April 1, 1997
To many people, a Geographic Information System (GIS) remains a foreign concept. Traditionally, GIS has been used in a CAD-like environment by specialists, and it has also been saddled with complex products and proprietary data. This is changing, though, to include users far beyond traditional GIS specialists for using capable GIS products—casual, part-time users. This emerging group of users wants products that don’t necessarily have to sit atop a CAD engine for accessing the huge volumes of information typically contained in a GIS. These users wants access to a GIS to supplement their job description, not create a new one in having to learn an overly-complex CAD-based product. These are the very issues that Autodesk is addressing as it mounts a further push into GIS with its first release of Autodesk World.
The company is breaking new ground with World - a PC desktop-based product that is easy to learn and use, especially when compared to some of the "heavy-hitter" products, such as ESRI’s ArcInfo. Autodesk also hopes that World will help to diminish the traditional barriers between CAD/ GIS departments and other users who just want access to the same GIS data for other purposes. These barriers will hopefully be broken through the traditionally disparate groups’ ability to access and share the wealth of knowledge that can be found in a well-implemented GIS, of which World could play a big part.
With the introduction of Autodesk World, the company now has three GIS-related product lines that are not so much distinct as they are complementary to each other. The three product lines and their intended use include:
- AutoCAD Map 2.0 - AutoCAD based mapping (see the AutoCAD R14 PRODUCT UPDATE in this issue for further details)
- MapGuide Family - three products for Internet/intranet map publishing (see the GIS INDUSTRY UPDATE in the December 1996 A-E-C Automation Newsletter for further details)
- Autodesk World - GIS data management and analysis.
Autodesk is quick to point out that World is not a replacement for AutoCAD Map—a product developed for CAD-based map creation and maintenance. World is a data-centric product that emphasizes GIS data management and incorporates the attribute database engine from Microsoft Access. World is also the first product released as a result of the ReGIS technology acquired by Autodesk from Automated Methods (South Africa) in 1995. Autodesk’s World developers rebuilt the product on Microsoft Foundation Classes and redesigned the user interface to make it Office ’95 compliant.
Power of GIS Analysis Found?
While the power of GIS analysis has often been touted as a way to streamline an organization’s operations, few of these businesses have truly benefited. This sad truth has occurred because, historically, even for relatively simple tasks, many GIS products have been expensive, difficult to learn and use, and available only as UNIX workstation or PC applications too large and cumbersome for use by anyone except GIS specialists.
Since World was developed specifically for the Windows-based desktop, it just may be the ticket to a relatively inexpensive GIS product for a wide spectrum of users.
Data Integration and Access
World integrates CAD and GIS into a single entity - attempting to break the long-standing difficulties of dealing with the two technologies. CAD and GIS files can be opened simultaneously and users can perform analyses between the two data types. With its unique, but familiar, Windows interface, users can access and integrate diverse forms of data that include geographic, CAD, DBMS, raster, spreadsheet, bitmap, and objects.
World lets users work with geographic-based data from many sources—competitive file formats or Autodesk’s DWG, World’s native file format. Users can access, analyze, edit, and save data in a wide variety of file formats that include ArcInfo Coverage, ArcView SHP, MapInfo MIF/MID, Atlas BNA, and MicroStation DGN—without conversion and loss of data accuracy. World’s open architecture also lets developers add virtually any other file formats.
World comes with an OLE automation application programming Interface (API), letting developers customize GIS applications. This open API lets developers use any standard programming language, including C++, Delphi, Visual C, as well as Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Also included are the Microsoft Jet Engine (the core technology found in Microsoft Access) as its internal database and Seagate Crystal Reports as the reporting package.
Requirements, Price, and Direction
Since Autodesk World is a native 32-bit application, it will run under Windows 95 or NT. Minimum system requirements are 486DX CPU, 16 MB of RAM, and 35 MB free disk space with 16 MB swap space. Autodesk World will be available at the end of May for $1,995.
GIS has already proven a good market for Autodesk, and its new products—Autodesk World and AutoCAD Map—are only making it better. Autodesk’s GIS Market Group continues to develop and offer an evermore comprehensive family of mapping and GIS products that create and maintain maps; publish, distribute, and access maps; and spatially analyze data.
Although the company wouldn’t disclose any details at press time, Autodesk promises more GIS products slated for release later this year. The company does say, however, that Autodesk World will serve as the foundation for a suite of GIS products.
Autodesk is serious about GIS and mapping. The company continues to make serious investments in GIS technology, proving that it is in this market for the long term, and its customers are beginning to realize that. For our part, we continue to be favorably impressed at the depth and breadth of Autodesk’s commitment and market strategies for the GIS marketplace.
Contact: Autodesk Inc., 800-964-6432, 415-507-5000, http://www.autodesk.com/gis