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archiTechy2 post(s)
#12-Oct-21 22:46

To whom it may concern,

I am a Landscape Architecture Student familiar with ArcGIS Pro. I ran across the manifold forum while searching how to import ige files to Arc-Pro. Manifold seems like a huge time saver and I am trying to evaluate if it is worth my time to learn.

How steep is the learning curve for Manifold. Is it something someone with an IT, ArcGIS Pro and architect student background could pick up from 3-12 hours of use?

Best Regards


3,216 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 00:10

It is definitely a different way of thinking about things. If you search this forum you will see that lots of people caution new users to not take shortcuts and really read the documentation.

I create a lot of training courses using Manifold GIS software and open source. I just recently put together a new course on using Manifold GIS with ArcGIS Pro. this is a very good way to focus your training in a short 3–8 hour training workshop.

I actually started creating all of my Manifold training courses because I had almost given up on using Manifold many years ago because it wasn’t quite like the other products I worked with. I wanted to help people get over that hump and not give up too soon. 15 years later and I’m still at it :-)


2,031 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 01:29

I have been using Manifold since about M4 I think and it was my introduction to GIS so I became steeped in the Manifold way of doing things. Over time I have observed others using Arcxxx and noted how much more complicated things were/are. Simple stuff like having lines, areas and points in the one drawing.

Also not to be understated is the value of the responsiveness of the Manifold team to addressing any issues that might arise. Sometimes as fast as a few days. And this forum is a goldmine.

Aussie Nature Shots

archiTechy2 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 02:03

What is the difference between Manifold 9 and SQL for ArcGIS Pro? Does the SQL plugin bring the speed of Manifold to ArcGIS or only add speedy database functions?

891 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 02:41

That is a great question...which I cannot answer, but I can attest to the value of Art Lembo's videos. Were it not for those, I would likely still be stumbling around with the much more expensive ESRI software or its public domain clones. Watching his early vids in 2004 allowed me to be productive to my employer in one day.


3,216 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 03:03

SQL for Arc is basically Manifold 9 that is bundled together to work inside of ArcGIS Pro. It is the same user interface as Manifold 9. In the links above, I have two free videos where I demonstrate how it works, so you can get a little feel for the process.

The full course is many hours of demonstration that steps you through a number of scenarios


6,803 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 09:17

What is the difference between Manifold 9 and SQL for ArcGIS Pro?

SQL for ArcGIS Pro (henceforth "SQL") is 9 packaged in a special interface that allows direct launch as an add-in from Pro, with the project automatically loaded with data sources for all the file geodatabases used in the Pro project, and the Command window for SQL automatically open and loaded with all the file GDB schemas in the query builder.

The purpose of the special interface is two-fold:

1. Provide greater convenience for Pro users, who are presumed to be buying the thing to enable SQL work with file GDB, and who want to get straight to work on that.

2. Eliminate distractions/extra learning (at least by default) that may arise from having thousands of non-Esri capabilities lurking behind menus in the new window opened by the add-in.

If what you want to do is SQL with file GDB, I think it's fairly successful at both objectives. There's no need to go exploring in "Advanced mode" (meaning, digging into 9 menus) to do SQL with file GDB, but all those capabilities are there for any intrepid users interested in new things. Just a little bit of exploration, like using the Transform pane or Select pane, can be very, very useful with just a bit of new learning.

If you are running Pro and you have a 9 license, you can get almost exactly the same situation by launching 9, and then manually adding as data sources to the 9 project all the file GDBs that are used in the Pro project, manually launching a Command window, and then manually dragging and dropping the tables from the file GDBs into the lower right hand pane of the query builder.

Over time, SQL will be enhanced so the other GDBs (mobile GDB, enterprise GDB) will automatically be loaded when you launch the add-in. It's also expected there will be tighter integration with Pro, so instead of doing work in the add-in's separate window you could pop open windows in the Pro session to do SQL.

The convenience of a direct launch from within Pro with pre-loaded file GDB data sources is really super for people who primarily use file GDB as their data store. If I were advising a friend who works with Pro in a professional setting, it's hands down worth the difference in price from $95 for 9 to $245 for the SQL add-in. It might not sound like much but when you're doing this every day it's wonderful to have. As SQL gains tighter integration features with Pro, the ability to do more from within the Pro interface will be even more worth it for an even larger group of Pro users.

Does the SQL plugin bring the speed of Manifold to ArcGIS or only add speedy database functions?

Anything you do entirely within Pro will be exactly the same. That's Pro doing its thing and, with one possible exception (see below *), Manifold can't make Pro any faster.

But what you do in the add-in can be faster, at times much faster, depending on what you are doing.

There are three scenarios: working with data in a file GDB, working with data in other data sources, and working in built-in local storage within the add-in (up to 2 terabytes of storage).

