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Home - General / All posts - Manifold vs MapInfo Comparison ??

416 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 00:27


I was just wondering whether anyone had managed to produce a comparison of Manifold vs MI. I've noticed several comparisons with Arc {...} but none with MI.

If so - would you be prepared to share it with the rest of us??



1,082 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 00:35

Nothing is to compare with Manifold

I read a short info about the news in MapInfo V10.0

and i see only things that Manifold have for a long time

a go....

or look here:


416 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 04:59

Okay - a more objective comparison!!!

222 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 08:04

I used Mapinfo for years. I think the last version I had was 8.something. I got tired of paying hundreds of dollars for incremental "upgrades." It worked fine for what I was doing at the time, which was elections consulting. Precinct demographics, voting trends, etc. Then the price of uranium went up and I got an exploration geologist job (which is my actual profession) and my needs changed. I needed a "Swiss Army Knife" to do interactive data analysis. Mapinfo didn't do some of the things I needed to do, at least not easily. Manifold did. I had to learn the "Manifold Way" of doing things, of course, but I did that by the suggested method: reading the help thoroughly before trying a real project.

What might simplify the process of a new user going through the Help is a "Babelfish" translator that translates everyone else's terminology into Manifold terminology so you can find it in the index. "Georeference" vs. "Georegister" for example. I'm being facetious of course, but maybe that's what you were really asking for in your original post--a point-by-point "how to" between the programs like Dr. Lembo's Arc comparison. That might be a useful marketing document.

If that's not what you were asking and you just want a "how does it compare" answer, I'll just tell you that since I bought Manifold I have not looked back. It does whatever I need to do and does it quickly and easily. And it is an extremely stable program.

That's as objective as I can be.


416 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 08:19

but maybe that's what you were really asking for in your original post--a point-by-point "how to" between the programs like Dr. Lembo's Arc comparison.

Now this would be ideal!!

236 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 10:08

I am in the process of creating training videos for employees, maybe I can talk my employer into letting me do

a comparative training video, Mapinfo 8, and Manifold 8.

It will take a while, I do alot of stuff with both.

Just Remember, You are unique, just like everybody else!

236 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 09:48

I have used Mapinfo since version 4, I have not upgraded to version 10 as of yet.

I have used Manifold since version 6, and have the latest version.

Manifold handles many more file types than Mapinfo for all of the importation routines. (Tables, Drawings, Images etc..)

Mapinfo has used the Universal Translator from Safe Software to translate other drawing types to native

Mapinfo Tables and Drawings. (I generally only receive Shape files from outside sources, on occasion a DWG/DXF file)

Manifold is much better at spatial analysis.

Mapinfo is much better a printing maps.

You cannot analyse Imagery in Mapinfo, and reprojection was not possible until version 8.5.

You can set a default map projection in Mapinfo for the entire project. (Once my project is set up, I only work

in that projection/datum.)

The freedom to reproject in Manifold is very nice, however the inability to set a default project projection costs me time. (Button clicks, scrolling, and more button clicks. Too much redundancy of action. It would really be

nice to be able to select multiple drawings simultaneously and set the default projection, or have the default projection saved to a settings file for the project)

Importing of tables and creating drawings from those tables is very similar between the two.

Exporting with Mapinfo uses the Universal Translator when it comes to drawings, it works fairly well, Manifold still has some minor issues when exporting projected shapes, and MID/MIF files, and I have had some goofy

things happen on occasion when exporting a DXF file, but that could have very easily been my problem.

You have more control of point, line, and area styles in Manifold, however you can get the work done much faster in Mapinfo.

(I would like to see Manifold go to a single line button, point button, and area button, then have a dialog where the styles are all set from that single dialog box. It would save on toolbar space if you are using a tablet, and it would reduce my confusion at least.)

Thematic Maps are possible in both, Mapinfo allows for multiple parameters in a theme (combinations of fields)

I would like to see Manifold allow for persistent thematics. What I mean by this is I choose the field(s)

for the border style of an area, and I would like those field choices to carry over to the fill, hatching, backgrounds, and so on for those areas. (I have short term CRS, so unless I write everything down, I will forget

everything I was doing or thinking five minutes ago.)

So in other words, set the theme parameters for the points, lines, areas once in the dialog, then set the styles.

