Thursday, October 9, 2008

MapInfo Tutorial

I can't help but laugh at this. I'm back in government land putting together a "manual"/"tutorial" for working with MapInfo. There was a copy of version 4.5 floating around with the manuals, so I was flipping through it. It looks exactly the same! And, this was for Windows 95! So I went online and searched for MapInfo tutorials. I didn't see any of the initial hits that were for greater than version 7.5...

On the one hand, MapInfo is like a rock and doesn't change. On the other hand, they haven't fixed fatal flaws with their program (IMHO), like workspaces.

I'll post the tutorial (edited to remove gov' related info) when it is done.


Jhangora said...

Thanx a lot for the valuable info.

Hampden GIS/IT said...

I agree, there are definitely things that have fallen behind in releases that badly need improvement. For me, they really need to improve the cartographic end of it- new/expanded color palette, new fonts, new fill patterns, new symbols. In their latest release they did start to work on this by adding some features to the color and pattern grid- they finally added a grid column and row ID so you can choose the same color each time. I believe ESRI has had that for years, where you hover over the color and the name pops up. MapInfo added a similar feature. Also, I can't tell you details, but I was just in on a conference call to the software designers at MapInfo on Friday and they're finally working on catching up some things.

I disagree with your opinion about workspaces. I really like the way they've set that up, because to me it's easier to think about what's going to print on the page vs. what's in my data windows. I think it might be a left-brain right-brain thing. One of the golden keys to a workspace file is that it can be opened in Notepad as a text file without crazy characters- so if something does become corrupted (i.e. move file folders and the file path changes), you can open it in Notepad and fix it. I can't seem to get an mxd to do that, and there are plenty of times for me where an mxd has lost touch with some of it's files and it's a real pain to re-associate. Perhaps it's simply because I'm not a daily ESRI user and haven't figure out the quicker way.

If you want a more up to date User Guide, try:

David S. Lamb said...

That's a great point, and I didn't realize that you could open up the workspace to fix errors like that. In version 9.2 of ArcGIS, simply right-click on the layer with a broken data source, go to Data and Repair Source. It will automatically fix any other layers that were in the same folder, or if the drive letter changed it sometimes fixes that. Although, find and replace in notepad would probably be quicker.

My major problem with workspaces is, IMHO, they seem volatile. It is quite possible that I'm doing something wrong, but if I close a map window, or a layout window on accident then save the workspace...all that work that went into the layout is gone. Even if I don't save, I've lost the work because the layout closed. Is that true?
The other problem that I don't like is the Named Views (the only thing I've found to save a map view) is saved at the application level and not in the workspace. Since I'm not a "native" MapInfo user, meaning I grew up on ArcGIS and AutoCAD, these are just two things I'm not use to.

Since you've already given me one valuable MapInfo tip (notepad), perhaps you have another up your sleeve :).

Hampden GIS/IT said...

"but if I close a map window, or a layout window on accident then save the workspace...all that work that went into the layout is gone. Even if I don't save, I've lost the work because the layout closed. Is that true?" . . .yes (as far as I know).

I avoid this problem by doing two things as a course of standard practice:
1) always keep the windows (maps, browsers, layouts, etc) maximized whenever possible within MapInfo in order to reduce chances of clicking the red X in the upper right corner when maybe you meant to min/max the window. To toggle between windows I choose Window- and then pick which one I need: 1, 2, 3, etc.

Here is another tip- To make it easier to figure out what each window is, use Window Manager. It's under the basic Tool Manager. Once loaded, go to Tools- Window Manager- Set Window Title. From there you can change the window title from "ZoneA, parcels, streams,...,rivers map" to "Shoreland Zoning Map" for example.

2) save workspaces often, with different revision IDs. Usually when I work on a new workspace, it's a whole new map, and it will often go through many revisions. At the end of the project, you can delete the older workspace files if you choose. I'll start with ShorelandZoning20081024 and then later it might be ShorelandZoning20081025 or ShorelandZoning20081025_1 This way you have something to go back to instead of starting completely over.

When I do have multiple map windows open, it's usually because I'm using Sync Windows, another cool and useful feature in Tool Manager. It syncs map windows such that if you zoom in to one, it'll zoom to the same location in the other. This has been helpful for us in using different years of orthos (map window A has 2003 imagery, map window B has 2006 imagery) and a parcel and zoning layer in each, and making comparisons about land use change.

You do have to be careful about using the red x. That was actually one of the first lessons I learned while learning MapInfo- DO NOT USE THE RED X. EVER. Sorry. It doesn't follow the same line of logic as all other Microsoft or other programs.

Peter Horsbøll Møller said...

With MapInfo 9.0 an extra check was added, so that you didn't close a layout window by mistake. If you haven't saved your workspace after editing the layout window, MapInfo should now ask you "Hey, are you sure you really want to dismiss all the changes to the layout window?".
As I remember it, it is a preference that you might have to turn on.

Hampden GIS/IT said...

oh yeah, that's right! Good call, Peter. I completely forgot about that, because it never prompts me due to my own habits. But, it will only prompt if there are changes- so if you close a layout and then save over the workspace, then you do lose the layout, I believe. It's under Options- Preferences- Layout Window- Prompt Save Workspace Prior to Close.