Working with data in a file GDB will generally be faster than using Pro, but it can be limited at the top end by the speed of file GDB as a data storage technology. SQL uses Esri's drivers to connect to file GDB, so it can't go any faster than Esri's drivers allow, which isn't all that fast. But because there is zero slowdown in the add-in, compared to a lot of slow-down in Pro, the result usually ends up being faster than using Pro to do work in a file GDB. If what you're doing is computationally intensive and not so data i/o intensive, then there are situations where the add-in's parallel CPU and GPU computation can make SQL run dramatically faster than trying to do similar things in Pro without the add-in, even though the same file GDB is in use. The add-in's SQL is usually far faster than ArcPy, so working in the add-in using SQL is faster with file GDB than trying to do stuff in Pro without the add-in.

Working with other data sources is generally faster than Pro for three reasons: First, SQL does sophisticated caching in it's own, internal, hyperfast storage and that can help a lot in many processing tasks. Second, when the data source is a fast data store, like Oracle or PostgreSQL, SQL can run against that at the full speed of the data source. That can be much faster than what Pro can do. Finally, if there's any computation going on the ability of SQL to launch massively parallel GPU computation or parallel CPU computation can run much, much faster than Pro if computation is the bottleneck and not data i/o.

Working with data stored in SQL's own internal dbms is ultrafast, just like 9, because it is the 9/Radian engine working with nothing holding it back. Data i/o is very fast and computation is very fast. That's why even when you're doing a complex sequence of geoprocessing tasks against a file GDB you can end up running much faster than Pro alone, because you can do all the intermediate steps in hyperfast local storage, saving only the final result to the GDB.

* About that one exception: Pro can connect to various different data sources. It can connect to GDB implemented on a bigtime DBMS server like Oracle using enterprise GDB, or to GDB implemented on SQLite (mobile GDB... very slow), or to file GDB (Esri's own pseudo-database), or to other data sources. In theory, Esri's API for developers allows writing an add-in to enable Pro to connect to new data sources.

Manifold could provide an add-in that would allow Pro to use very high speed Manifold .map files as data sources. That would likely visibly speed up Pro, because a .map file is way faster than file GDB. But you'd still be limited by the very slow, non-parallel, internal architecture of Pro. To get around that limitation, you'd have to redesign the internals of Pro to be fully parallel, like the SQL for ArcGIS Pro add-in and 9. Such an add-in isn't a high priority, since most Pro users are welded into using file GDB no matter how much better something else might be. But it sure would be great for many Pro users, and it might eventually be worth doing.

As for getting rid of bottlenecks within Pro, that, too may be possible given time and money.

Esri has a lot of know-how about GIS in a huge range of GIS applications. They're rightly respected for that knowledge, which they've gained over decades. But Esri's technical implementation at lower levels within Pro seems to fall short of what can be done with more modern technology. If Manifold had access to ArcGIS Pro source code, Manifold could retain Esri's upper level know-how, features, and user interfaces, while replacing inadequate lower level infrastructure with the same Radian technology that powers 9 and the SQL add-in.

You'd then have something with all the UI and features of Pro but that ran much faster, could handle way bigger data and was much more reliable. It's an interesting idea that might be worth a joint effort between Esri and Manifold some day.

Last, but not least, I also strongly recommend Art's videos. They're the best!

154 post(s)
#13-Oct-21 13:49

Hi there, I'm a landscape architect and I've been using Manifold (first 8 and now 9 and 8) for more than 15 years. After starting up my own business the relationship between acquisition price and functionalities was unsurpassed by any other GIS software at the time (and still is to this day). It was a steep learning curve back then, especially considering that I came from an ESRI software background, but it was one of the most rewarding I had. With Manifold 9, you also have to add the SQL knowledge to the equation and it is not something that you'll be confident in using after just 2 or 3 hours of clicking menus and buttons, but the tutorial videos will give you a fast start. Given the power/speed of most tasks, you will not regret any hour you'll spend learning M9. In the end, daunting tasks in other GIS software will be really fast and forward, and in the medium-long run you'll end up saving time. Like I do with every colleague that needs to use a GIS for landscape analysis or any other kind of GIS-related job, I strongly advise trying it out for a while, you'll not regret it.


326 post(s)
#14-Oct-21 03:58

I notice that it hasn't been mentioned in this thread that Manifold 8 and 9 are completely different beasts.

You shouldn't expect that you are getting the latest version of Manifold 8 if you buy 9.

I personally use both but still use 8 more because there are so many things you can do in a couple of clicks that can be more complex in 9. I have also developed a huge library of Add-ins for 8 that automate my standard work flows and save hours (many available on the forum). These are not transferable to 9 and neither are SQL statements written in 8. I still use 8 to do most of my work such as quick and basic maps for reports as 9 doesn't have readily available north arrows or scale bars (there are work-arounds).

Despite the differences, both programs produce a *.map file which can be confusing because 8 will not open maps created with 9. I think lots of users who use both use a convention whereby you append the file name with the program name, e.g "_m9" ('Map of') to save time opening, closing and opening again...

It may be worth looking at getting both 8 and 9 as I think there is probably a package deal on them together. A peruse of the forum will find discussions of the differences and compatibilities/incompatibilities between the two programs as well as advantages/disadvantages for certain work although most will be out of date because 9 (at least the 'cutting-edge' builds) is evolving so quickly.

Mike Pelletier

1,927 post(s)
#14-Oct-21 22:10

That is good advice, although it is asking a lot for a new user to learn both 8 and 9. It also highlights the need for 9 to up its game on basic mapping. Not having a north arrow and scale bar sends a red flag message.


