PLATFORMS: Windows NT, Workstation 4.0, Windows 95.

BACKGROUND: Range and Bearing is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) consulting company serving the forestry and environmental industries.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Previous to the availability of FME, GIS data was held prisoner to the data formats it was stored in. Most organizations using GIS had libraries of makeshift and sometimes questionable translation utilities to get their data from one format to the next. In many cases costly subcontracting was required to have the data converted by a company with an exclusive translator. The FME solves this problem by providing a huge array of standardized, easily accessible data conversion tools on the electronic desktop. The FME moves one step closer to a world in which data conveys information that answers questions and solves problems without worrying about the technical challenges of hardware platforms and data formats.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: FME is being used at Range and Bearing mostly to convert vast amounts of archived GIS data into topological continuous data. Range and Bearing has developed many FME mapping file scripts to read in multiple map sheets in various formats and output all of the features into one continuous coverage per feature. Range and Bearing is also using FME to develop specific applications like forest fire mapping where fire mapping baseline data conversion is required very quickly from multiple archive formats. Another very important use of FME is the replacement of traditional GIS tasks. We have recently stopped using our old product to reproject our data because FME does it easier, much quicker and allows us to easily use the new Canadian National Transformation Grid version 2. In one benchmark, we projected a large polygon database with 137,000 records (200+ MB in size). Using our Dual Pentium Pro 200, 256MB RAM and ultra-wide SCSI local drives, FME took about seven minutes.

STRENGTHS: FME's strengths start with its multiple personality interface. The inexperienced user can drag and drop data files on the GUI and be prompted all the way through a generic conversion. The advanced user can write his own complex scripts and execute them using the FME command line interface or the GUI. FME is an elegant, dexterous and extremely fast data conversion, data processing powerhouse. FME does go beyond the data conversion call of duty in providing processing tools normally reserved for the much more expensive GIS such as densifying vertices, generalizing line work, rotations, offsets, scaling, etc.

WEAKNESSES: Although the FME supports ESRI shape format fully, and ARC/INFO will convert shape to native coverage, native coverage support by FME would be of great benefit. Safe Software has recently upgraded the E00 (ARC/INFO export format) format support but still has a little ways to go. Full E00 support will be the next step (expected very soon I'm told), but native coverage support would be the ultimate for hardcore ESRI ARC/INFO GIS power users.

SELECTION CRITERIA: After trying FME, it simply was the most robust product on the market, and the price is right. FME paid for itself in the first few days on one project!

DELIVERABLES: FME delivers both powerful GIS processing and format translation between ESRI shape, ESRI E00 and MicroStation design files among others for Range and Bearing.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The product is supported very well. We get help from the support staff as well as the original programmers.

DOCUMENTATION: The Users' Guide and the reference manual are complete and easy to understand. The documentation is thorough and the scripting syntax is very intuitive.

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