MapInfo Professional 10 - A Sneak Preview of New Features

By Philippe Solomon-Côté

Version 10.0 of MapInfo Professional will be launched in June, most likely at Insights 2009, Pitney Bowes Business Insight's (PBBI, formerly Pitney Bowes MapInfo and Group 1) annual conference in Orlando, FL. Meanwhile, PBBI has been revealing bits and pieces of the new functionality, new features and improvements every week or so on its blog. Moshe Binyamin, global product manager for PBBI, was in Quebec City for Geodiffusion 2009 on May 13-14 to present a preview of MapInfo Professional 10. Here are a few highlights from his talk.

Binyamin began with a description of PBBI's general direction and objectives in developing this new version. The first goal was to ease the learning curve to allow a variety of non-specialized users to get started quickly, as opposed to focusing strictly on adding more features. In Binyamin's words, the overall goal was to become "the industry standard for high-usability for business analysts and GIS professionals." PBBI thus focused on three aspects: 1) improving the user experience; 2) interoperability; and 3) customization. In my opinion, choosing simplicity of use was well-advised, and in doing so, PBBI tapped into what is already its comparative advantage over the competition.

In Binyamin's demonstration of version 10, the improvements were quite clear. Using a .NET development framework, the entire user interface of menus and toolbars has been revamped. Toolbars can be docked in every corner of the screen, providing better management of the work environment. The improvement was implemented due to the growing popularity of 16: 9 monitors and screens. New icons have been added to help with better functional clarity and a more modern look and feel.

The most significant new feature is the Layer Control tool. The new "modeless" layer control allows the user to select layers in a separate window, edit them by, for example, changing their color and see the result immediately, without having to hit the OK button first to close the window. It is thus possible to manipulate the map, to work on styles and colors much more easily and quickly than before. Users get more flexibility and productivity. The new layer control will provide a preview that indicates the style used for each layer (style override), which will help users to identify layers within the layer control. By clicking on a layer name, the user will gain instant access to the layer properties, including style override, zoom layering, translucency and label options for a faster workflow.

MapInfo Professional 10 will support PostGIS, the spatial extension for the PostgreSQL Open Source database. Binyamin confirmed that v10 will provide built-in read-write support for PostGIS and that PBBI will update its widely-used EasyLoader tool to populate the database.

MapInfo Professional 10 has been supporting Microsoft SQL Server 2008 since version 9.5, released in the summer of 2008, and will now support Microsoft SQL Server 2008 spatial data for both geography and geometry data types. The product will also support the Microsoft Office suite formats .xlsx and .accdb. There are enhancements to output. The Dynamic Scalebar adjusts itself, but remains the same size when you zoom in or out. Also, it will be possible to print a layout or export a map window to a layered PDF. Users can then turn on and off layers within Adobe PDF Reader. This feature will provide for better sharing of geographic information by improving navigation inside the map and serving multiple needs with a single output.

Spatial analysis enhancements include a feature called Proportion Overlap that allows an estimate of the value of a given metric (say, population) on irregular territories that overlap parts of polygons for which you know the values. Binyamin also revealed changes that will impact those local to Quebec. Specifically, some projections used by the Ministry of Transport of Quebec will now be included in the software. In a nod to Google and Microsoft mapping platform users, there will be better support for Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth projection environments, including the Popular Visualization CRS / Mercator.

The presentation and demo were certainly enough to raise expectations from attendees. PBBI has put emphasis right where both experienced users and newcomers alike will appreciate it, resulting in a better user experience.

Published Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Written by Philippe Solomon-Côté

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