9,852 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 02:23

Not having a north arrow and scale bar sends a red flag message.

Nonsense--or, at best, a meagre attempt to hijack the thread.

But (to follow the hijack), have you ever seen a north arrow that said whether it showed true, magnetic or grid north--and therefore whether a GPS, compass or map user could trust it? (We're normally talking a range of 20 to 30 degrees.) Or a scale bar which said where in the map or on the screen its units were accurate? (Usually less serious.)

Public organisations often require both things as part of a task specification. Yes. But that is always because the specifier is an ignorant jobsworth and a timewaster.


6,803 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 07:18

Not having a north arrow and scale bar

Manifold has both north arrows and scale bars. If Manifold didn't have a north arrow you couldn't make a PDF like this. I think you just mean you don't like the way those are created. (sly humor)

But seriously, it takes about ten seconds to create a simple north arrow. If your organization insists on one, you can create a North arrow once and then re-use it over and over. Same with a scale bar.

With respect to all the organizations that require a north arrow, "north up" presentations are overwhelmingly dominant if you count all the different ways people see maps. When maps have a North arrow, 99%+ of the time what you see is an arrow pointing straight up that doesn't add anything to the presentation. That's why neither Google Maps nor Bing Maps has a north arrow.

You could say Manifold has a built-in North Arrow that is accurate 99% of the time: it's the upper edge of your monitor.

Seriously, Manifold could add to the menu/caption bar of windows an arrow glyph that points up, with a caption "North" and that would save a lot of time for people, with the glyph disappearing for any map window that is not "North up." Most users would go many years without ever seeing that glyph disappear.


9,852 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 07:51

Exactly. You put that much better than I could have.

These things are almost always pro forma for people who can’t read maps regardless.

Mike Pelletier

1,927 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 14:21

Yes, north is usually up and the accuracy of scale bars and north arrows has issues. Yes we can add a north arrow (easy) and go through gyrations to make a scale bar (not easy). Yes, I think that isn't good for a GIS software. Yes, Mfd has said they agree and it will someday bubble up to the top of the list. Yes, it would turn me off if I were a new user. It is one of the reasons I haven't added 9 to casual map users machines in my organization. Just a basic version of both would be low hanging fruit for selling licenses. Where is the nonsense in this?


6,803 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 16:38

I don't think there's any nonsense in that, but I think it's a stretch to prioritize a north arrow as a super critical thing. Most people don't care about it, although for sure, some do.

How many people are there who won't use Google Maps or Bing Maps because they don't have North Arrows? Not a whole lot, I'd venture.

If you routinely use north arrows, spend five minutes to create one and then forget about it, because you'll always have it thereafter. Surely, that's not a big deal, right? I get it that everybody has something they want, and for what you want, that's understandably a priority. But it's not like it's difficult to get a north arrow if you want it. It's not something that's totally lacking or not possible to do.

Mike Pelletier

1,927 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 17:56

I agree north arrows are not a big deal. The issue is more real with scale bars. However, I'm talking about when your trying to sell someone on using Mfd9. Tell them that they have to go find there own north arrow and it calls into question how serious the software is about doing mapping. Even people on this forum, who are generally power users, have recently expressed doing their basic mapping in 8 because of lack of north arrows and scale bars. It's a shame because the vector styling in 9 is much better. I do my basic mapping in 9, with the exception of large format prints with aerials.


1,847 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 21:29

I'm with you Mike, I think it is a glaring omission however foolish or misguided their use may be. I don't make many maps but have already mentioned that I won't with 9 until includes scale bars and north arrows.

This is true despite some of the improved capabilities, if I'm honest partly because of the inertia required to learn how to map in M9 when it is second nature in M8 and partly because I know the first thing my client will say when I present them with maps with no North arrow and scale bar present.

In fact, here is an example from some comments on a report we prepared a few weeks back. I had made a series of maps in M8 without scale bars and North arrows because the extent and subject matter was familiar to all:


2.Scientific standards for depicting figures, graphs and maps:

Maps need to have a scale and scale bars.


Somewhere else in the feedback was a comment about North arrows being required. I could have argued the relative merits but I was actually quite keen to get paid.

On the face of it and given much of the existing infrastructure, the addition of scale bars and North arrows doesn't seem to be too much of a stretch but what do I know. Perhaps if their addition is dependent on other plans or new infrastructure, this might be more helpful to know. This is descending into the sort of thread where a patient and considered response from AdamW is such gold.

Landsystems Ltd ... Know your land |


3,216 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 21:52

100% spot on. Robinson’s Elements of Cartography (1953) is older than most people on this forum, and the 7 principles of cartography are engrained in the mindset of cartographers and geographers for almost a century. Scale bars and north arrows are low hanging fruit that could be picked off easily enough. But, a GIS without the ability to add those 7 principles is simply simply losing credibility with that audience. It is such a basic axiom for the field.

In fact, if I were asked what are the top 10 things I need for cartography (and I was), I probably wouldn’t have even thought of listing scale bars in arrows. To me that’s like saying oh geez, I better make sure they allow you to have the color blue on a map.


