Geographic information systems


GIS is multidisciplinary, broad topics in geography, computer science, statistics, cartography and other subject- specific fields. Clarke, 2001 defined GIS as a set of tool for examining spatial data, the database in this type of information systems consists of observations on spatially distributed features which can be defined as points, lines or areas. In order to conduct analysis and extract information, these features can be manipulated using GIS (Dueker, 1979).


Geographic Information Systems (GISs) development started primarily in the public sector in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1963, Canada Geographic Information Systems (CGIS) was developed, and it is still operating till today. It was used by the Canada land inventory (CLI) to analyze data collected from them and also to produce statistics to be used in developing land management plans. In 1964, Howard Fisher established Harvard laboratory for computer graphics and spatial analysis. Until the 1980s, this laboratory had a major influence on the development of GIS. In 1965, U.S Census bureau developed GBF-DIME data format used for digital mapping. In 1966, Howard Fisher developed SYMAP (Synagraphic Mapping System) which was used to produce isoline, choropleth and proximal maps on a line printer. In the late 1960s CALFORM was developed, it was an improvement of SYMAP, SYMVU was also developed which is a 3D view of SYMAP output, GRID was developed as well which was used to display raster cells using the same output techniques as SYMAP(Mark et al, 1997). In 1969, Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI) was founded by Jack and Laura Dangermond as a private consulting group.

In early 1970s, POLYVRT was developed which was used as an alternative way of forming area objects, to transfer boundary files between systems, and grow supply of data in digital form. In the mid 1970s ODYSSEY (first vector GIS) was developed which was an extension of POLYVRT which was beyond format conversion into a comprehensive package analysis based on vector data. In 1971, The Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS) became fully operational. In 1978, ESRI developed its first version of Arc/Info, the current leading GIS software package. ERDAS was also found.

In the 1980s, GIS evolved towards analysis and more functions for user interaction was developed in a graphical way by user friendly interface (GUI, Graphical User Interface). In 1982, ESRI's Arc/Info 1.0 which was the first commercially available GIS software package that ran on mainframe computers was released (ESRI, 2005, Antenucci et al, 1991); Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) started the development of GIS GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support Systems) - raster based GIs software for land management at military installations. In 1986, ESRI's first PC Arc/Info 1.0 was released (Clarke, 2001).

In the 1990s, GIS entered into a new era. In 1992, ESRI released ArcView 1.0 a new graphical user interface which was a major improvement in usability over Arc/Info command-line interface and was used for desktop mapping (Harris & Elmes, 1993). In 1997, ESRI released a tool for publishing GIS data over the internet ArcView Internet Map Server (IMS). In 2002, ESRI offered a wide range of GIS software which was compatible with Linux operating system the software's released where ArcIMS 4, ArcSDE 8.2, MapObjects-Java Standard Edition, and ArcExplorer 4. In May 2004, ESRI released its current ARC software, ArcGIS 9, which is available for Microsoft windows NT/2000/XP. It also has many different extensions available for purchase which gives the user more analysis, data, conversion, or display capabilities (ESRI, 2004).


The main objective of this study is to contrast the advantages and disadvantages of these two software packages and their extensions in terms of the ease of use, strength and weakness, analytical functionality and their real life experience.


MapInfo professional is an effective Microsoft Windows based mapping and geographic analysis package, which is outlined to easily visualize the relationship between data and geography (Pitney Bowes, 2010). It is compatible with Windows Vista (Ultimate), Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows XP Home SP2, Windows XP (64-bit), Windows 2000 SP4 (MapInfo, 2008).

ArcGIS9 is a powerful integrated suite of GIS applications capable of performing advanced mapping, data management and geoprocessing of spatial data. It is well-suited with the following operating systems: Windows XP and Vista (ESRI, 2006). Both software's have some similarities in common in their packages like; they are both used to create maps with many individual layers from points to lines and other features. They also have differences in terms of their ease of use, editing and updating capabilities, geocoding, costs, company history, what their extensions can do and their analytical power.


