Product Update Review: Manifold® System Release 6.00 Service Pack 1

January 16, 2005

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Vendor Information:
Manifold Net Ltd.
1945 North Carson Street
Suite 700
Carson City, NV 89701
Price $245

I first reviewed Manifold System 5.00 in September, 2002. Since that time, Manifold has released three subsequent versions (5.50, 6.00 and 6.00 SP1) with additional functionality and bug fixes to the Professional version of the product. Release 5.50 included many internal changes and optimizations to support work with very large components and unlimited size projects. Release 6.00 emphasized four main areas:
  • Large, fast images used as display backgrounds.
  • Dynamic geometry, including the creation of linked drawing as from queries and external databases.
  • Enhanced customization and programmability as an embedded GIS engine.
  • Increased speed in spatial analytical operations.
As with any major release of a software product, Manifold System added hundreds of items to each new version of the product based on feedback from their users. Manifold System includes a complete list of all the enhancements for each version in the Help file that is included with the latest product. The focus of this review is to highlight the enhancements in Manifold System 6.00 Service Pack 1.

What’s New in Version 6.00 Service Pack 1
Manifold System 6.00 SP 1 includes 320 enhancements and bug fixes over the 6.00 version. The release notes for the product include a complete list of the 320 enhancements to the product. Service Pak 1 is a free download for all Manifold System 6.00 licensees.

The latest version of Manifold System includes importing and exporting capabilities for newer file types. Manifold System can now import vector data in TIGER 2004 format and S-57 format, which is widely used for nautical charts. Manifold can import ADRG images with its “Import Raw Binary File” dialog. The performance of ADRG and CADRG imports on large images have been improved by an approximate factor of 2. The database console can import and link tables from OLE, ODBC or ADO.NET data sources. Surfaces can be exported in raw binary format, which creates a data file with the pixels and an XML file with the metadata. The new import and export objects are included for customization with their appropriate properties and methods.

The Tools-Options dialog includes new functionality in the File Locations and User Interface options and new options for Proxy Servers and Sounds. The File Locations option includes a default location setting to save web pages when users export their map windows to web pages that are published with Manifold System’s IMS. The User Interface option includes a Distance option, which controls the autoscroll window speed on edit or selection operations. The new Proxy Server option allows the user to specify the parameters to connect to a proxy server with the address, user name and password for retrieving data from the Internet. The new Sound option allows the user to play a sound file after completion of a lengthy operation and to set the time to wait before the sounds plays.

The Transform toolbar for drawings has two new tools: Explode and Centroids (Inner). The Explode transform will explode lines into multiple objects where each line segment from the original line becomes a separate line object. The Explode transform has no effect on area or point features. The Centroids (Inner) transform creates a point at the center of an area feature and adjusts the position so that the centroid always falls within the area. Figure 1 shows the adjustment that Manifold System uses to determine the centroid of an area feature with the Centroid (Inner) transform. The green dots represent the centroid locations of the Southeastern United States using Manifold System’s Centroid transform and the yellow squares represent the centroid location using the Centroid (Inner) transform so that the centroid is always located within the area feature.

Figure 1: Centroid (Inner) transform

Images and Surfaces in Manifold System now include a virtual table so that users can perform queries on the images and surfaces. Each pixel on an image or surface has a record associated with it. The virtual table for an image includes columns for the X, Y, X offset, Y offset, Latitude, Longitude, Red, Blue, Green, Alpha, Color, Selection Mask, Selection, and Invisible columns. The virtual table for a surface has the same columns and includes a Height column. Virtual tables are not listed in the project pane, but the fields in the virtual table can be queried. The File-Link-Image and File-Link-Surface commands allow linking images and surfaces from tables or queries.

The methods used to georegister an active image or drawing in Manifold System have been renamed in the latest version. The Affine registration method has been renamed to Affine (Triangulation) and georegisters an image with fewer control points than the other methods, but requires care in the placement of the control points. A special case of the Numeric registration method, with an order parameter equal to 1, has been separated into a method called Affine (scale, shift, rotate) and is the default method with any number of control points. The speed of the two Affine registration methods has been greatly increased over previous version. The Numeric registration method, with an order parameter exceeding 1 (curvilinear), has been renamed to Numeric (polynomial) and requires a large number of control points to perform a numerical computation method to transform one component into another. The Simple method has been renamed to Simple (scale, shift) and matches components using XY translation and rescaling with any number of control points. The registration process can be cancelled or undone.

Manifold System added curved labeling capabilities which are labels that that follow along the line that they are bound to. The label may look odd if the line has a lot of curves that go back and forth. Manifold System also includes two new tools to manually place labels on the map: Insert Line Label and Insert Freeform Line Label. These tools allow the user to draw a straight line or freeform line which is used to bind the text to the label. The line will not be seen once the label is placed on the map. Figure 2 has an example of curved labels for the rivers, an example of an inserted line label, and an inserted freeform line label.

Figure 2: Label Enhancements – Curved Labels, Insert Line Label and Insert Freeform Line Label. Click image for larger view.

The Manifold System Internet Map Service (IMS) has the ability to function as an OpenGIS Web Map Service (WMS) Server or as a client to an OpenGIS WMS. Figure 3 show the dialog box shown when a user exports their .map file as a webpage with Manifold’s IMS. Users have the option to check the box to “Include OGC WMS interface page” to serve the image tiles requested by the client. The web pages that are created from the File-Export Web Page option automatically include a new Zoom Box tool for the standard web page formats. Users can link to an image from an OpenGIS WMS by choosing File-Link-Image and then selecting “OGC WMS Data” from the file as type listbox. (See Figure 4) Users can enter the server and the available layers will be displayed by pressing the Refresh button. The Map Server object will refresh linked images and surfaces to the value of the refreshLinks config file option and refreshes images and surfaces linked from parameter queries prior to rendering, using the values of the RenderParameter property.

Figure 3: Export Web Page dialog with Include OGC WMS interface page. Click image for larger view.

Figure 4: Link-Image to a OGC WMS Server. Click image for larger view.

Manifold System includes support for GPS units connected to the computer through a USB port. The GPS Console supports more than 20 additional NMEA sentences including the ability to capture depth, humidity, temperature and other data. I tested the USB connection with a DeLorme Earthmate GPS Receiver and obtained the results in the GPS Console in Figure 5. The additional NMEA information can be obtained by pressing the Track Columns button on the GPS console and selecting the appropriate GPS columns when tracking a waypoint or route.

Figure 5: GPS Console and GPS Column dialogs. Click image for larger view.

Additional miscellaneous enhancements to the product include improving the geocoding speed to run twice as fast as before and layouts can be exported to Adobe Illustrator AI format. Manifold System windows can be forced to exhibit “paper map” behavior so symbols enlarge when zooming in on the map. The menus have been adjusted to look more like those in the recent Microsoft products.

As I stated in my first review of Manifold System 5.00, users should be prepared to spend a great deal of time to thoroughly learn the functionality of the software. Users that spend the time required to learn the software are rewarded with a wealth of functions that are available in this software system. Manifold System includes hundreds of bug fixes and user wish-list enhancements in each of their subsequent releases. Since I am a relatively inexperienced user of Manifold System, I tried to provide a broad overview of the changes in the software since the previous version. I believe a more experienced user of this software could provide a more thorough review of specific functions of the product.

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