9,852 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 22:25

OK gentlemen. (We are all men, and a female perspective would be more than welcome, but...)

I take everyone's points about scale bars. They are useful. I was wrong about that.

But north arrows? Honestly?

(a) How many clients are prepared to accept a map where some version of "north" is not up? How many have you ever delivered to a client? Sad, but it's pretty rare I think.

I would say that a north arrow is only ever warranted, where "north" and "up" significantly diverge. Say, if you are making an East-up or a course-up map. And then, yes, a north arrow is crucial.

Sometimes clients need to be told "no". They are not the experts.

(b) If a client insists on having a north arrow on a map, always ask where it should point.

Usually, I expect, the client will say "to the North Pole, dummy!"

And that arrow, in almost every case, will not point straight up. It will often be on something like a 20 degree angle.

Happy client? Or just confused and cross?

(c) In almost every case, a north arrow that points straight up is false and misleading. Not always, but almost always.


1,847 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 22:42

Definitely happy client. They have got what they asked for and are blissfully unaware like most of us that we are ...

an ignorant jobsworth and a timewaster.

Landsystems Ltd ... Know your land |

Mike Pelletier

1,927 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 22:47

The north arrow gives a confirmation that many map readers are expecting to see. Generally, I think it is fine to show grid north and not magnetic north, although it can certainly be useful. I rarely need to make a map where grid north isn't straight up (ie, a map series following a river) but there certainly are lots of maps out there that do.

On the other hand, it is a piece of cake for us to go get a north arrow of the web and add it. But it should be easy enough for Mfd to add one that it surely isn't worth the eyebrows it will raise for new or potential users.


9,852 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 22:56

This is just false.

Clients who are happy with a north-up map know that some version of north is simply up.

Now if they really need to know (very rare), they will get out their GPS or phone, compare it to your pretty north arrow, and say "You are so totally wrong! You don't even know where north is!".

So do what you like, but if you add a north arrow, always make sure you say where it is pointing. True, grid, or magnetic. [Or insist on putting all three.]

And be prepared for the inevitable ignorant criticism about it being on an angle. (Usually.)

The truth matters, even if one is being paid.


3,216 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 23:43

so you acknowledge you were wrong about scale bars, but you are not wrong about north arrows? Are you sure about that?

I’m willing to bet that Mike and Dan only use a north arrow 3% of the time. I actually don’t remember the last time I used one. But that’s not the point. A north arrow is very low hanging fruit, and as I said before, it’s a basic cartographic element that has been employed for over 100 years. No scale bar, no north arrow, no graticule capabilities? Sorry, but it’s hard to take a product seriously (for its cartographic strengths) when you are told the basic capability doesn’t exist.

We do a lot of mapping for the Maryland Parks Department. It is very common for park trail maps to have north arrows because they are often fit to a sheet of paper that doesn’t accommodate north being at the top. So, right there is your use case.

It reminds me of when Steve Jobs was criticized that the iPhone had a bad connection when held a certain way. His answer was to not hold the phone that way. Unacceptable answer. Just fix the damn phone antenna.

If manifold decides not to put the north arrow in the product, I’ll use it anyway. Like I said, I hardly ever use North arrows. Hell, I hardly made maps anymore. I simply give people the results of analysis. But I’m also not going to sit and do some semantic gymnastics to say you shouldn’t expect to have a North arrow and a a cartographic feature. I can’t for the life of me think a scale bar and north arrow are going to divert tons of time away from other features. I mean, hell, they spent time implementing the Crandall Method for traverse adjustment. And again, it’s One of the 7 principles in cartography.


1,847 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 00:04

What an excellent description Art ...

semantic gymnastics

That is one that I am definitely going to have to commit to memory and use as often as possible

Landsystems Ltd ... Know your land |


607 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 02:28

This tread is going nowhere. Lets write a good list of suggestions if we want to move cartography to a respectable place in the huge list of priorities that Manifold has. I am not a professional cartographer I but like making maps. Right now I can not make maps like these ( using M9, I can with M8.


How soon?

Mike Pelletier

1,927 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 15:20

I'm sure ESRI is loving this thread.

47 post(s)
#17-Oct-21 01:56

By focusing this discussion on a north arrow and a scale bar, I think we miss the larger picture. Art and Tony allude to it in their posts in this thread, but to be explicit it’s Layout’s overall functionality that really needs our attention. Manifold 9 excels at spatial analyses that can be applied to a wide variety of geographic questions and situations. But those analyses fall flat if they do not communicate easily and elegantly on well designed maps.

Layout functionality in M8, while not prefect, far exceeds what is currently possible in M9. Manifold 8 allows you, the map maker, the option to insert any one of large number of north arrows (or not, your choice), one of several different scale bar styles in different units of measure dynamically linked to a map frame, inset map frames, frame border grids and graticules, neat lines and boxes, and text in single and multipage formats. Legends in M8 do not have the design flexibility of M9 legends, but they are adequate. The PDF Tony references above makes M8's Layout functionality abundantly clear.

