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A Windows Reality Check

Many vendors in GIS markets will tell you they are "well integrated" with Microsoft Windows, but surprisingly few even know what critical Microsoft technologies like .NET are, let alone how critically important they are for GIS users. Some do not even work correctly in Windows Vista! Be wary of fast-talking GIS salesmen who promise modern standards but deliver yesterday's technologies buffed up with a fresh coat of paint. For Windows fans this page may sound crazy, as if there are still applications that act like Vista or Windows Server 2008 is a new thing, but some GIS packages are so old-fashioned that they fail to support these and other modern Microsoft technologies.

We're going to assume that the reader has already decided Microsoft is the right technology choice, and that there are many benefits from being well integrated with Microsoft operating systems. Here are some test questions you might find helpful in assessing just how "integrated" a product is with Microsoft's latest, state-of-the-art software:

Is the user interface a dressed up Linux/UNIX command line interface? Surprisingly many GIS products, even those that sell for thousands of dollars, include numerous instances of "living-fossil" user-interface technology. Coelacanths were thought to be extinct for tens of millions of years before a live specimen was caught in the Indian Ocean. UNIX command line interfaces (even within UNIX!) should also be extinct, so don't let one pop up inside your GIS package. Insist on a user interface like Manifold's that harnesses the visual power of Microsoft's Windows metaphor, all the time.

Does the product run 64-bit when run in 64-bit Windows? 64-bit Windows was introduced years ago and has now become a critical part of professional and enterprise computing. Believe it or not, some vendors say they "support 64-bit Windows" when in actual fact they do not have 64-bit code! Instead, they are simply selling 32-bit products that run in 32-bit emulation mode within 64-bit Windows systems. If the vendor does not support 64-bit Windows editions with true, 64-bit code, they are forcing your wonderful 64-bit Windows system into operating in lobotomized, 32-bit emulation mode, denying you the power and reliability of modern 64-bit Windows and hardware products. That happens if any part of the GIS stack is 32-bit, even if some parts implemented in true 64-bit code. Manifold provides perfect, native 64-bit operation in all Windows 64-bit operating systems, including Windows XP x64, Windows Server 2003 x64, Windows Vista x64, Windows 7 x64, Windows Server 2008 x64, Windows 8 x64 and Windows Server 2012 x64. Manifold System is the only professional GIS to run true 64 bits throughout the entire GIS stack in all 64-bit Windows editions.

Does the product take advantage of multiple-core processors or multiple processors? Modern Windows provides superb, perfectly integrated support for multi-threaded use of modern processors that feature multiple cores. If your vendor fails to take advantage of these modern capabilities they are not as integrated with modern Microsoft and processor technologies as they should be. Amazingly enough, some legacy software (like that sold by ESRI) even though it costs thousands of dollars per seat cannot take advantage of multi-core or multiprocessor architectures. Manifold seamlessly utilizes multi-core processors in a variety of important settings, such as parallelized rendering of image libraries and multi-threaded connections to databases. Manifold is ready for the latest multi-core processor offerings from both AMD and Intel!

Is the program supported within Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000, including 64-bit versions? Surprisingly many programs are not "Windows 8 aware", and work/install only within older Windows or their vendors are not completely "with it" Get Windows 7 today! when it comes to supporting use within Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008. is an "Microsoft shop" throughout and develops exclusively in Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 with back-ports to Windows Server 2003, Windows XP and Windows 2000. As a Microsoft ISV, we receive a constant stream of Microsoft DVDs with every new beta and copies of all Microsoft products in dozens of languages. We support Manifold today in the very latest, very newest Windows releases. Ready for Windows 7? Manifold is! Manifold guarantees support for Windows 7 today.

