Until recently, the term "desktop GIS" meant a system with limited functions running on a personal computer. High-end GIS was found only on workstations. Now these distinctions are beginning to blur. Market forces, advances in software technology and the growing use of modular architecture to expand desktop GIS capabilities are accelerating the migration of workstation functionalities to the PC.

GIS is becoming more widely accepted as an information-processing tool. Versatile servers and network solutions now automate many tasks that formerly required a specialist. Users can access multiple data sources across an enterprise without third-party translation; merge geographic and relational data, producing a separate geographic database; and publish geographic databases and mapping applications in Internet/intranet environments. Concurrently, modular extensions are redefining the concept of desktop GIS by expanding functionalities well beyond basic core features.

The following the growth of the Internet has given rise to map servers for publishing geographic databases and mapping applications in Internet/intranet environments. All of these capabilities are showing up in leading desktop GIS.

Here is a look at new products reflecting these developments. Core features and extensions discussed in detail in the July 1996 issue of Government Technology are available at .

AUTODESK

AutoCAD Map Release 2.0

Several new features have been incorporated into this latest release. Like its predecessor, 2.0 is an automated mapping tool for creating, maintaining and communicating mapping and GIS information in a CAD environment. Release 2.0 is the first industry-specific product from Autodesk built on AutoCAD R14. It includes map digitizing and editing tools; thematic mapping and GIS topology creation and editing; and querying and analysis, including buffer, overlay and network tracing. Users can integrate vector, raster and attribute information. AutoCAD Map 2.0 is fully compatible with AutoCAD Map 1.0, AutoCAD 13 and AutoCAD LT for Windows products, via OLE 2.0 automation. The system supports Windows 95 and Windows NT.

According to the company, Map 2.0 has faster operations and greater file-size capacity, in part by enabling objects to be filled with solid color instead of crosshatching. Changes have also produced improved and expanded data import/export and integrated raster capabilities. A new work session feature allows users to edit and query multiple maps simultaneously while working with large data sets.

Autodesk World

For those who are not familiar with the CAD environment, but need the ability to query large data sets and analyze information quickly, Autodesk World may be the solution.

Designed for integrating geographic-related data from a variety of sources, the system is built on an open-standards architecture. It uses a Microsoft Office interface for accessing and integrating different data types, including geographic, CAD, DBMS, raster, spreadsheet, bitmap and objects. It also uses Autodesk DWG as a native file format, providing immediate access to all maps created in AutoCAD. In addition to traditional desktop GIS capabilities, World also has tools for OLE automation, standard interface conventions, and COM-based development environments.

Users can open CAD and GIS files simultaneously and perform analysis between the two data types. They can also access, analyze, edit and save data in a variety of formats -- ArcInfo Coverage, ArcView SHP, MapInfo MIF/MID, Atlas BNA, and MicroStation DGN -- without conversion or loss of data accuracy. Visual Basic and full OLE automation API (Application Programming Interface) capabilities make World an open platform for third-party application developers.

MANUFACTURER

Autodesk

111 McInnis Parkway

San Rafael, CA 94903

415/507-5000

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

P586/Pentium-based PC, 90MHz or faster.

Windows 95, Windows NT 3.51 or NT 4.0.

Minimum, 32MB RAM (64MB recommended).

Minimum free hard disk space 60MB -- 100MB for typical installation.

Permanent swap file, 96MB minimum.

VGA, 640x80 minimum, 1,024x768 recommended.

CD ROM, for initial installation only.

PRODUCT SUPPORT