If I read the posts in this thread correctly, I think it is definitely being requested that the Manifold development team give consideration to enhancing the functionality of the Layout component in M9 soon with the goal of enabling users to not only enjoy the powerful analytical capabilities of M9, but also to be able to seamlessly create maps and other infographics that effectively communicate those results.


6,803 post(s)
#17-Oct-21 09:13

With respect, I think you might be illustrating what happens all the time in communities for sophisticated software, and not just Manifold.

I know a lot of people who use Photoshop all the time, and the surprising thing is that most of them, probably over 90% of them, have never learned to use Photoshop properly. They never read the user manual and they never studied structured lessons. They just hacked at it over such a long time that they've acquired comfortable facility with the thing, and can even pull off surprisingly expert results. But they don't really know how to use it and when they work with somebody who really knows Photoshop their lack of understanding of very basic elements (like paths, for example) is glaring. So they may get expert results in Photoshop, but that's despite at times using highly inexpert workflow.

People like that are often stuck using a really old version of Photoshop, because they can't bring themselves to invest the effort required to learn new versions that are truly superior to old versions.

Esri has the same issue with ArcGIS Pro and users of paleo-versions of ArcMap or whatever.

It's only human nature: people who over the course of years have become expert in a sophisticated package find it easier to continue being expert in that particular package rather than to learn new ways. They'll cling to that expertise in older stuff no matter how much better the new ways may be.

In a situation like Release 8 and Release 9 where both packages have huge feature sets with only partial intersection, the transition can also be complicated because there really are things that 8 can do which 9 cannot, and if your usage of 8 depends on those things, quite rightly you're going to continue using 8 for those. That's why Manifold continues to sell both 8 and 9.

That gets counterproductive, though, if people latch onto those 8-only features as an excuse to not spend effort to learn 9, so they miss the many ways in which 9 not only does what 8 does, but it does so much better, and in addition provides a whole lot more that 8 doesn't do at all. That can lead to missing opportunities to take advantage of easier workflow and superior presentation.

Some examples, taken with respect from the above post:

"But those analyses fall flat if they do not communicate easily and elegantly on well designed maps."


also to be able to seamlessly create maps and other infographics that effectively communicate those results.

I agree. That's why it's important to learn how to work 9, so you can take advantage of 9's ability to communicate easily and elegantly on well designed maps. If you don't know how to create well designed maps in 9 that effectively communicate results, you haven't learned 9.

Manifold 8 allows you, the map maker, the option to insert any one of large number of north arrows (or not, your choice),

Same with Release 9. North arrows are trivially easy to add.

one of several different scale bar styles in different units of measure dynamically linked to a map frame,

Yes, same with 9. Scale bars are easy to add as well, also in different units of measure dynamically linked to a map frame. It's just done differently than in 8. 8 makes it easier to pick a particular style, but once you create the style you want in 9 (easy for those who have learned to work 9), you can use it effortlessly over and over in projects. Most people tend to gravitate to using only one or two different styles of scale bar.

inset map frames, frame border grids and graticules, neat lines and boxes

8 definitely makes border options much easier, but in 9 it's easy to add frames and boxes, but you don't get automatic border grids and graticules in 9.

text in single and multipage formats.

Easy to add text boxes in 9, although you don't get multipage formats.

But these days people publish maps mainly on line, which is a single page deal, and multipage map books were already becoming rare when 8 came out. It's probably a safe bet that if you look at the user population for GIS overall, way less than 1 in 1000 has ever printed a multipage map book in real life. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that out of hundreds of thousands of suggestions sent in to Manifold there might have been only two or three requesting that for 9.

The PDF Tony references above makes M8's Layout functionality abundantly clear.

That it does, but given equivalent skills in 9 you can reproduce that PDF in 9 with everything except the multiple pages, so it also would make 9's layout functionality clear.

The example PDF is not a beginner's project in 8. To do it you have to have learned 8 at a fairly expert level. What's the point of comparing 8 in the hands of an 8 expert to 9 in the hands of a beginner who doesn't know how to operate 9?

9 is a different product than 8. People who haven't learned how to work 9 won't be able to take advantage of the ease, power, and simplicity 9 brings to GIS workflow, including to cartography. People who do learn how to use 9 can use 9 to not only perform analytics far beyond the capability of 8, but they can also present their results in beautiful, clear, well-designed, and elegant maps.

The key question if anybody dislikes how it's done in 9 is how would you like it to be done differently. To answer that question usefully, you have to know how to do it in 9 today, because otherwise you might not realize how easy it is.

It's like the guy who threw away a new smartphone because "it can't make phone calls." Why? Because his previous phone used buttons and when he didn't see any buttons on the new phone, let alone the universally-expected green and red buttons, he knew for sure that the new telephone couldn't make phone calls.

If that guy wrote to Samsung, or Huawei, or Apple with a suggestion that they should add the feature of being able to make telephone calls by adding buttons to the telephone, especially the universally expected green and red button, he wouldn't be productively participating in moving the state of the art forward.

So, learn how to do it in 9, and then suggest how you would like it to be different or improved. What you may discover is that some of the ways it's done in 8 causes serious inconveniences in workflow, and the 9 way, surprisingly, really is easier, more accurate, and helps provide much better workflow as projects evolve. In other cases where you like the 8 way better, suggest how that should be added to 9.

