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Product Review: MapInfo Professional Version 11.0

Thursday, October 6th 2011
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Summary:

The Wharton School's Paul Amos reviews the newest version of MapInfo Professional. The latest software release includes new features in the user interface, enhanced product support, access to new data sources through MapInfo Premium Services, and many improvements to the browser window.

MapInfo Professional version 11.0, released in June 2011, is the latest release of the desktop location intelligence software from Pitney Bowes Business Insight. MapInfo Professional is a Windows based mapping software application that provides functionality to visualize the relationship between tabular data and geography. The latest software release includes new features in the user interface, enhanced product support, access to new data sources through MapInfo Premium Services, and many improvements to the browser window.  

New Features in MapInfo Professional
The Browser window has been redesigned with a new look and improved functionality. The new Browser window alternates the shading of rows in the table with light blue and white rows. The background color for the alternating rows can be set in the Preferences dialog box. The selection highlights an entire row in the color specified in the Windows display theme. Previous versions used a small box to the left of the row to indicate the selection state for a row. Deleted rows are displayed as thin, gray lines, unlike previous versions where the whole row was grayed out but still stayed the same size as the other rows. This reduces the amount of space taken up by deleted rows on the screen and makes the Browser window look more appealing. Figure 1 shows the new Browser window with the alternating row colors, in which three records have been selected and highlighted in blue. Four states were deleted between the Hawaii and Kansas rows and are displayed with thin gray lines.
 

Figure 1: Browser window enhancements. (Click for larger view.)

The mouse click behavior in a Browser window has been changed to be more consistent with common keyboard functions. Users can select a row by clicking on the row header which is the same as previous versions of MapInfo Professional. Pressing the SHIFT key when clicking on a row header has no effect on the selection state of the row where in previous versions this would toggle a row between selected and unselected states. The CTRL is updated to toggle a row between a selected and unselected state. The CTRL key can also be used to select multiple rows by pressing the CTRL key and dragging the mouse cursor along the row headers. When a user clicks inside a cell, the cell is put into edit mode and places the cursor at the location of the mouse click instead of selecting all of the text in the cell as in previous versions. Users can enter multi-line text in a cell by clicking on a cell in the Browser window; press the CTRL and ENTER keys simultaneously and a new line character will be added to the cell. The Undo and Redo behavior in a Browser window supports the standard Windows behavior of multiple Undo operations. The standard MapInfo Professional behavior only allows for a single level of Undo. Undo and Redo can be accessed from the Edit menu in the Browser window or by pressing CTRL+Z for Undo and CTRL+Y for Redo.

The Browser columns can be resized by placing the cursor on the line to the right of the column header you want to resize. The cursor will change into a two-way arrow and the column is resized by holding the mouse button and dragging the column to the desired width. There is also an autosize function where the column will resize to the longest data entry. The autosize function is accomplished by changing the cursor into the two-way arrow and then double-clicking on the mouse to resize the column. The Browser window can sort the data by one or more columns. Users can sort a browser window by right-clicking in the Browser window and choosing Sort from the popup menu or through the Browse > Sort menu. The Sort dialog box will appear to select up to four columns to sort the data and the sort order of each column.

The contents of a Browser window can be saved to several different file formats. MapInfo Professional supports saving the Browser window to BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG, TIFF, TIFF CCITT Group 4, TIFF CMYK and TIFF LZW formats. Several file formats are no longer supported in this release of MapInfo Professional including EMF, EMF+, EMF+ DUAL, GeoTIFF, JPEG2000, Photoshop and WMF. The Browser window can be printed, but only the contents in the window will print on the page. Previous versions of MapInfo Professional allowed users to select a range of rows to print from the Options button in the Print dialog. There are a few settings that must be checked to print the Browser window to a pdf file. The MapInfo PDF printer must have Postscript Simulation enabled and the Adobe PDF printer must have Image Downsample turned off.

Enhanced Product Support
64-Bit Operating System Environments

Starting with MapInfo Professional version 11.0, every instance of MapInfo Professional using a 64-Bit operating system can utilize up to 4 Gb of RAM. Previous versions of the software had a limit of 2 Gb of RAM. This change is automatic and means that memory intensive operations such as combining tens of thousands of objects, opening large imagery files or exporting large maps to layered PDFs with attributes will have access to double the memory to complete the operation successfully. MapInfo Professional continues to support 32-bit operating systems and is still a 32-bit application.