Querying tables or drawings, Mapinfo has a Query Builder Dialog that while it is limited, it is very nice.

It seems to have just enough tools for me to get my job done. (Quickly.)

Querying in Manifold takes skills, and while it has made me improve my SQL skills a great deal, there are times that a little visual help along the way would be very appreciated.

I would also like to see Manifold allow for a third type of imagery usage, one where the image is displayed simply , to be overlayed upon, instead of importation and control of the pixels, pixel by pixel, just a simple picture referenced at the corners. I know you can link images, but it seems that I have little luck in linking geotiffs or tiffs with tfw files in Manifold.

Labelling in Mapinfo is easy but weak, rotation of the labels is not possible without an external routine.

I typically create a layer then generate text objects in Mapinfo rather than using the labelling dialogs.

I create the text using a point coordinate plus a directional offset and rotation, along with the font, color, size, border or box then just carry on with what I need to do.

This also works when you need to create a great number of text objects for something like a seismic exploration grid. I will choose the points that I want to have the numbers displayed for by the modulus of the number and the specific numbering interval I desire, and generate the associated text objects.

I have a great deal more control over a text object than I do a Label.

Manifold has much better labelling, but I still get strange things at times. I would also like to just be able to plant some text in a drawing layer without it being a label, similar to a sticky note. I do this quite often in Mapinfo, it is very handy.

Surfaces, with the surface extension in Manifold they are handled quite easily and very well, you need Vertical Mapper for Mapinfo to do this. This adds another $1000.00 to the cost of your Mapinfo seat.

I have used Manifold quite often for slope analysis, to determine if vehicular access is feasible or cost effective.

You cannot do this in Mapinfo without Vertical Mapper. (You can, but I won't go into detail, it just isn't expedient)

Scripting, Mapinfo needs MapBasic. It was purpose built for Mapinfo, and it gives you very good control over the objects you are working with. The criticisms of it are that it is purpose built and limited to use with Mapinfo, it also has a 64K program text file size limitation. You can create multiple program objects and link them together, but it takes a bit more thought.

I have written many very productive and time saving routines with MapBasic, so I am kind of biased, it has fed me and my family for the past fifteen years, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Manifold uses external programming environments such as Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual C#, Java, etc.

You already knew this. It is good that it is open in that matter, it makes for more versatile users and developers.

It does take more time to develop a script in my opinion this way, there is just more to learn, and there is much more syntax involved. This is a worthwhile tradeoff in my opinion in most cases. Unless you are a noob. Then, good luck, and I hope you are a quick learner.

When it comes to paper map production there is no comparison, Mapinfo runs away from Manifold.

Mapinfo is relatively weak cartographically, but it is easy to put together a nice layout with legends positioned

neatly and get it to print/plot quickly.

I am still fighting with Manifold on this one, and I shouldn't have to fight this hard.

When it comes to printing actual maps with the same data, imagery and similar layouts styles the render time with Manifold is too great to be in a production map generation environment.

I typically print between 20 and 40 maps a night, usually 36" by 36" or greater with imagery, tabular data, legends, and mapping data. It usually takes Mapinfo five to ten minutes to render the map and send it to the plotter, I have waited hours for the same map to be printed with Manifold. (Same computer, same plotter, same data, all print data was printed in computer memory to avoid too little memory errors in the plotter, also this is comparing Mapinfo to 32 bit Manifold, there have been plotter driver issues in 64 bit Windows.)

Manifold will upload waypoints to a Garmin GPS unit, Mapinfo will not.

The GPS consoles are pretty even when it comes to usage.

Mapinfo uses the Geographic Tracker by Blue Marble, it is fairly simple to use after setup, it is somewhat limited in its functionality but we have worked around that.

Manifold has more functionality in its GPS console, but it is a bit more complicated in its use. It does not have a persistent position indicator which can be very frustrating at times, but it does collect a great deal of data from NMEA compatible equipment that Mapinfo does not. (Water Depths, Temperatures, Dome to Transducer heights, etc..) If you are using Manifold on a small screen, you will have to move your tool buttons around to be able to use them, hence the above suggestion regarding single style buttons.

I use both of these packages nearly daily for some reason or another.

