The FME User Conference can get pretty technical pretty fast. So I asked around some of the users about what they were using in the product that was cool. Several people noted making pretty maps with the integration of FME with Mapnik, an open source tool. I spent some time in the Doctor's Office to learn what that meant and how they did it.
It turns out FME users craft and transform their data in software, then use a single transformer (the term Safe uses for what I’d call a data operator), MapnikRasterizer, to output raster maps. The name reveals the underlying use of Mapnik, an open source map rendering tool. I’ve kept an eye on Mapnik for some time in part because Artem Pavlenko, a colleague of mine at Cadcorp, wrote it.
The transformer basically allows the user to assign sophisticated symbols and shading to datasets. Why is this transformer so powerful? Mapnik is tool for programmers. The FME transformer removes all that programming and instead offers a graphic interface for Mapnik, even as it adds data access, transforming and automating goodness.
Image: An example that shows how to use point clouds for random symbol placement with output via Mapnik. FME randomly placed the tree symbols.
Disclosure: Safe Software covered my travel and lodging for this event.