BACKGROUND: Our group is part of the Bureau of Environmental Services for the City of Portland, Oregon. We are responsible for maintaining public health and safety while protecting the environment through the design, construction and maintenance of sanitary, combined and storm sewer systems, as well as habitat and stream restoration through best management practices. There are several GIS groups throughout the city operating for several bureaus. Our bureau has approximately 550 people, who are served either directly or indirectly by our GIS service group.

PLATFORMS: MapInfo Professional 6.0 runs on Windows NT 4.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We were looking for the best way to more efficiently and effectively manage the complex environmental, regulatory, engineering and operational issues we deal with on a daily basis. Our bureau is responsible for the management and construction of over 3,000 miles of sewer and storm water facilities. Representing 1.5 million assets spread across 140 square miles, we needed a way to track this information visually. With MapInfo Professional 6.0, we are now able to map out each one of these assets on our GIS asset management system.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: MapInfo Professional provides critically needed functionality and is extremely easy to use, which makes it an enterprise-wide information access and analysis tool for an ever-expanding number of users in the City of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services. The feature set of MapInfo Professional 6.0 also allows us to increase our already extremely high level of map production services, which has been growing annually by 25 percent with no increase in staff. We fully leverage the new features and functionalities with each release of MapInfo Professional. Since MapInfo listens to its customer needs and requests, the features we look to use in the future are usually rolled out in each new revision.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of MapInfo Professional 6.0 are its ease-of-use, extreme flexibility and openness, excellent user interface design and relatively flat learning curve for new users.

WEAKNESSES: MapInfo's difficulty in reading other mapping software sometimes makes the product less adaptable. However, its Universal Translator, which comes bundled with the product, is an excellent translation tool which significantly streamlines the translation of foreign files.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Initially, we chose MapInfo Professional for its price. Currently I consider this product to have the highest price/performance ratio of any other GIS package. The latest set of functions found in 6.0 makes it the highest performing package when compared to its nearest competitor at thousands of dollars less (when all add-ins are taken into account).

DELIVERABLES: We currently generate every imaginable type of output, from hard-copy maps to digital Acrobat files. We serve over 25 different groups within our organization, each with very specialized mapping and analysis needs. We interface heavily with our system modeling group to provide for data input and display model results of an extremely complex flow system. The analysis and reports generated using MapInfo are used on a daily basis for the short- and long-term sewer design and construction activities for the entire city.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MapInfo listens to its users. At last year's MapInfo user conference, the product manager for MapInfo Professional wrote down every idea suggested during a presentation. Almost all of the suggestions were incorporated into MapInfo Professional 6.0, the latest version of the product.

DOCUMENTATION: The MapInfo user's guide is the most valuable piece of documentation. It is particularly helpful for those users who have an idea of what they need to do, but do not know how to get there. It is packed with all sorts of GIS how-tos. A .pdf version of the user's guide, as is provided for the MapInfo reference manual, would be helpful. The MapInfo reference manual is good, but requires the user to know the necessary operation before beginning with the document. I post the reference guide in .pdf format on our network for users.

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