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Product Review: DeLorme XMap 5.0 GIS Enterprise

Tuesday, May 22nd 2007
Classified Ads:
DeLorme
Two DeLorme Drive
P.O. Box 298
Yarmouth, ME 04096
Phone: (800) 561-5105
Fax: (800) 575-2244
www.delorme.com

Price: $1,499.95

Introduction
DeLorme XMap 5.0 GIS Enterprise is one of the components of a three-tiered software solution suite from DeLorme that provides increasing levels of functionality for GIS professionals. DeLorme has taken the approach of providing scalable solutions with its software and data products so that users only purchase the required amount of software and data they need. The three versions of DeLorme's XMap 5.0 product suite include:
  • XMap 5.0 Professional - professional mapping with GIS viewing capabilities
  • XMap 5.0 GIS Editor - provides access and editing capabilities to GIS data layers
  • XMap 5.0 GIS Enterprise - provides tools for efficiently managing XMap GIS databases and access to GIS data layers
For the purpose of this review, I will focus on DeLorme XMap 5.0 GIS Enterprise, which provides the highest level of GIS and database functionality in the XMap software suite.

User Interface
The XMap GIS Enterprise user interface is roughly the same as that found in my previous review of XMap 4.0. The difference is that XMap GIS Enterprise provides toolbars on the top of the user interface similar to standard Windows applications. Figure 1 shows the user interface for XMap 5.0 and a list of toolbars available with XMap GIS Enterprise. Users can add and remove toolbars by right-clicking on the graphical user interface and checking or unchecking the toolbar from the pop-up menu. XMap GIS Enterprise includes several toolbars that perform GIS-specific tasks, in addition to toolbars that perform mapping functions such as creating profiles and routes, interfacing with GPS devices and sharing portable maps. The toolbars provide a quick way to access functions located within the tabs on the bottom of the interface.

Figure 1: DeLorme XMap GIS Enterprise User Interface. (Click for larger image)

The GIS Layer Management toolbar contains two buttons that Manage Layers and Import Layers. The Manage Layer button opens a dialog box that has a drop-down box to choose a source database, list the layers in the database, and show layers in the active Workspace. The Import Layers button opens a wizard that enables users to import GIS layers into a database.

The GIS Tools toolbar contains tools used to perform selecting and editing operations on the GIS layers. The following is a list of tools and their functionality on the GIS Tools toolbar.
  • Active Layer list box - displays the list of Workspace layers that users can choose to set the active layer
  • Commit - saves all of the edits that have been made to the active layer
  • Selection tool - selects features in the active layer on the map that fall within a rectangle drawn with the tool
  • Magic Wand tool - selects line features on the map and allows users to edit the attributes of the selected lines
  • Edit tool - selects individual features in the active layer on the map. The Edit tool creates a bounding rectangle to show the extent of the geographic feature as the cursor is moved around features on the map
  • Edit Points tool - shows the nodes that make up a selected geographic feature to edit individual nodes of a feature
  • Rotate tool - selects and rotates a geographic feature around the geographic center point of a feature
  • Draw Geometries tool - creates new features in the active layer based on the type of features in the active layer (point, line or polygon)
  • Toggle COGO Editing - provides a dialog box for users to enter precise coordinates, angles and bearings to accurately place geometries on the map
  • Show Classification Menu - modifies the classification of a selected geometry based on the type of geometry in the active layer
The Measurement/Info toolbar contains the Toggle Measurement tool and the Toggle Info tool. The Toggle Measurement tool shows the bearing, segment distance and total distance as the user moves the tool on the map. After all the segments are drawn, the measurement line is displayed on the map and labeled with the total distance. The Toggle Info tool is used to get attribute information about an individual geographic feature on the map. The information from the tool is displayed on the Info tab.

The Map Navigation toolbar contains the Select Navigation tool and the Toggle Hand tool. The Select Navigation tool allows the user to zoom in and out. As the tool is activated on the map, if you move it to the southeast it will zoom in, or if you move it northwest, it will zoom out. The words "In" and "Out" are displayed when the tool is clicked on the map. The Toggle Hand tool is used to pan the map from one location to another.