Workspace Formats
MapInfo Professional has two workspace formats that can be opened and saved, WOR and MWS. The .wor file is written using MapBasic and an .mws file is written using XML. The MWS format can be used with MapXtreme and contains more information about the data sources than the WOR format. Once a workspace is saved in the MWS format, it can be opened with the Workspace Manager utility that is included in the MapXtreme installation or with an application developed using MapXtreme. MapInfo Professional works with both workspace formats, but other MapInfo products may work with only one of the two formats. Past releases of MapInfo Professional allowed a user to save a MWS workspace, but did not allow the user to open one in MapInfo Professional. The latest release supports opening MWS files in MapInfo Professional. There are limitations when opening a MWS format workspace with MapInfo Professional:

  • MapInfo Professional does not read labels from an .mws file.
  • If there is more than one base layer from the same data source, then all charts are put on the top layers. This is because they relate to the data sources in the MWS file and not to the layers.

MapInfo Manager Library Services
MapInfo Professional has added support for the MapInfo Manager Library Services. The Library Services are accessed by selecting Options > Preferences > Web Services > Library Services and then pressing the Server button to enter the URL of the server. The Library Service allows a user to access the metadata records published in MapInfo Manager. The table metadata can be accessed from the Layer Control and Table List windows after connecting to the Library Service. The Table List window shows the status of the tables whether or not they are managed by the MapInfo Manager library. Table metadata can also be added to the MapInfo Manager Library by using the Table > Add to Library option as long as at least one unmanaged native table is open.

Other Functionality Enhancements
The style of the Crosshair Cursor, which is displayed on the map window when a tool such as the Info tool or Ruler tool is activated, can be changed to three different cursor styles. Figure 2 displays the three Crosshair Cursor styles. Once a crosshair tool is active on a map window, the user can press the X key on the keyboard to toggle among the three Crosshair Cursor styles. The Crosshair Cursor style is a global setting where the style will carry over when a new window is opened or whenever a new session of MapInfo Professional is initiated.
 

Figure 2: Crosshair Cursor styles.

The MapCAD utility, which was added to the product in version 9.5 of MapInfo Professional, now has three new capabilities: 1) Scale Objects: scales geographic objects by a specified factor; 2) Orthogonal Points: positions points orthogonal to a reference line; 3) Measurement Line: generates a measurement line with cumulated distance to objects. Figure 3 displays the three new icons added to the MapCAD tool set.  
 

Figure 3: New MapCAD tools


Premium Services
MapInfo Professional provides a new level of service for an additional fee called Premium Services. Premium Services allows the user to access additional data sources in MapInfo Professional workspaces such as the Bing Roads layer from the Microsoft Bing Web mapping service and layers from the OpenStreetMap (OSM) open source mapping project. The Bing Roads and OSM Roads layers can be accessed from the File > Tile Server Maps option or there are two new buttons on the Standard toolbar to access the layers quickly. The Bing Aerial and Bing Hybrid layers, which were introduced in MapInfo Professional 10.5, come standard with the software and are also accessed through the Tile Server Maps option. Figure 4 shows the Bing Roads layer in the map window on the left and the OpenStreetMap layer in the map window in the right.
 

Figure 4: Map windows with Microsoft Bing Roads and OpenStreetMap layers. (Click for larger view.)

The "Move Map To” is a new function that is also part of the Premium Services package. It can be accessed through a new tool on the Standard toolbar or through the Map menu. The Move Map To function will open a new window to enter an Address and/or Place. The Find button on the window will search for the user’s entry and will provide a list in the Results section of window. The user can move the map window to a new location by double-clicking the entry in the Results box. The user can specify to preserve the current scale or zoom to the best view before moving the map to the selected location. Figure 5 displays the Move Map To window and the results from the search.
 

Figure 5: Move Map To Window. (Click for larger view.)


Conclusion
Users of MapInfo Professional will see enhancements to the look and functionality in the Browser window after upgrading to the latest release. MapInfo Professional improves the integration and data management capabilities of MapInfo Manager and supports opening MWS files. Users who access online data have more options with the addition of Premium Services to access Microsoft Bing Roads and OpenStreetMap data directly into their Map windows.
 


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