Try accurate MAPublisher'it will grow on you

Try accurate MAPublisher'it will grow on you

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

Where are we? Where are we going? How do we get there?

These are questions a good map can answer, and making one is getting easier now that the drafting table has largely been replaced by the desktop computer.

Avenza Systems' MAPublisher 4.0, a suite of plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator 8.01 and 9.0, is leaps and bounds ahead of earlier versions in the company's mapping lineup. You must have Illustrator installed to use MAPublisher.

A MAPublisher 4.0 map of Mount Rainier shows detailed features and elevations for the Washington state area.

Version 4.0 integrates Global Positioning System data into maps. It also can import the most common geographic information system format, ArcInfo from Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. of Redlands, Calif. In tests with a GPS device, I was able to bring several other projection types into MAPublisher.

Portable or handheld GPS devices store ArcInfo files in compressed format. MAPublisher detects and decompresses the files during the input process so you can hit the ground running.

If you use GPS data in ASCII text format, you can bring it directly into a map without a separate GIS/GPS conversion. I also could import georeferenced .JPG and .TIFF files as well as delimited text files from databases.

In making or modifying a highly detailed map, one of the most tedious jobs is creating a key or index for all the locations. That was one of the problems with earlier versions of Avenza's map creation software. The company has done a good job of fixing it in MAPublisher 4.

Nearly done

Once you finish the map, you generate an overlay for it using the Generate Index Label. A standard map index might have, for example, grid letters A, B and C across the top and grid numbers 1, 2 and 3 going down the side, and so on.

Here's the fun part. You launch Version 4's Make Index Tool, and it automatically scans your map, finding each labeled attribute. It then automatically creates a text file assigning each labeled attribute a location on your grid lines.

At a glance you can see that the 'old well' is in sector G6 while the 'new fiber-optic line' extends through A11 and A12.

Another headache that has been eliminated is juggling multiple file formats when making layered maps. You can now bring in multiple maps at once, even ones generated with different programs, and they will all be compatible.

In my tests, I discovered that MAPublisher even put the disparate maps on the same page.

I accidentally imported one map that was slightly larger than the others. The program examined the oversized map and scaled it down so it could work as a layer with the others.

This multilayer tool set does not confine you to detailed area maps.

Box Score

MAPublisher 4.0

PC mapping application

Avenza Systems, Inc.; Mississauga, Ontario;

tel. 905-639-0330;

Price: $495; $149 upgrade from earlier versions

+ Simpler creation of maps and keys

- Steep learning curve

- Requires skills in Adobe Illustrator

Real-life requirements:

Win9x, NT, Win 2000, or Mac OS 8.5 or higher version; 64M of RAM; 10M of free storage; CD-ROM drive; Internet connection; Adobe Illustrator 8.0.1 or 9.0

If you want to show fire rates in a city by district, for example, or insurance rates around the country, just overlay the data onto a simple area map to make a color-coded chart.

Quite precise

When accuracy is paramount, MAPublisher shines. Large-scale maps often run into trouble because of little things like the curvature of the Earth. If you're working on a topographical map covering a hundred or more square miles, the curvature will come into play. Failure to factor it in will send your map off course.

I was surprised to find that MAPublisher compensates by mathematically converting the Earth's curved 3-D surface into flat map sheets. For long-distance navigation, this feature is a must.

MAPublisher puts the science of mapping into average users' hands. But don't expect to qualify for a job at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency overnight.

Although the program is simple compared with pen-and-paper methods, it's nevertheless complicated and will not be used everyday by anyone except mapping professionals.

Expect at least a month of intense learning to grow proficient, no matter what your initial mapping skill level. A healthy familiarity with Adobe Illustrator doesn't hurt, either.


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