In addition to the toolbars on the top of the user interface, there is tab for GIS on the tabs at the bottom of the user interface. The GIS tab was added in the XMap 4.5 version. Users can click the buttons on the left (Workspace, Attributes, etc.) to provide different options for working with layers in the GIS tab.

Database Management of GIS Data

XMap GIS Enterprise installs a copy of Microsoft SQL Server Express (a free, embeddable version of Microsoft's SQL Server) during the software installation to serve as the default database software to store GIS data for XMap. XMap GIS Enterprise can connect to a single or multiple SQL Servers through the Database Manager application (see Figure 2). The Database Manager uses the security features of the database to set permissions for individual users to the database. For example, a user can be granted permission to view layers in the database but not be allowed to edit geometries to a layer in the database. The Database Manager can also connect/disconnect from a server, add/remove users from a database or server, backup/restore databases, and create/delete databases.

Figure 2: DeLorme XMap Enterprise Database Manager. (Click for larger image)

Databases can be created in XMap GIS Enterprise through the Database Manager application or within XMap using the Import Layer wizard or the Create Layer dialog box. Once a database is created, users can be given access to the database and assigned permissions. XMap GIS Enterprise provides five types of user roles for a database: XMap User, XMap Edit, XMap Checkout Coordinator, XMap Administrator and XMap Owner. Each role provides the user with an increasing level of permissions for the database.

The XMap Administrator can create user subscriptions to a database. The XMap GIS Enterprise edition is required to enable and create subscriptions to an Enterprise database. A subscription is a read-only copy of an Enterprise database that is stored on a local user's machine. The XMap Administrator controls the layers in the database that a given user is allowed to access. The subscription layers can be updated on the local machine by pressing the Synchronize button to access the most up-to-date versions of the layers from the Enterprise Database. Subscription databases include a special type of draw layer that shows redlines. Redlining is the process of adding map notes, symbols or shapes into a markup layer without editing the actual layer. Redlines can then be synchronized with the source database and a user with the appropriate permissions can review redlines and make the appropriate edits to the corresponding GIS layers in the Enterprise database.

Users who created layers with the XMap 4.5 version can view layers in any of the XMap 5.0 software versions. However, some features will not be available until the layers are saved into an XMap 5.0 database.

GIS Tab Functionality
The GIS tab on the user interface provides options to manage the GIS workspace, view layer attributes, query layers, reorder layers and check-out/in. The Workspace subtab on the GIS tab provides an area where layers can be imported to a database and visualized on the map. The Workspace subtab includes four options: Layers, Tools, XMap Web and DB Manager. Figure 1 shows the Workspace interface options.

The Layers button has a menu with options to import and export layers from the SQL Server database, create new layers, remove layers from the map, delete layers from the database, and manage layers in the SQL Server database. The Import option can import vector layers from most commercial GIS software applications including ESRI shapefiles, ArcInfo export files (e00), MapInfo's mif and tab files, AutoCAD DXF, DWG and DWF files, and OpenGIS gml files. A new import function of XMap GIS Enterprise is the ability to import layers from ESRI's ArcSDE databases. Layers are imported into the SQL server database and placed on the list of layers displayed on the map.

The Tools button provides options to symbolize and label layers. Layers can be symbolized with a single style for all features, or users can classify the layers based on the attribute data. Data can be classified using unique values or with a numeric range. XMap provides options to classify the data using number of classes, classification method, color patterns, and the option to specify a normalization field. The Tools button provides an option to show the legend for the layers in the Workspace. Lastly, the Tools button includes a Buffer option to buffer geographic features by a specified distance and unit type, and then store the buffers in the current layer or a new layer.