The two software packages are both user friendly, also they have some similarities in their graphical user interface (GUI) such as the menu bar, tool bars and status bar. ArcGIS combines three main applications ArcMap, ArcCatalog and Arc Toolbox. ArcMap is the most essential application in ArcGIS Desktop for the presentation and manoeuvring of geographic data, including mapping, query and selection, and editing. It lets you produce and work with map documents (ESRI, 2006). The ArcMap window consists of the menu bar, tool bars, table of content and the status bar (Fig 1). The GUI of ArcMap displays several tool bars that are quite easy and straightforward to play around with. ArcCatalog helps to manage your GIS information. It comprises of the Catalog tree which gives a list of databases, datasets, ArcGIS documents and GIS files (Fig 2). You can explore the Catalog tree to browse for files and find geographic information stored in the system, the preview pane; which helps to view the item's geography (Fig 3) and the metadata which helps to create, edit, and view data's in ArcCatalog (Fig 4). The Arc Toolbox contains a large number of GIS tools for geoprocessing and file

On the other hand MapInfo's GUI looks complex than ArcGIS has the ability to display features three ways all on the same window; it could display the graphical, browser and the map window (Fig 6). Just like ArcGIS it has the menu bar, the status bar and also tool bars, unlike ArcGIS its tool bar has more complex tools than ArcGIS. In ArcMap you can change the layer properties from the properties tab in the table of content (Fig 7) but in MapInfo the layer properties can the changed from the layer control tab in the main tool bar (Fig 8), the visible layer is used to display a layer, the editable is used to edit a layer, the selectable is used select a layer in the map window and the auto label is used to label a layer automatically. The tools on the main tool bar of MapInfo and ArcGIS has some that are similar while some are not. The tools in the main tool bar of MapInfo includes select, marquee select, Radius select, polygon select, boundary select, unselect all, invert selection, graph select, zoom in, zoom out, change view, grabber, info, hotlink, label, drag map window, layer control, ruler, show/hide legend, show/hide statistics, set target district, assign selected objects, clip region on/off and the set clip region tool. The ArcGIS main tools includes zoom in, zoom out, fixed zoom in, fixed zoom out, pan, full extent, go back to previous extent, go to next extent, select features, clear selected features, select elements, identity, find, go to XY, measure, hyperlink, HTML popup and create viewer window tool (Fig 10). The similar tools is both tool bars are the zoom in, zoom out, the pan, the select and the identity tools, all these tools does the same functions in the two display windows of the software.


MapInfo and ArcGIS have classy abilities in re-drawing and moving maps. MapInfo Professional 9.5 has a new prevailing data editing tool, called the CAD tools which add the functionality to produce the right location-data for any investigation needed. CAD tools increase the scope of skill data creation and management capabilities by the ability to produce more accurate location data. These tools also develop efficiency by providing the right tool for the task. The new MapInfo 9.5 software adds automatic labelling around points and centroids by providing the option to have labels automatically placed in nine different positions around a map object and/or object centroids compared to ArcGIS. This capability places more labels on the map and significantly reduces the time spent on adjusting labels (MapInfo, 2008). ArcGIS has the facility to undo previous extent positions by using the Undo button on the Tools menu bar or using the full extent button icon which will modify the position of the map layer to its original position before use. Editing data in ArcGIS can be divided into two categories: Collecting data and integrating data. In Data collection you enter new data into your GIS, while in data integration you transform data and maintain its integrity (ESRI, 2009).


Geocoding is the method of assigning a location to an address by comparing the vivid features of the location in the address to those seen in the referencing materials. These could range from the house number to the street name followed by the location descriptions such as the post codes or census tracts (ESRI, 2009). It could be used with a wide range of applications to distribute techniques from simple data analysis to business and customer management. Geocoding in ArcGIS could be easily done using some analysis tools available. In MapInfo, geocoding is a lot different because for you to geocode you must assign your X and Y coordinates to each record on your materials. These coordinates are assigned by matching the geographic information on your database to the geographic information on another table that already has X and Y coordinates associated with it.


