GIS hits a higher gear

GCN Lab Test Drive | MapInfo's new version adds a lot of flexibility

MapInfo Profesional Version 9.0

Pros: Powerful geographic information system that can show data in a variety of ways.

Cons: Interface takes a great deal of getting used to.

Performance: A

Functionality: B+-

Features: A+

Value: B+

Price: $1,495


Pitney Bowes MapInfo

(800) 619-2333

The hardest part of working with geographic information, whether it is traffic tie-ups, natural disasters or crimes, is making sense of all that data.

To identify a trend or pattern, you must retrieve a great deal of information and put it into a format for users so they can analyze data and draw conclusions.

MapInfo Profesional Version 9.0 from Pitney Bowes is one tool that lets you perform all tasks. MapInfo can import data in real time and display it on a map that was made to the user's specifications, allowing the user to see what is going on. It can draw this data from a variety of sources ' static databases or spreadsheet files, live database servers, even live Really Simple Syndication feeds.

We were pleased with the enhanced features that Version 9.0 had to offer over Version 8.5 version, which we looked at in 2006.

New data types allow the use of date- and time-based information, which can be used, for example, to show only events that occurred within a certain time frame. The Layout Templates function let us choose a map layout as a template to be used repeatedly.

Version 9.0 can now also open various computer-aided design files directly, without having to first export them to a .tab format. That feature will save a lot of time.

There are also significant improvements in the way Version 9.0 looks. Maps are easier to read because of MapInfo's ability to display curved labels, which will follow a winding road or river instead of sticking it out straight.

But for all of its improvements, MapInfo's greatest strength ' its versatility and flexibility ' might also be its biggest weakness. All those extras create a steep learning curve. Although you can quickly learn the program's basic functions, you will have to spend some time to master all of the features in the 567-page manual.

To use this software to its fullest extent, a user might need several weeks to get up to speed.

It took us two weeks ' and we were already somewhat familiar with how Version 8.5 worked. But, assuredly, once you are at a level of proficiency, you can do some pretty incredible things with the program, things that will almost seem like magic to the uninitiated. A single-user licensed copy of MapInfo Professional Version 9.0 costs $1,495, which is higher than the previous version. But given all its new features, the price is still a bargain.

Version 9.0 is a significant upgrade compared to the prior version, with new features that allow it to receive and display geographic information more easily. However, it still fulfills the same basic function ' making geographic information easier to manage.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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