GIS Tech News (#67)

6 Oct, 2008

Desktop GIS Software Adds CAD Toolsp>

Pitney Bowes' MapInfo Professional 9.5 can reduce need for stand-alone computer-aided design software.

By Andrew Roe

Andrew Roe

A widely used desktop GIS (geospatial information systems) product has added more CAD capabilities to its toolkit. MapInfo Professional 9.5, released this summer, allows users to move and position objects at specific angles and distances, create parcels using various methods, and manipulate property boundaries more precisely than with previous releases.

Packaged with a host of other new features, the new release seems to indicate Pitney Bowes, which inherited the MapInfo product with the acquisition of the MapInfo Corporation in 2007, is seeking a bigger piece of the technical GIS market. Historically, MapInfo's user base primarily has included retail, financial, and telecommunications users.

It's not yet known how many new users will be attracted to MapInfo Professional 9.5, but existing MapInfo users apparently are putting the new features to use. Eric Gagnon, a GIS specialist with the La Vallee District Planning Commission in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada, has used MapInfo Professional's new CAD tools to document building permits and other planning and zoning documents. The CAD tools form "a missing link" for many MapInfo Professional users, he said.

In a common scenario, Gagnon's group documents the need for a variance from existing zoning regulations. After obtaining field measurements for a project such as a building addition, the group can work inMapInfo Professional to create a layer for the variance, draw structures and other linework, enclose regions with polygons, add attributes for the regions, and automatically label dimensions. Previously, such tasks were largely done in a CAD environment and exported into MapInfo. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Andrew G. Roe is a licensed civil engineer and president of AGR Associates. He is also the author of Using Visual Basic with AutoCAD, published by Autodesk Press. E-mail him at


SimCity for Real: CommunityViz Lets Planners, Residents See Future in 3D

By Kenneth Wong

In the published meeting minutes of zoning commissions and planning committees across the country, one software program's name keeps showing up. In May 2008, Matt Noonkester from Kimley-Horn & Associates, a land planning consultancy, went before the Technical Coordinating Committee of the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to explain the use of a specific geographic information systems (GIS) solution for the tri-county transportation and land use study. The software selected was CommunityViz, which Noonkester predicted would "become the new socioeconomic software data platform." In July 2006, Alex Weinhagen, director of planning and zoning for Hinesburg, Vermont, told the local planning commission that he believed CommunityViz could "help [the commission] develop visual representations of possible rezoning options for the village growth project." The same software made cameo appearances in the Missoula County Open Lands Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting in March 2008 and the Eureka Township Envisioning Task Force meeting way back in August 2001.

CommunityViz is a set of extensions for ArcGIS, a family of GIS solutions from ESRI. Currently priced at $750 per seat, CommunityViz won't likely raise the eyebrows of many who hold the purse strings. With the software's dynamic maps, charts, and 3D models, planners and developers can produce GIS-based simulated landscapes that are accessible to the council and committee members who might be unfamiliar with GIS. By displaying the future scenarios in 3D, users can show the decision makers, for instance, the number of new homes and schools they would need to build in the next five years or the effect that a series of shopping malls would have on the natural environment. If desired, you can even use CommunityViz to help them determine if they can collect enough taxes to pay for the projects. Read more »

Mark Your Calendar: GIS Events

Building Geospatial Business Systems Seminar
October 8, 2008
Brussels, Belgium
At this seminar, Oracle and ERDAS executives will discuss strategy, sharing perspectives on enterprise-business solutions that integrate geospatial information. Read more »

GITA 2009 Geospatial Infrastructure Solutions Conference
April 19-22, 2009
Tampa, Florida
GITA's four-day event will feature more than 100 sessions, half-day seminars, and an extensive products and services exhibition in addition to preconference Knowledge Immersion seminars, user forums, panel discussions, networking socials, and a products and services exhibition. Read more »

Cadalyst's complete list of upcoming events is always available on our Web site. Our sister Web site,, also offers a full calendar of GIS-related events.