Laszlo Bardos, Andrew Dressel, John Haller, Mike Marvin, and Sean O'Sullivan founded MapInfo in 1986. The company was first originated as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) incubator project (MapInfo profile, 2009, Rensselaer Alumni Magazine, 2004). The company's first intended project was for in-car navigation (Rensselaer Entrepreneurship, 2004, GIS Development, 2002.), the original name of the company was Navigational Technologies Incorporated (NTI). In 1992, it appeared at number 23 in an international magazine, (Inc. 500, 2006). In 1994, it held an initial public offering (IPO), (Greylock Partners Portfolio Software, 2006). In 2007, MapInfo Corporation merged into an agreement with Pitney Bowes who acquired the company till date for approximately $408 million in cash, which lead to the change of name of MapInfo into Pitney Bowes MapInfo Corporation (T,Pitney Bowes, 2007). In December 2007, some major MapInfo plug-in Encom Discover and Encom Engage from Encom Technology were also acquired by Pitney Bowes, (Pitney Bowes, 2007). Pitney Bowes Business Insight is now being operated by Group 1 software and MapInfo as at January 2009, (Pitney Bowes, 2009).

In 1969, Jack Dangermond founded Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI) which was then a private consulting firm that specialised in land use analysis projects. The first commercial GIS software Arc/Info was founded in 1982. In April 2001, ESRI began the distribution ArcGIS 8.1, a family of software products that forms a total GIS built on industry standards providing outstanding yet easy-to-use capabilities right out of the box (ESRI).


MapInfo Professional is a Pitney Bowes MapInfo Incorporated flagship product. Its retails for MapInfo Professional Version 10.0 single license user is £1, 4950 and its 2 license user is £2,990(Mapstop). MapInfo Professional Version 10.0 - Educational single user is £300. Vertical Mapper for MapInfo Professional single user is for £995 and its Vertical Mapper for MapInfo professional - Academic Version single user is for £219. (All excluding VAT).

ArcGIS on the other hand which is sold under the ESRI flagship product, ArcView 9.3.1 Single Use License is retailed for $1,500 (ESRI store). Also the extensions like ArcGIS 3D Analyst 9.3.1 Single Use License is retailed for $2,500, ArcGIS Data Interoperability 9.3.1 Single Use License is retailed for $2,500, ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst 9.3.1 Single Use License is retailed for $2,500. All its extensions are sold for $2,500 each (all for US customers only).



Vertical Mapper is one of the extensions of MapInfo that works faultlessly within MapInfo Professional. It helps to display, interpret, and manage grid-based spatial information (Pitney Bowes, 2010). It has a prevailing and exceptional facility to edit, analyse and visualise grids. It is the best mapping software to determine location-based data, in areas like telecommunications, crime prevention, retail, health care or mineral exploration.


ArcGIS 9 has 11 main types of extension which could be used for analytical functions (ESRI, 2008). These include: ArcGIS-

  1. 3D Analyst
  2. Data Interoperability
  3. Geostatistical Analyst
  4. Network Analyst
  5. Publisher
  6. Schematics
  7. Spatial Analyst
  8. Survey Analyst
  9. Tracking Analyst
  10. ArcScan
  11. Maplex

Some additional ArcGIS extensions include:

  1. Production Line Tool Set (PLTS) for ArcGIS
  2. ArcGIS Business Analyst
  3. Job Tracking for ArcGIS (JTX)
  4. Military Overlay Editor (MOLE)
  5. ArcGIS Military Analyst

These extensions have different functions like for analysing, data integration & editing, data publishing and cartography.


ArcGIS 3D Analyst extension is an advanced tool used for three-dimensional (3D) visualization, analysis, and surface generation. This tool can be used in viewing large sets of data in three dimensions from numerous viewpoints, query a surface, and create a reasonable standpoint image that drapes raster and vector data over a surface. You can carry out spherical 3D visualization, flythrough, animations and create contours and terrains.


Once you enable the data interoperability in ArcGIS, you can then use ArcCatalog to select an external data source, can import and export geoprocessing tools, using FME Workbench it can create custom formats and spatial ETL tools.


ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst is a great set of tool for spatial data exploration and highly developed surface modelling using deterministic and Geostatistical methods.


ArcGIS Network Analyst is a network based tool which helps network datasets to build, edit and perform analysis. It performs advanced routing and network analysis. It is mostly used to define service area based on the travel time.


ArcGIS publisher is used to publish maps, data and authored globes. It has the potential to easily distribute maps and GIS data. It converts ArcMap (.mxd) and ArcGlobe (.3dd) documents into published map formats (.pmf).


In ArcGIS Schematics, you can view schematic and visualize network geographic representations. It uses database information to automatically generate, manipulate and visualize a graphic representation of your network.


ArcGIS Spatial Analyst provides a wide range of prevailing spatial modelling and analysis features such as creating, querying, mapping, and analyzing cell-based raster data; carry out integrated raster/vector analysis; obtain new information from existing data; query information across multiple data layers; and totally integrate cell-based raster data with traditional vector data sources.


Survey Analyst defines is a set of editing tools for controlling survey information in ArcGIS. It comprises of two editors: a survey editor for controlling survey field information in a survey dataset and a cadastral editor for controlling parcel information in a cadastral fabric.


ArcGIS Tracking Analyst is used to map objects that move or change status through time. It has the ability to track, symbolize, display real-time or fixed-time, chart, create and apply and display in 3D temporal data.


ArcScan provides tools that allow you to convert scanned images of maps into vector feature layers such as shapefiles and geodatabase feature classes.


Maplex for ArcGIS provides a set of tools that allow you to improve the quality of label on your maps. It also provides the ability to offset labels from features, control label placement zones, control of label stacking and so on.



Pitney Bowes Business Insight has used MapInfo professional as an outstanding software in its application to real world situation, such that its power, focus on allowing users to profit from location analysis thus, sanctioning them in knowledge and understanding to a range of activities in many organisations around the globe. It can be used in various sectors ranging from Telecommunications, insurance, Retail, hotel, restaurant, government, media, commercial property and Financial Services sectors.


MapInfo has played a great role in telecommunications companies around the world using it network planning tool and infrastructure management tool from a network planning perspective. A key example is the Orange 3G network in UK which as at 2004 had 13.8 million active customers. This was achieved by using one of MapInfo Extension tool, the MapInfo TargetPro was used to analyse their proprietary data with other data sets to prioritise their roll out. MapInfo Professional was also used to map the areas which orange mast where located providing the engineers with exact coordinates and coverage capabilities as well as any gaps in service (Pitney Bowes, 2009).


Colorado Farm Bureau, an insurance company in USA with direct written premium of $64 million, $92 million assets and $29 million policy equity used MapInfo Professional, StreetPro and MapMarker to locate their customers with the aid of digital maps plotting and also to spot areas of opportunity. With these, they were able to analyse factors such as how greater distance travelling affected their business and also develop more effective contracts and compensations based on their geographic territory (MapInfo, 2005).


Tesco used MapInfo DriveTime software to provide a location based solution for them to build a worldwide brand (PB MapInfo, 2007). Marks and Spencer used MapInfo's MapXtreme to get their customers mobility and behavioural patterns with other high street retail brands (Pitney Bowes, 2008).

Fairmont hotel used MapInfo TargetPro and MapInfo PSYTE to get their best customers profile and target marketing and sales, they also used the profile to expand and pick the locations with most appeal to their target customers (MapInfo, 2005).


The government in New York has used MapInfo professional and MapMarker PLUS for crime mapping in the state. These has been achieved using MapMarker for geocoding by attaching geographic coordinates to addresses with street level precision and is quarterly updated with MapInfo (MapInfo, 2007).


Master card international company used MapInfo Envinsa's location based intelligence to transform its struggling ATM locator service into a multimillion dollar resource. Master cards give customers' detailed information by phone, internet and wireless technology with the help of MapInfo. When they used MapInfo Envinsa they made a profit of 1,152% (a five year ROI) in just six weeks, (MapInfo, 2004).

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