Here's an example: In Release 8, create a map showing the "lower 48" US states in Lambert Conformal Conic, with the lat/lon center "in the middle" of the US. Create a default layout from that map, and pop it open in the layout window. What you get is a very nice, convenient default layout. That's easier than in 9, where you'd have to add the text frames manually.

OK, now, with the focus on the map window change the projection of the map so that instead of a center longitude in the -90's use a center longitude of -20. The map updates to the typically rotated LCC you get in that case, as does the map frame in the layout. But the North Arrow remains pointing straight up, which is wrong. Add a new North Arrow to the layout and that's wrong as well.

If you add a North arrow in 9 using the portable arrow method, it automatically adjusts to correctly point to the north pole when you alter the coordinate system of the source data. It's a different way of doing it than in 8, but with that different way come advantages and disadvantages. So the productive way of commenting on how the 9 method should be improved isn't just to blindly say "oh, do it like 8," (you don't want 9 to blindly do it wrong in cases where 8 does it wrong), it is to consider what parts of 8 you'd like to see in 9 and how the workflow you'd like to see does not eliminate the advantages of 9.

Plenty of people in this forum have submitted suggestions to get their way. They know there's never any resistance at Manifold to good ideas, there's only a desire to implement good ideas in a way that supports the fastest possible implementation of the highest priorities for which people have voted.


47 post(s)
#17-Oct-21 20:40

Same with Release 9. North arrows are trivially easy to add.

From the M9 User Manual:

Stay tuned for easier arrows - In upcoming builds, Manifold will add the ability to drop in a North arrow, selected from a pre-built collection of North arrow styles, as an annotation element to maps. For now, we create the North arrow manually, using a combination of styling to create various elements of the North arrow in a single record. This provide [sic] great flexibility, but it involves more tinker time.

I'm hoping for easier scale bars too.

One other bit of M8 layout functionality that would be really nice to see in M9 is Snap to Grid. This was really helpful in designing plan sheet title blocks with the horizontal & vertical neat lines.


6,803 post(s)
#17-Oct-21 07:54

Nice PDF. You can do all of that in 9 with only two exceptions:

1. A border automatically labeled graticule ticks. That can be done manually in 9 but it's a pain.

2. Automatically create a multipage, "map book". You'd have to create each page separately, which is easy enough.

All else could be done in 9, some parts harder than 8, other parts probably easier. But that applies only if you've learned 9.


By the way, the domain appears to have geofencing, so that it rejects connections from countries it doesn't like. Depending on which VPN location I use to reach it, I can see it or not see it. Manifold users live in all countries of the world. Please don't publish URLs to this forum that discriminate against users in countries that, for whatever reason, the operators of the URL hate.

drtees120 post(s)
#18-Oct-21 23:50

Just for my tuppence, north arrows and scale bars are essential for the maps I produce. The reason is that I am often working with data from AutoCAD. A plan sheet on AutoCAD (typically printed on ANSI D or ARCH D) needs to have the plan showing on one sheet, if possible. Therefore, the AutoCAD view port may be rotated to fit long north-south oriented surveys within the confines of a landscape print orientation. These plan sheets also have a scale bar associated with them so that the developers, contractors, and architects can make accurate measurements that correspond to real world distances on the ground.

I do not often need to rotate a view on a layout, but I do need to show the north arrow so that my layouts can be more easily associated with a plan sheet. The scale bar is just as necessary on my layouts as they are on a plan sheet. It is just not possible to accurately measure distances on the ground from a map that doesn't show the scale.

I know that it would be easy to add text saying what the scale of the map is. This also assumes that the printer is going to print to exact dimensions. Frequently, AutoCAD plan sheets and sometimes Manifold maps do not print out at, say, 1" = 100'. Verifying a printed scale with a scale ruler helps avoid embarrassing mistakes on the ground.


4,239 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 02:42

north arrows are stupid, on many maps the angle is different depending where on the map it is, unbelievable ignorance out there about this tiny point where the truth is incredibly obvious


326 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 03:15

Listen, don't mention the north arrow. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it...


2,031 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 09:30

"Don't mention the war!" Yeah, weird resistance to something frequently required, as my clients do on report maps, both north arrow and scale bar. Anything that can be rotated shows a north arrow so Google maps on my iphone show both that change as the map is turned or zoomed. Same with Google earth. Also same on my GPS. Displays that are fixed north up don't have a north arrow but do have a scale bar like Google Maps or Nearmap. So yes in M9 a vector north arrow can be created, saved and reused, but scale bar?

Aussie Nature Shots


6,803 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 13:59

So yes in M9 a vector north arrow can be created, saved and reused, but scale bar?

Yep. Easy. Created, saved and reused.

47 post(s)
#17-Oct-21 20:41

I cannot find documentation for constructing scale bars in the M9 user manual. Locating that info in the manual would be helpful.


1,847 post(s)
#17-Oct-21 21:27

I remember having to spend an infuriating weekend drawing scale bars and north arrows for an exercise using AML in a command line version of ArcInfo back in 2000 as part of my Masters degree.

