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Spatial News Review

Microsoft
MapPoint 2000   Review
by: GeoCommunity Staff, May 1999
editor@geocomm.com



If you're like me, when you first heard that Microsoft was coming out with a desktop mapping tool you likely had some mixed feelings. You may have thought that we were entering a new era in desktop mapping, destined to be run by the big guy! Well, don't worry. After checking out MapPoint you will find out that it definitely serves a purpose, and if you're a GIS Analyst you don't have to worry about being re-trained. I would hesitate to call it fully functional GIS. Yes there is GIS functionality incorporated into the product, however, it is somewhat limited. This product has been designed for business users in order to enable them to map and analyze business and demographic data and view or incorporate the results in to a familiar MS Office environment. MapPoint is cheap, simple to use and comes Packed with data - a real bargain at just over $100! I will now offer my initial thoughts of the software and then follow up with a description of some of the available functions accompanied by screen shots.

The install was straight forward and painless. I do get the impression, however, that I will not get the full functionality of the product because I use Netscape as my browser (although I recently installed IE 5). This is something that I have run into a lot lately. Lots of software is searching for IE installed components during setup and this is no exception. Utilities such as web publishing and help may require Internet explorer. I now fire up MapPoint and am presented with a map of North America. Detail is only available for the US at this time. A scrolling zoom bar allows me to zoom in and out and more detailed features are revealed as we zoom in tighter. A keymap in the upper left and a legend in the lower left area of the screen is constantly updated to reflect my current map view.

The goals in designing this product were as follows:

  • Simple to use
  • Compatibility with MS Office products
  • Ease of locating addresses
  • Ability to easily map business trends
When you first fire up the program you are greeted with a map of the US - Click Here to view. The menu structure will look familiar to you. Navigation is simple in MapPoint.

Users have a variety of ways to move around including:
  • Find box
  • Pan
  • Zoom
  • Double Click "hot" labels
You are presented with the following location and scale bar at the top of the screen

Several pre-defined map styles are available for use, depending on the type of data you are working with. Select the Format/Map Style option. These include:
Road Map Style - the most detail
Data Map Style - Only relevant boundaries are shown, roads are turned off
Road & Data style - Both road map and data

Here is a summary of some of the things you get and can accomplish with MapPoint:

  • Includes a world map at the country level
  • Street level data for the US
  • Boundaries include states, counties, statistical areas, five digit ZIP codes, census tracts.
  • Address matching (geocoding) using GDT Technology - they claim 80 - 85% accuracy
  • Map feedback wizard - got a problem, report inaccuracies directly to Microsoft using the wizard
  • 3 frame view includes map, legend map, overview map
  • Pre-defined map styles
  • Map distance calculator tool
  • Export map to handheld PC and other mobile devices
  • Help answer wizard (I couldn't access help as I don't use IE)
  • Drag and drop between MS Office app's
  • Save as html (this is slick!)
  • Create user defined map templates
  • MapPoint registers as an OLE object, enabling you insert and edit maps in other Office app's
  • Mapping wizards to facilitate importing and thematic mapping of ancillary data
  • Data Import wizard for Excel, Access, SQL Server, and ASCII text
  • Demographic data from Claritas for 1980, 1990 current year, and five year projections
  • Developers can incorporate Mappoint into solutions using an ActiveX model
Here are some examples of things you can easily accomplish, complete with screen shots
  • Zoom in to Seattle - Double click and you then zoom to that area. I clicked on Seattle - here is the resulting view.
  • Locate using the "Find Place" utility
  • Even better, you can locate by entering an address in the Find Place utility
  • Map Highlighter & Distance Tool - here's an example of a map that shows a jogging route. Simply trace your route and it appears highlighted on the map along with the total distance. The Tools/Measuring tool option seems to accomplish the same function, except the highlighted area is black rather than yellow.
  • You can easily customize maps by adding point features choosing from a large selection of pre-defined "push pins". Here's an example of some of the pins available to you. I didn't count, but it seems like there are a couple of hundred available.
  • The location sensor tells you the lat/long of your current cursor position. Simply select the Tools/Location Sensor option.
  • Save as HTML - this is a very nice feature and it seems to work very well. I recommend you create a separate directory for each map that is saved as many files are produced as a result. Click here for an example html file of the Pacific Sciences Center, Seattle, Washington. By default, Mappoint wanted to call this file Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Washington.html This  kind of scares me given the amount of stress I have had in the past as a result of long filenames with certain applications (I wont go there at this time!)  - not a preferred convention for file naming in my books! I simply renamed it Pacific to keep things simple!
This review has not touched on ALL the functionality of MapPoint, but hopefully it gives you an idea what to expect. For more details and a look at product specs. check out SpatialNews edition #4 (April, 1999)

If you want even more info on MapPoint here's a few resources for you to check out:

http://www.pcworld.com/current_issue/article/0,1212,9130,00.html
http://www.zdnet.com/pccomp/stories/reviews/0,5672,383009,00.html
http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,382745,00.html
http://www.microsoft.com/mappoint/


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