Does the program honestly work, using Microsoft's own standards, with Microsoft's SQL Server 2012 spatial DBMS? Many GIS vendors claim to "support" SQL Server 2012 spatial when in truth they really don't. SQL Server editions from SQL Server 2008 to SQL Server 2012 provide new GEOMETRY and GEOGRAPHY spatial types for storing actual object geometry in addition to ordinary attributes. Manifold (Enterprise Edition and above) can directly connect to SQL Server 2012 and read, write and dynamically edit in place SQL Server 2012 spatial data using Microsoft's own spatial types with full support for projections without requiring any proprietary middleware. Use Manifold to load up your SQL Server 2012 spatial data warehouse and then visually edit that data, utilize it in Internet Map Server applications with Microsoft IIS or enable thousands of your own desktop users to simultaneously edit the same data in an enterprise settings. Old-fashioned GIS packages usually can't do that: they require purchase of some proprietary middleware layer that prevents direct connection to SQL Server, or they don't support true read/write/edit capability, or they can't handle projections correctly. Most GIS packages can't even handle SQL Server 2012 spatial data at all and when they say they "support" SQL Server 2012 they mean only the storage of attributes and not spatial data! Don't be fooled: some users are spending thousands of dollars per seat on old-fashioned GIS or CAD software and aren't even getting spatial capability with SQL Server 2012 as Manifold Enterprise Edition can do for a mere $395.

Does the program require the latest Microsoft .NET Framework for installation? If the program does not require the .NET Framework for installation you can be sure it does not leverage Microsoft's fabulously powerful .NET technology. That's usually a sure-fire sign the program fails to use modern Microsoft technology, or, worse, that it may be really warmed-over Linux code that's been hacked into a "Windows" version. If you want to have some fun with this, call the legacy GIS vendor and ask to speak to a technically oriented sales person and ask them what .NET is, whether they use it, and what specific benefits does .NET provide a GIS application that uses .NET. Does the legacy GIS vendor even know what .NET is? Manifold does, and Manifold uses .NET today to increase the power, sophistication and quality of Manifold in your hands. A corollary question if the vendor uses .NET is if they are using the latest .NET framework? Manifold does, to make sure you are connected to the latest and greatest Microsoft technology.

Does the program use Microsoft data access standards like ADO.NET? Surprisingly many GIS programs use dBase formats for data attribute storage instead of Microsoft standards. ESRI's ArcView program, for example, uses dBase .dbf format as an integral part of "shapefiles," the native format of ArcView. dBase was certainly a step forward for CP/M in the late 1970's, but unless one has an interest in antique software it is hardly as useful in modern Microsoft environments as Microsoft standards. Worse still, some GIS systems actually use their own, proprietary database storage formats. Manifold uses only Microsoft formats, including perfect support for the latest in Microsoft Universal Data Access using Microsoft standards such as ADO.NET, OLE DB, ODBC, UDL, Access MDB and SQL Server. Using ADO.NET, you can get data 600 times faster from SQL Server than through old-fashioned ODBC connections. To assure perfect compatibility with Microsoft data access standards, Manifold uses Microsoft's own code to connect to standard Microsoft file types (such as Access .mdb and Excell .xls) as well as to Windows standard database providers. That means that Manifold is directly compatible with Microsoft products such as Access and Excel as well as with all of the thousands of other Microsoft standard, third party programs that use Microsoft's database formats and data access methods.

Are Microsoft languages and standards used for scripting? Don't be handcuffed by some bizarre, one of a kind language invented by a GIS company. Microsoft language standards such as VB .NET and C# provide greater freedom and make more economic sense than being handcuffed by some vendor's proprietary language. If your GIS software cannot use Microsoft language standards in its scripting system, you'll be forced to learn some proprietary language and will be unable to take advantage of advances in Microsoft languages developed by the rest of the software industry. Manifold System uses Microsoft's .NET and ActiveX technology to allow scripting using any Microsoft-standard ActiveX scripting language, such as Visual Basic Scripting or Javascript, or any standard Microsoft .NET language, such as C#, or even IronPython. Use third party objects, COM, and all the rest! It's easy and fun. Advanced programmers can control Manifold using standard Microsoft Visual Basic or Visual C++ or any other standard Microsoft-compatible language.

Are Microsoft Development Tools used to create the product? While fine products may be created using any development environment, it stands to reason that products developed with Microsoft's own development tools and development libraries, which use actual Microsoft code to implement Windows interfaces, will provide the best compatibility with Microsoft Windows technologies. Manifold System uses Microsoft Visual C++ and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET to implement modern Windows interfaces using Microsoft's own code. When you install Manifold System, you actually install numerous items of advanced Microsoft code. For example, when Manifold launches it uses Microsoft .NET XML parsing code to configure itself using XML files that may be user-edited.