Everyone on the course was so enraged that we went to the tutor pointing out that this took seconds in ArcGIS 3.x and that we would never have to do this in the real world

Landsystems Ltd ... Know your land |


6,803 post(s)
#18-Oct-21 10:17

Drawing a scale bar is just like drawing a north arrow (if you want to draw a north arrow, and not just use a point symbol as shown in ).

It's just that with a scale bar you put a "T" symbol ending at both the beginning and the end of the line, instead of putting an Arrow symbol ending like you do for a North arrow.

Let's say I want a scale bar that shows 1 km (1000 meters). I'm working in a drawing that uses meters as the unit of measure. Here's how I would add a scale bar:

1. Open the map.

2. Add my drawing, called Scalebar, as a layer to the map.

3. In the Scalebar drawing, click with the add line tool where I want the left side of the scale bar to start. Click again anywhere to the right to add another vertex to the line.

4. That automatically pops open the Info pane. Click the Coordinates tab and set it to use traverses.

5. Double-click into the one traverse row that's already there, and change it to DD 90 1000 That says to draw the line 90 degrees (due East) for a distance of 1000 meters.

6. Commit the edit by clicking the update record button.

You've now just created a line exactly 1 kilometer in length. Style it to add a T end to beginning and end. Tinker as desired with line width. There's your scale bar. If you want to label it, add a label layer with the text you want, like "1 km" or "1000 meters" or whatever.

Variations on the above provide absolutely endless variety of scale bars that can be quickly and effortlessly created to make scale bars that have alternating black and white sections, etc., and those scale bars can be saved in projects where you can copy and paste them for use over and over in other projects, shifting them as desired, or freehand moving them above, etc.

But all that is quick and easy for people who have learned the basics of using the system. If basic moves like copying/pasting/shifting to rapidly duplicate vector elements, like boxes making up a scale bar, are puzzling, well, then you can't recycle those simple basics to do new and wonderful things quickly and easily.

So, the moral of the story isn't to go hunting for special case scale bar dialogs, learn the basics of drawing a line (easy) and so on, and then adding a scale bar will likewise be easy and really simple.


6,803 post(s)
#18-Oct-21 12:57

Here are three examples I did. The upper two scale bars took about 30 seconds each. The lower about two minutes.

The upper two scale bars are actual objects that are exactly 500 km in length, so they can be copied and pasted into different drawings, and they automatically will be the right size if you zoom in or out. You can reposition them by moving them around, just like any object. They have labels made from the objects, so the labels will reposition as well.

The lower scale bar is ten rectangles, created by copy/shift/paste to replicate one rectangle in shifted position. That ensemble of objects also will be the right size if you zoom in or out, but moving all ten objects around together requires using shift, since there isn't currently (but I think there should be) an interactive editing move to move all selected objects together. The lower scale bar uses an independent label, manually added.


Mike Pelletier

1,927 post(s)
#18-Oct-21 16:10

Thanks to you and Sloots for pushing the discussion along with examples. Couple thoughts. What should go on a map and how accurate it needs to be depends on the context. Grid, true, and magnetic north are examples. I think the scale bar method is accurate enough but not sure you should use the word "exactly" since the line isn't adjusted for the projection.

I'd suggest taking the examples all the way to the layout since that is where we print. A few things that would make it less cumbersome.

1. Better WYSIWYG so that we don't have to stay at zoom to native in the layout to keep text size accurate.

2. The ability to nudge selected coordinates with the arrow keys rather than trying to use the mouse.

3. Good process to have north arrows and scale bars in the layout that are connected to the map but are independent elements. Making tweaks to the map and seeing the results after refreshing the layout is cumbersome. Also, I want to be able to setup map projects for various people in my organization who are not GIS people. They should be able to simply pan and zoom the layout, have a scale bar automatically adjust, then hit print. Rotating the map would be nice for these people without messing with the projection, but would be low on my list.


6,803 post(s)
#18-Oct-21 16:31

100% agree. The real issue is that layouts need to be improved. Great suggestions! I've taken the liberty of sending them in, crediting you for the comments. :-)


6,803 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 07:25

If manifold decides not to put the north arrow in the product

That's a misleading way to put it, given you can add a North arrow with a few clicks. 9 already has North arrows, for anybody who wants to spend a few seconds adding one. You're just arguing about how to do it.

Manifold should add a "The North Arrows System" topic in the user manual, starting off with the line "Release 9 makes it easy to add vector North arrows in a few seconds, using a nearly infinite choice of style characteristics like stroke color, fill color, with automatic response to changes in coordinate system. " It could include the instructions:

North Arrows are easy as 1-2-3:

1. Draw a vertical line.

2. In the total Style button, add an arrowhead to the end.

3. Style as desired, and add an N label on the line if desired.


6,803 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 07:45

Forgot to add...

The reality is that no matter how simple you make it to add north arrows, some people won't read even simple instructions. It's a red herring to say that people who don't read instructions will read instructions on how to use a dedicated north arrow dialog. They'll skip that as well.