The XMap Web button provides tools to create and manage a mapping web site on DeLorme's XMap Web site. Users will setup an account with DeLorme to activate the XMap web mapping capabilities. Users can then publish layers to the XMap Web that will be displayed on the website. Users can remove layers or download layers from the XMap Web site. The XMap Web button has a Site Manager option to manage the settings on the XMap Website, such as zoom levels of the layers and allow layers to be downloaded. Lastly, the XMap Web button includes an option to view Site Reports of visits to the XMap Web site. Each time a user chooses an option with the XMap Web button, he is required to login with his email address and password.

The DB Manager button on the Workspace subtab opens the Database Manager application directly within XMap GIS Enterprise to perform database management tasks. The Database Manager application shown in Figure 2 is opened when the DB Manager button is pressed.

The Attributes subtab on the GIS tab allows users to browse the attribute table of GIS layers in the Workspace subtab. (See Figure 3) There is a drop-down box with a list of the GIS layers where the user can choose the attribute table for the layer he wants to see. The attribute table shows the attributes of each geographic feature in the layer in a grid on the GIS tab. Double-clicking on a row in the table will zoom the map in on the selected geographic feature. Users can see the attribute table structure by pressing the Design View button. The Design View provides an Options button to Add Fields to the attribute table and to Import or Link attributes from another table. The Attribute Search button provides a dialog to search for records in the attribute table. The Attribute Search dialog provides a quick search capability but does not provide the full querying functionality of the Query subtab.

Figure 3: XMap GIS Enterprise Attributes subtab options. (Click for larger image)

The Query subtab on the GIS tab allows the user to query the attributes of the GIS layers (see Figure 4). The user selects the layer from the Layers listbox and then specifies the query in the grid. The grid contains the GIS layer's fields, operator, criteria and a logical operator for the query. After the query options are specified, press the Run button to execute the query. Queries are saved in a second Query listbox so that users can retrieve queries easily. Queries can be deleted, copied, canceled, or renamed with the Query button. The Query subtab includes options to specify the symbol style of the selected features on the map.

Figure 4: XMap GIS Enterprise Query subtab options. (Click for larger image)

The Layering subtab displays a list of all layers, GIS custom layers and DeLorme Map data in a grid format (see Figure 5). Layers can be reordered by selecting the layer's row and dragging the row to a new location in the grid. Only GIS layers can be reordered; these are denoted with a bold text in the grid. The Layering button includes options to set the zoom level for each layer. Users can change the zoom level by simply typing a new value for the layer in the Z-Level column.
Figure 5: XMap GIS Enterprise Layering subtab options. (Click for larger image)

The Check-out/in subtab lets users create check-out layers for editing portions of a source layer (see Figure 6). Checking out a layer puts a lock on the portion of the layer that is checked out so only that user can edit that portion of the source layer. Once the edits are checked back in to the source layer, the edits that were made are available to all users who can access that layer. To check-out a layer for editing, the user chooses the Select button to choose grid cells on the map and then presses the Check-out button. All geometries that intersect the selected grid cells will be included in the check-out layer. Once all edits are completed, the user simply presses the Check-in button to update the source layer with the edits and removes the Check-out lock on that portion of the layer. Once the check-out layer is checked-in, the updates cannot be undone from the source layer.

Figure 6: XMap GIS Enterprise Check-out/in Subtab options. (Click for larger image)

Conclusion
DeLorme's XMap GIS Enterprise Edition was designed to provide enterprise level GIS capabilities and database functionality within the XMap software suite that would be more appealing to GIS users. The XMap GIS Enterprise software is bundled with Microsoft's SQL Server Express, which provides functionality to import and maintain GIS data within a database and uses the security features of the database software to set permissions for individual users to control access to the database. The XMap mapping software has been enhanced to include many commonly used GIS functions that GIS users would need, such as spatial queries, topological editing, redlining and buffering. The software includes map data preformatted by DeLorme and allows users to access GIS data in commonly used formats from vendors such as ESRI, MapInfo and Autodesk. XMap GIS Enterprise takes a complete organization approach, allowing data to be stored in a central location and users with varying needs to access this data to perform permitted operations.


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