MapInfo has it all
Author: Steve Darrington
Date: October, 1993
Keywords: Software program review map application mapping
Text: MapInfo 2.0.2 is a powerful graphical display program with an internal relational database into which X and Y axes are entered (generally as prepared map files from the publisher, though a user-defined graphical spatial display can be used) and corresponding X and Y axes are assigned to data in tabular lists (geocoding) according to address, zip code, or other defining information and displayed on a map. Included is a powerful SQL query capability for retrieving and displaying such information. The program displays the information in Mapper, Browser, Grapher or Layout window formats.
There are many uses for which MapInfo is ideal: municipalities can display planning, zoning or demographic information; utility companies can display maps of their power grids; publishers can produce graphical displays such as the familiar ''earthquake watch'' in our local newspaper; businesses can produce graphical files with which to view their sales territory and associated data; and on and on* With the new MapBasic program-ming language released along with MapInfo 2.0 (as a separate $795 program), third party developers can produce platform-independent (for Windows and Macintosh) utilities to automate many routines within MapInfo or to extend the capabilities of the MapInfo program beyond its present envisioned uses, with the imagination of the developer being the only limit. MapInfo 2.0 will run on any Macintosh running System 6.0.2 or greater with a minimum of 4MB RAM and 7MB hard disk space available. It comes on six disks: two MapInfo program disks and four Tutorial/Sample Data disks (containing world/state boundaries, top 500 U.S. cities, zip code centroids for entire U.S., and other files for use with the tutorial manual), which when installed (with an Installer) occupy about 5MB of hard drive space. When a data file is opened, a table is created consisting of at least two files: a file describing the format of the data and a .Data file containing the tabular data. After geocoding, the table will also consist of graphic objects and have two more associated files: a .Map file describing graphical objects and an .ID file consisting of an index for MapInfo to find map objects quickly. The table can also have an .Index file containing information used in searching for map objects with the Find command.
Data can be displayed in four different window views: a Mapper to display geographical maps, can have many tables open at one time, with each arranged as a separate layer; a Browser to view and manipulate data in a rows-and-columns format (tabular lists), as in a spreadsheet or database; or, a Grapher to display line graphs, horizontal or vertical bar charts, or scatter charts. Once displayed in any or all of the above views, they can then be viewed in a Layout Window in which Mappers, Browsers, Graphers, and other graphic objects are combined to view as they will appear on the printed page. With the Hot Views command, any changes made to one view are automatically made to any other view of the data. Groups of tables can be saved as Workspaces to facilitate quick reassembly of a prior setup. The workspace is a text file listing open windows, size and position of windows, and styles for fonts, symbols, lines and fill patterns used in the display of graphic objects. If any table in a workspace has been renamed, the workspace table must be opened in a text editor and the name manually changed - providing one remem-bers the name change after the passage of time! Maps are displayed in layers, each layer consisting of a different aspect of a map. For example, one layer may contain state boundaries, a second may contain symbols representing state capitals, with a third layer displaying the explaining text. With the Zoom Layering option, designated map layers are automatically displayed only when that map's zoom layer is within a preset distance; different layers can have different zoom layering levels.
MapInfo has several additional great features: over 100 map coordinate systems and projections; buffering capabilities to create new polygons a set distance surrounding existing objects in the map; thematic mapping capabilities; advanced digitizing capabilities for creating custom maps with a digitizing tablet; compatibility of files between MapInfo for Macintosh and MapInfo for Windows; and a MapBasic custom symbol generator. There are many more features, each fully explained in the thorough documentation included with the program, both ascontext-sensitive online help and easily-accessed ring-bound manuals.
MapInfo provides for direct import of files from: PICT, files containing only vector data (if bitmap data is included, such as in a SuperPaint PICT, MapInfo ignores that); dBASE or FoxBASE; ASCII; Lotus 1-2-3; Microsoft Excel; DXF = graphic/data interchange format for CAD programs; MIF = MapInfo (data) Interchange Format; MBI = MapInfo Boundary Interchange format (MapInfo DOS boundary files); MMI = MapInfo Map Interchange format (MapInfo DOS street maps); and, IMG = MapInfo DOS image file format. Export formats are: PICT; MIF, an ASCII file containing both graphic (.MIF) and tabular data (.MID), which can be translated into other formats with other programs; dBASE/FoxBASE DBR format for Macintosh, Windows, DOS or OS/2; ASCII, tabular data only, editable with a text editor or imported into another program; or, AutoCAD DXF format, retaining most of the information with the exception of specific font information, colors or line types, all of which are converted to appropriate DXF information.
Temporary files during use of the program are created as follows: under System 7.x, MapInfo follows the convention of placing these files into hidden folders which on startup are placed into the Trash, where they may be retrieved if necessary; or, *under System 6.0.x, MapInfo stores these files in the System Folder. System 7.x capabilities include: balloon help; support for TrueType; and Apple events, as a receiving program only, though MapBasic applications can send Apple events. There is no publish-and-subscribe capability included in release 2.0. Prior to running MapInfo, I reviewed the reference manual and came away with the impression that MapInfo was written for Windows and simply ported to the Mac interface, as all the examples shown in the manual are from the Windows interface. After installing the program on an LC running System 6.0.7, I am very impressed with the ease of use and the implementation of the Macintosh interface. MapInfo has it all Review by Steve Darrington, SMUG member I would like to see more keyboard commands and a way to turn off the constant refreshing of every window on the screen every time a dialog box closes. The databases which I am presently creating are to map the occurrences of several native plant species within the Pacific states, and I am anxiously awaiting the day when a developer produces a MapBasic application to import USGS topographic maps for use within MapInfo to even better display my information. Overall, I am very impressed with MapInfo, and would like to see it become more of a mainstream application (with more of a mainstream price). I can envision many uses for the program and it will certainly be put it to great use on my machine. Technical Support, after the initial ninety day period expires, is available at $195 for a single user for one year. I have found no reason yet to call Tech Support as the documentation is so thorough. MapInfo 2.0 for Macintosh is available from MapInfo Corporation, 200 Broadway, Troy, NY 12180; (800)FAST-MAP. Additional data files available from MapInfo: *StreetInfo = streets, most street names, highways, highway names, water boundaries, railroad tracks and bridges, with address ranges. Price: $225 for a single county to $75,000 for the entire U.S. in premium quality; *Highway Map = interstate, state and U.S. highways and route numbers.
Price: $95 per state to $595 for entire U.S.; *Railroad Map = U.S. railroads without names for 48 contiguous states. Price: $95 per state to $1995 for entire U.S.; *High Resolution State Boundaries.
Price: $95 for entire U.S.; *Zip Code Boundaries. Price: $295 to $3995 for entire U.S.; *Census Tracts. Price: $200 per county to $5000 for entire U.S.; *Census Block Groups. Price: $300 per county to $6000 for entire U.S.; *101st Congressional Districts. Price: $95 per state to $995 for entire U.S.; and other data sets containing demographic information and several international data sets. So, for about a mere $100,000 one can have the complete MapInfo data set!
Copyright © october, 1993 by Steve Darrington