AutoCAD Map 3D 2010 (First Look Review)

29 Jun, 2009 By: Andrew G. Roe

Point group and multiple format importation help users who seek to bridge the gap between CAD and GIS.

Autodesk bills its AutoCAD Map 3D product as one that bridges the gap between CAD and GIS. Other industry products come with similar claims, but Autodesk seems to have strengthened its assertion with Map 3D 2010. Incorporating some key new features and a more seamless environment that provides CAD and GIS tools in the same setting, Map 3D 2010 is a tool that can help multidisciplinary firms maintain continuity from mapping and planning to final design.

AutoCAD Map 3D 2010
Geographic Information Mapping Software
Overall Grade: A-

Provides seamless access to both GIS and CAD tools.

Cons: May not meet needs of high-end GIS professionals or engineering designers.

Price: $4,995

800.0578.3375, ext. 127

Built on top of AutoCAD, Map 3D provides full AutoCAD functionality along with a wide range of tools for creating and analyzing maps and other spatial data. As with other AutoCAD-based products, Map 3D 2010 uses the ribbon-based interface -- embraced by some, cursed by others, and destined to be used by most of us at some point. If you're not familiar with the ribbon, it replaces traditional menus and toolbars with a single tool strip divided into several tabs. Familiar icons and commands might seem to be missing, but you can find key features if you poke around a bit. And for those resistant to change, the AutoCAD Map 3D interface is customizable, even allowing you to restore the classic interface with familiar menus and toolbars.

New Tools
Map 3D has added some features to improve data exchange, particularly with survey data. In addition to importing point data in ASCII and LandXML formats, you can use Map 3D to work with point groups, a prominent feature in Autodesk's civil engineering product, Civil 3D. Point groups help organize points into logical categories, such as water features, property boundaries, and topographic survey data.

Building on the capabilities of point groups, you can featurize points and create geospatial features from survey points using a new Bulk Copy feature. After exporting point groups to separate spatial data files (SDFs) -- the native format for the Autodesk MapGuide product -- you can then bring the SDF files into AutoCAD Map 3D as layers and manipulate them to your heart's content. For example, a group of survey points representing pavement edges can be used to create existing pavement boundaries in both line segment and shape format that can be analyzed for engineering and asset-management purposes.

Because Civil 3D is built on the Map 3D base, numerous common features allow users to morph freely from map builder to property analyzer to designer. New coordinate geometry (COGO) tools allow you to locate points via bearing / bearing and distance / distance intersection methods and also to prepare inverse reports to list bearings and distances between known points.

Map 3D also shines if you want to build a map using various data sources. For example, you can start with an ESRI SHP file, add SDF and DWG files, then overlay an aerial photograph in raster format -- all using drag-and-drop techniques.

AutoCAD Map 3D allows you to combine multiple file formats such as SHP, SDF, DWG, and JPEG.

New overlay operations enable you to analyze geospatial data via intersection, union, clip, and symmetric difference methods. You can compare or combine feature data objects (FDOs) to help analyze data in small or large groups. The Expression Builder has been enhanced to allow query building that can be applied across multiple FDO-accessed data sources.

System Requirements
AutoCAD Map 3D can run on 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. For 32-bit users running Microsoft Windows XP Professional, it requires a 1.6-GHz or faster Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon dual-core processor. It also runs under on Windows Vista Enterprise, Business, or Ultimate editions with a 3.0-GHz or faster Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon dual-core processor. In either case, it requires at least 2 GB of RAM -- preferably more for best results. For 64-bit users, Map 3D can run under Windows XP Professional x64 Edition or Windows Vista Enterprise using AMD Athlon, AMD Opteron, Intel Xeon, or Intel Pentium 4 processors. A minimum of 4 GB of RAM is recommended for 64-bit platforms.

Building on an already strong feature set, AutoCAD Map 3D 2010 should appeal to planners, mapping professionals, engineers, and surveyors. It may not replace high-end GIS products or meet all the needs of engineers doing final design, but it can serve as a solid intermediate product to truly bridge the gap between GIS and CAD professionals.

About the Author: Andrew G. Roe

Andrew G. Roe

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