December 18, 1995
Maptitude offers unbeatable mapping value for Windows
Last week, I described a kind of price war that has broken out among vendors
of mapping software for Windows. The latest entrant into this battle
is BusinessMap, a $99.95 product from the Environmental Systems Research
Institute, in Redlands, Calif. (ESRI,  970-0033 or  793-2853). As
I wrote last week, BusinessMap can read PC spreadsheet data as well as
information from ESRI's mainframe-level ArcInfo mapping software, and it can
show address locations on a map. But BusinessMap can only pinpoint an
address on a map down to the ZIP code level, because the product does not
include detailed street information.
A better value for those who need to map addresses from databases is software
called Maptitude, from Caliper Corp., in Newton, Mass. ( 527-4700).
Although Maptitude lists for a higher price -- $395 -- the product includes
more features and data than other products and is arguably the least
expensive serious mapping tool available to Windows users.
Given a spreadsheet or database file full of name and address information,
Maptitude can automatically locate (or geocode) most addresses down to a
single point within a city block. The resulting maps can be displayed and
printed in a wide variety of forms, and the mapped addresses can be
automatically labeled with a name or other information that identifies each
Besides coming with a complete city street database, Maptitude includes a CD
containing an awesome array of U.S. Census data. Among the more than 500
data items available by census tract are (take a deep breath) population,
age, marital status, education, race, household income, housing value,
rentals vs. owners, and so on. Caliper also sells census data broken down to
"block groups" (containing an average of 1,000 residents) and individual city
blocks. Each data CD lists for $195. City block data does not include some
variables, such as income, that the government doesn't release due to privacy
This wealth of demographics is a powerful selling point. Before Maptitude,
the same data was sold by vendors for thousands of dollars.
Maptitude excels at allowing you to create districts (such as sales
territories, school enrollment areas, and so on) by subdividing any map. It
also has a simple "routing" capability to provide driving directions between
points you select.
If Maptitude has a weakness, it is its separation of automatic and manual
functions. Automatic labels, for example, cannot be dragged into new
positions on a map. You must use manual labels to do this. Similarly, you
must select points manually to use Maptitude's routing feature.
But these quibbles take nothing away from Maptitude's value as the first
serious mapping tool at this price level.
Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: (206) 282-1248.
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