9 actually has significantly better cartographic capabilities than 8 in most respects, with profoundly more productive workflow, especially over time as adaptations get made. But all that exists only for those people who have learned to use 9. Those who approach it by trying to work it like 8 don't get the benefit of those advances.

North arrows in 9 are one of those things. The primary requirement is to create a North arrow that points up in the 99% of situations where those are used, and which automatically adapts to pointing to the north pole when the projection is not North up. 9 does that right now, and it does it with the easy ability to add vector North arrows in modern styles as typically used in Esri presentations.

That's what you need to do to meet must-have requirements, and 9 certainly does that. Beyond that are options, like the ability to add pseudo-historical compass roses or elaborately tasteless north arrows that seem to use 18th century calligraphy in maps that otherwise use totally modern fonts and style.

Given that 9 provides quick and easy means to drop in north arrows that fulfill those must-have requirements, to say "oh, it doesn't meet this point in the 1953 list of 7 essentials" is totally bogus. It absolutely does fulfill that requirement. If you don't like how it's done, then suggest a different way.

One of the things you'll find out if you think that through is that the various other ways such things are done also come with their complications and their limitations. They take time to learn and are not so easy to apply, especially if situations change. It's not so easy to come up with a dedicated dialog that accomplishes all that the 9 way of adding north arrows automatically accomplishes.

So, given that 9 already does this in a matter of seconds, is it a priority to do it in a different way in a matter of seconds that maybe loses flexibility or is harder to learn (because now you have to learn something else in addition to what you already know, how to draw a line)? Anybody interested in that should try to design a better dialog that checks all the boxes the current way of doing it does and then consider where that fits in terms of priority. But first learn how to do it the existing way, so you don't waste time saying something that is easy to do is not already in the product.


6,803 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 07:08

go get a north arrow of the web and add it

? No need to get a north arrow from the web. Just draw a line pointing up with an arrow at the end (one click pick in the More... style dialog. I just did it: took about 15 seconds. Would have been quicker but I couldn't resist tinkering with the style for a few seconds.

In the US if you're talking work for clients, they've all been habituated to what gets produced with Arc. By wide margins, the most popular north arrows used in Arc are all very simple vector styles, easy to duplicate in a matter of seconds in 9.

A real phenomenon in GIS packages is people not reading even simple instructions for doing simple things. Adding a north arrow is one of those simple things in any package, including in 9. There's always at least something you must to do add that element. It's usually a simple something, but it's a something.

For example, you'll have to pick some style of a north arrow, whether it is a vector or raster rendering, where it fits in a display, how it reacts to the projection in use (and if it is changed), and the actual geometry of the thing, whether it is a grid north, a pointer to the north pole, compass north, and so on.

Most of those choices are not rocket science, but some of them are to a significant percentage of users, like those who are not aware that compass north is not the same as pointing to the north pole. They are choices that require thought, and some learning, to use correctly.

How does that compare to Manifold? The user has to know how to draw a line and how to click a button in the Style dialog to add an arrowhead to the end of the line. That's pretty danged simple, about on the level of the time and clicks require to use a dedicated "add a north arrow" dialog.

It's true that adding a north arrow in the few clicks required by Manifold limits you to vector styles, and not the elaborate, baroque stylings of pseudo-historical compass roses. But if you want a really elaborate vector compass rose, those are easy to do as well. Do one once and then you can use it over and over.

The other nice thing about vector north arrows as used in Manifold is that when you use them in a map window, the projection of the map window automatically aligns them to point north in the projection. It's much easier than deforming rasters or having to deal with the limitations of a raster north arrow wizard.

They're portable in that sense, which is why there is a Portable North Arrows video. That video I don't think covers it, but using simple transforms like scale you can make them even more portable.

Just saying, its totally bogus to say there aren't north arrows in 9. There are north arrows in 9, and adding one in most situations is about the same number of clicks, perhaps slightly higher but about the same, as adding a legitimate north arrow would require in a dedicated dialog. If you've learned how to use the package, they're really easy to add, and they function with flexibility, precision, and ease of use in changed presentations (like a changed projection), that often are not available in "add a north arrow" dialogs.


6,803 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 07:12

Somewhere else in the feedback was a comment about North arrows being required. I could have argued the relative merits

That's a false dilemma. Why bother even thinking about arguing the merits when in 9 you can add a North arrow in a few seconds? Just add the arrow and the client is happy.

If you don't know how to add a North arrow in 9 in a few seconds, that's a problem of not knowing how to do really simple and easy things in 9. that's easy to fix by reading the user manual, checking out example topics, and watching videos like the Portable North Arrows video.

That video takes a more sophisticated approach, but it is about spending a couple of minutes to create something to your own taste that you can use over and over in many different situations.


1,847 post(s)
#16-Oct-21 07:17

No need it was easy in M8

Landsystems Ltd ... Know your land |


607 post(s)
#15-Oct-21 17:16

Well I don't think that the community has been vocal enough about cartography for M9 but I don't work full time with GIS right now so my fall back is to use M8 with has all I need. M9 has some very cool analytical tools which I use often but normally I export the output to create the final map in M8. I would be willing to cooperate on a coherent document to send as a suggestion to Manifold. We could create a thread and work from there.

How soon?

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