Can the program publish web pages with Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS)? The Internet provides a way to publish your projects worldwide at effectively zero cost. Internet methods are also used to communicate within organizations using intranets. If a GIS program claims to be "Microsoft compatible" it sure better be able to work perfectly with Microsoft's Internet Information Services web server capability that is built into many versions of Windows. Manifold's Internet Map Server (IMS) is a very high performance, sophisticated map server that's designed to work exclusively with Microsoft Internet Information Services to automatically publish your map projects dynamically to web pages. Manifold supports high-end IIS features like object pooling and session state free operation. Don't settle for some clunky, overpriced UNIX-derived map server that uses CGI - Manifold uses Microsoft's own Active Server Pages .asp or ASP .NET files for fast server-side pages that are tightly integrated with IIS. Don't accept any excuses from non-Microsoft vendors who require you to write your own webstuff in Java or use other non-Microsoft web technologies. Insist on the very best and latest support for genuine Microsoft standards.

Does the program provide tool tips, right-mouse click pop-up menus and standard Windows selection methods? "Tool tips" are those helpful tips that spontaneously pop up when your mouse cursor lingers over a command button. Manifold System includes full tool tips on all toolbar buttons, as well as supplemental prompts in the status line. Clicking in various areas with the right mouse calls up context sensitive pop-up menus that change depending on the context of the click. Programs that are tightly integrated with the Windows user interface will use standard Windows highlighting and selection methods in dialogs. For example, in Manifold, to select all records in a table between two records we can click on the first record and then SHIFT-click on the second record. All records in between will also be highlighted.

Does the package seamlessly integrate with Microsoft products like Excel, Access, MapPoint, SQL Server and Virtual Earth? Manifold does, but you'd be surprised how many dumb looks and blank stares you get from GIS vendors who don't even know what these Microsoft products are, or how a GIS might connect to, say, Microsoft Virtual Earth. Manifold provides a host of interconnections to standard Microsoft products. See, for example, the Flashy Demo example topic for how Manifold seamlessly integrates with Excel. See the Tutorial topic to see how Manifold seamlessly integrates with Virtual Earth (image at right). See the Geocoding with MapPoint topic to see how Manifold seamlessly integrates with MapPoint for street address geogoding. No other GIS program has such tight and perfect integration with a host of Microsoft products. Only Manifold has built-in capabilities to directly connect to SQL Server with custom features to support geospatial storage within SQL Server for enterprise-class applications, like concurrent, multi-user editing by potentially thousands of users. Microsoft has the world's leading applications in many key areas - your GIS should integrate with those applications perfectly and seamlessly.

Does the program use standard Windows dialogs? Ever encounter a "Windows" application that doesn't use standard Windows dialogs or can't adjust between Aero and other Windows styles? That's a sign of out-of-date Windows programming. Programs that are ported to Windows instead of being developed within Windows often feature numerous strange interfaces in lieu of standard Windows dialogs. Manifold System was developed 100% in Windows for Windows. All Manifold file manipulation dialogs use standard, modern Windows dialogs for complete compatibility with the latest generation of Microsoft networking.

Can you use the full range of Windows fonts and colors? Surprisingly many programs not fully integrated with Windows cannot handle the full range of colors available in modern graphics cards built for Windows. Manifold System uses the full palette range available within your Windows system, using standard Windows dialogs. Fonts also are managed using standard Windows fonts dialogs to give you the full use of all fonts installed in your system.

Does the program provide Microsoft programming controls? Only Manifold includes a drag and drop forms creation capability similar to that of Visual Studio, with direct support for a wide range of standard Microsoft controls that may be dragged and dropped into the form. Microsoft-style "smart mouse" selection and alignment controls mean that forms creation is similar to that of all standard Microsoft forms-capable applications. Manifold's API includes numerous features supporting direct use of Manifold within your advanced Microsoft development tools.

Does the program use standard Windows icon and bitmap formats? Programs that use standard Windows graphics resources (like Manifold, of course!) can utilize a vast array of icons and bitmaps. Manifold can be customized to use any graphics file for point icons. Cool! We've heard that other GIS programs make the addition of new icons virtually impossible, in some case requiring the acquisition of exotic and expensive tools.

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