Editor-in-chief Joe Francica spoke with Moshe Binyamin,
MapInfo Professional Product Manager, about some of the features
announced in the release of MapInfo
Prior to its release, MapInfo went on the road to talk with customers
to see what they wanted most in the new release. The road show was
conducted globally and helped the company's developers target the
functionality most in demand. They were told that a focus on map
cartographic quality was essential. Users wanted the ability to
effectively convey information about the map to their constituents.
This goal could be achieved with a better labeling and symbology
interface. In addition, from across MapInfo vertical industry clients
the request came for data creation and precise data editing. And
finally, ease of use was a constant on the list of requested
"It's really about observing the user and finding the ways to simplify
the process. Tweaks and fixes can be done at the feature level which
help the customer to move along," said Binyamin.
In the area of labeling, Binyamin noted that in earlier releases the
product supported ways to curve objects. But this time, speaking to
different vertical industry clients, they wanted very specific
improvements. As a result of discussions with its telecommunications
clients, MapInfo implemented the ability to place text in nine
different locations around a point for labeling. Departments of
transportation wanted multiple accident location labeling capabilities.
Some of these requests moved MapInfo to look at several label
locations. A result of this vertical industry push, these new features
were a welcomed addition in more than one sector.
Binyamin noted, "Most users spend their time interacting with the map,
clicking on different objects or using the layer control and turning
things on or off." In fact, MapInfo found that 70% of a user's time is
spent in the Map Window. When interacting with many layers, the
question is does the user wants a "one click" way to switch and
interact more quickly? For example, a user might be using the "roads"
layer and then want to switch to the "customer" layer, requiring a
quick and smooth means to go back and forth. "When observing the
customer, we've added intelligence and ï¿1⁄2right click' options to help
users to interact with the layer and allow them to select more features
on a layer level - move things around or change colors," said Binyamin.
"If you look at the traditional way, you had to know the name of the
layer and go into the layer control, and it was a multi-step process.
Once you have it [this feature], you say, ï¿1⁄2How come you didn't have it
Other feature improvements include data access engine support
interoperability with Oracle 11g and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. "Quite
a few customers, when we asked about SQL Server 2008, have indicated
they are going to use it," said Binyamin.
Changes in Oracle 11g had an impact on product development for 9.5.
Oracle changed some of the structures but a key need was the in area of
annotation text support. More European organizations are storing much
of their infrastructure data in the database. In many cases
historically, annotation text was in a proprietary format, like
Intergraph or Autodesk. Oracle 11g found a way to store text in the
database and MapInfo is supporting this feature.
Another area of improvement was in the ability to understand the
difference between looking at maps online versus examining maps for
analysis. Those options may result in different coloring or shading,
and that's why the addition of the vector translucency layer was
Binyamin said the company is always working at performance because its
users are doing more on the desktop than ever before. "We've increased
the number of nodes that a single object can have (offered in previous
versions as well) to 10 million for one object." For example, the
telecommunications industry may want a single map that includes a very
large polygon with many nodes. Operations against those objects are
expected to be much better and therefore the object-processing engine
is being examined for improvements. Customers expect that if you can
support objects of this size, then performance should keep pace.
MapInfo has launched a private beta for an object engine that will
result in an update for 9.5, coming in the fall of 2008.
MapInfo has also added the ability to support the Open Geospatial
Feature Service (WFS)-Transaction specification (pdf). MapInfo
Professional had supported WFS in 8.5 but that was "read only." With
WFS-Transaction server you can download the data locally and refresh
the server with any updates to data made on the client.
Finally, MapInfo has made MapBasic .NET compliant. MapBasic, free in
the last release, was an efficient tool but lacked a graphic user
interface. Now MapBasic is supported in the .NET Framework 2.0, which
was used in the design of MapInfo Professional 9.5. With this version,
MapInfo is supplying sample code and .NET enablement will allow
developers to take advantage of a more mainstream development