with every copy of MapInfo Professional. Included in that package are 40 new tools for precise data creation such as tools that have the ability to create a circle using three GPS points, which could be used to document a roundabout. You can then bring this information back to MapInfo and ask it to reconstruct a circle based on those three points. The CAD package also includes tools to automatically calculate angles, to draw lines by distance, to move
objects at a precise distance, CAD operations that can all be done within MapInfo Pro.
Enhanced data access
Before doing any geographical analysis, users must be able to display and work with data. MapInfo Professional 9.5 supports both Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and Oracle 11g. Microsoft’s entry this year into the spatial data management market with the release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 offers an alternative for greater IT support. How does this release impact MapInfo 9.5 customers? “If MapInfo 9.5 users have spatial data in SQL Server 2008 they will be able to access that data directly and display and analyze it in MapInfo Pro,” Binyamin explained.
In Oracle 11g annotation text is introduced, which is text with geography attached to it. MapInfo Pro will be able to access an open layer, i.e., an annotation text layer that is stored in Oracle 11g.
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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.