I find that I use Manifold to get answers, do analysis, reproject images, and import unsupported file types in Mapinfo. I also use Manifold to verify my results from other software packages.

I use Mapinfo to make maps, lot and lots of maps.

I will never be without either of these packages.

Manifold will make improvements and one day it might be the only package that I use, but for now, I need them both.

I hope this helps.


Jon Gramm

Manifold has travelled a greater distance in a much shorter period of time, what I mean by that is, they have made much more progress and added many more features than Mapinfo in the time that I have used them both.

In fact I have used Mapinfo nearly twice as long as I have Manifold, and Mapinfo looks like it has been standing still compared to Manifold. There are some signs of life at Mapinfo since the buyout by Pitney Bowes, but there are also so pretty irritating developments of late. The one true irritant is now they are forcing you to buy support on top of the software license, so now a $1600 dollar package costs you $2000 dollars, that disturbs me a great deal.

I have never used a tech support token with Manifold, I have gotten a great deal of help here on this forum.

Just Remember, You are unique, just like everybody else!


1,002 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 10:27

Some great comments there, altough I cant really reply to the points, as I have never used MapInfo. My girlfriend at the moment is working both with Manifold and Mapinfo, she might have something more to say concerning comparisons :-)

Altough, the comment about Manifold scripting being much harder than MapBasic needs some clarification.

MapBasic is great because you can do a GUI action,and then see the equivalent Mapbasic code for the same action(s)! This is something invaluable for someone "scared" of looking at an Object Model, to work out how to write scripts. But it is a very specific language for MapInfo.. so the transferable skills are limited.

Manifold doesnt have that capability (yet?!), but scripting is really straightforward using scripting languages such as Phyton, Javascript (my favourite) and VbScript (I don't understand why this seems to be the most widely used one, given that Visual Basic is "dying"). The Object Model in my view is pretty clearly structured, altough documentation could do with example for each object, and some overall examples in the documentation, that demonstrate how to access different objects...

Spatial Knowledge, my personal blog.

236 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 12:36

I agree with you on the scripting, there are great tools that you can use with Manifold and you are not limited to any one language, it is just my experience that with the object model being built into Mapbasic, the development time is reduced, and there is less cross referencing. There are also examples within the help files in the Mapbasic environment that are quite convenient. I also like being able to copy and paste the GUI actions from the Mapbasic window within Mapinfo directly into my code, that has not just been a huge time saver, but it has saved my sanity on numerous occasions.

I have only experimented with some Javascripting and a little Python, but I think I would much prefer to stick with something like C# since that is the direction things are heading. I know the code is similar but I also develop standalone applications in Visual Studio, and I would like to stay with one language if possible.

I also have to say that I have nearly fifteen years of Mapbasic development experience to use to my advantage, and spotty C# development time over the past five years, so my thoughts are biased.

The object model for Manifold is very nice and well thought out, however it lacks simple enumerations for point, line, and area styles that make map generation applications easy to develop. This is just my opinion, and I could be wrong. The narrowly focused development environment in Mapbasic allows me to concentrate more on the nuts and bolts of my production routines and less on the studying and understanding of the object model, that is the true advantage to Mapbasic for me.

I believe that it would be very difficult for Manifold to expose that functionality in a code/action window that would be compatible for the multiple languages that can be used for scripting and development. Again, I could be very wrong about that.

I would actually like to see comparative code for Visual Basic, Visual C#, Javascript, and Python for things like importing a database, opening a table, creating a drawing from that table with the desired symbology and colors, labelling the drawing with the desired text in the desired fonts, colors and rotations, generating buffers around objects and erasing the overlaps. This is something I do everyday with my Mapbasic routine(s).

I have also seen comparative code in the help files in Visual Foxpro, and in some places in Visual Studio, this has helped me a great deal in making the jump to C# in my standalone application development.

I know that might be alot to ask for, but it has been done in the past, and it would probably be appreciated by

a great number of users.

Just Remember, You are unique, just like everybody else!

446 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 13:06

My two cents...

I learned MapInfo 7.5 from scratch a few years ago. Last year I changed jobs and learned Manifold.

I have relatively simple "GIS" needs - mostly the geomatic-type stuff of getting data out of a database, and displaying it in a thematic map.

