Sometimes the latest upgrade to a software package isn't worth the time and trouble. Fortunately, that's not the case with MapInfo Professional 5.0. This venerable and well-respected package continues to improve with age.
Like most geographical information packages, MapInfo Professional 5.0 displays data as conventional maps. However, it is also versatile enough to display data in a browser (standard database table window) and in Report and Graph Windows where data is represented as a bar or pie graph.
Using MapInfo Professional's SQL, I selected specific records from one or more tables, as well as aggregated information across several records and fields. These could then be saved as separate tables or joined into others to make new data sets.
You can also select records directly off your map using Selection Tools. The Radius Select tool grabs all objects within a given radius of the designated point. The Marquee Select tool selects all objects within a square, and the Shape Select tool selects by shape object, for example postcode or carrier route. Using these tools, I was able to isolate, export, and save records directly from the top layer of my test map.
MapInfo Professional 5.0 also boasts some impressive new features. With 5.0's new connectivity to MapInfo SpatialWare, a server-based data management and access program, you can implement MapInfo Professional as a true client throughout the enterprise.
Dynamic access lets you use the most current data available, and Live access lets you easily work with large files rather than downloading or storing them on your desktop.
MapInfo Professional supports Xbase, Excel, Access, Lotus 1-2-3, and ASCII file formats. It can access Oracle, Sybase, Informix, SQL Server, and other ODBC-compliant databases. Although MapInfo Professional previously supported import and export of AutoCAD, R14 DWG, and DXF files, Intergraph's DGN MSLinks fields, ESRI shape, and native ARC/INFO formats, attributes associated with these files were not carried over. MapInfo Professional 5.0 now translates AutoCAD, AutoCAD R14 DWG, and DXF files and Intergraph's DGN MSLinks fields attributes to and from MapInfo Pro. Version 5.0 also boasts a fully armed version of Crystal Reports.
Mapping features are also enhanced. Thematic mapping and shading displays data on your map as patterns and trends via data motifs called themes. MapInfo Professional's Thematic Mapping Wizard quickly creates maps shaded by ranges. Colours and symbols are each assigned to a range. Graduated Symbols enable you to view more than one variable per record at a time.
Version 5.0 now has Continuous Thematic Shading to create boundary-free maps that display data with seamless transitions between colours. This is a terrific feature, but the front end is underpowered. Customising more than five ranges can be time-consuming and frustrating.
The Enhanced Cartographic Legend feature lets you create multiple legends. This makes for a much more finished, professional appearance.
There's still room for growth, but MapInfo Professional 5.0 isn't just newer, it's better - whether you're new to the product or upgrading.
The Bottom Line
MapInfo Professional 5.0
MapInfo is sophisticated mapping software that displays your data in a variety of styles including point maps, thematic maps, and raster graphics. Developers can embed MapInfo in pre-existing applications or integrate it via OLE.
Pros: Thematic Mapping Wizard makes jumping between data themes and presentation styles a snap; increased file formats.
Cons: Continuous Thematic Shading feature saddled with underpowered front end.
Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT.
Price: New licenses start from $2350 with volume discounts; upgrade from previous version $795.
Tel (02) 9437 6255