MapInfo was quicker to learn than Manifold.

Manifold gives more possible workflows - you can use SQL, you can use activecolumns, the transform toolbar, scripting...

And - sorry Jon - I find layouts and printing in Manifold far, far better for my needs. Mapinfo couldn't print to file via code until version 7.8, so batch printing was a real pain. Also, it was very, very, very, very, very, very hard to control layouts via MapBasic. Even changing the text in a text box was difficult - centering the text basically impossible. I ended up setting up all my maps so titles were left adjusted to get around that one. Apologies for drifting into rant mode, still have the scar tissue from that.

Most importantly for me, Manifold has far superior database functionality. In MapInfo I could read/write via ODBC, but the ease with which I can move data around with Manifold is something I have come to rely on.

Having said all that, I like MapInfo, it did everything I needed. If the prices of MapInfo and Manifold were switched, I would find it tough to choose between the two. As it is, Manifold gives me more of what I need at a lower price :-)



236 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 14:27


I agree about the controlling of layouts within Mapbasic, so I have just set up templates for my company to use, with transferrable themes for landowner information, line, point, and area styles. (We have standardised just about everything, and the data flow and format seldom changes.

Once I get the layout sorted out for a project, it remains static, there are no changes to the legends, tables, or drawings. The layout will reflect the changes to the map on a daily basis, but the peripheral information remains the same. ( I am just lucky, I guess. )

I guess I never had an issue with changing text in a text box, I wrote routines that would generate the text I needed. You will get no argument from me over database functionality, Manifold is far superior.

Our databases are Access MDB's from another software package, so I don't need to open or link to many other

types of tabular data to generate our maps. ( In my line of work we either use ArcGis or Mapinfo, that is what the industry has adopted. So data exchange is not an issue. It has been on occasion with Manifold to both ArcGis and Mapinfo. )

There is also no argument about the multiple workflows and other functionality, Manifold is far superior.

I just can't rely on it in a production map generation environment. Yet.

I have made some great maps with Manifold, but the time it took to render and print those maps made them one off efforts. I don't want to save the layouts to PDF then print them that way, there is too much loss, and another step that I don't want to add to the process.

The same speed issues with regards to printing plague ArcGis also. Most of the people I know using ArcGis export a PDF to print.

There is also no argument about the price, I would gladly pay Mapinfo prices for Manifold even if I couldn't print the maps the way I wanted, at the speed I wanted. It is that useful to me and my employer.

Just Remember, You are unique, just like everybody else!

26 post(s)
#15-Jul-09 22:42

Nice... couldn't agree more. I have also used MapInfo for about 15 years, mostly it has done what I have needed it too. I love Manifold, but most of my work is still based on MI Professional. Nice things about MI are that it is inexpensive (relative to some other packages), easy to learn, and can do virtually everything that more expensive packages can do. My attitude has always been one of, what can't be done with MI can be done with another low cost application - including Manifold. One could say the same for Manifold.

The biggest frustrations with MI come from not following through with what they started. This has happened multiple times, but seems to be getting better with Pitney Bowes in the drivers seat.

An example is raster support. MI has functions for creating and manipulating MI Mig files, but lot's of functions were not built out, no interactive user interface was created - apart from a viewer, and very little documentation is available. This is still useful; I have developed app's in MapBasic to process terrain information, but one must custom code everything - fun but time consuming.

SQL, MapInfo had a great product out in the late 90's Spatialware for MapInfo Pro. A product that allowed you to develop spatial databases in MS SQL Server. This was cheap and ideal for small organizations, but MapInfo canned this and forced one down the enterprise path if you wanted to manage geometry in SQL Server.

Finally, MapInfo never dropped it's price; most other packages did not either, but as Manifold gets more attention MI will need to adjust or slowly lose market share.

I had always hoped that Mi would be the giant killer, now that task passes to Manifold.

Forward Manifold!!


416 post(s)
#16-Jul-09 00:57

This is absolutely cracking stuff!! I think a rudimentary comparison matrix could be built from the information above. MI 10 (Does anyone have a copy??) has just come out and hopefully Manifold 9 will come out soon. So a comparison between the latest versions will obviously be of the greatest benefit.

Does anyone have any ideas as to structure??

I was thinking in terms of TASK/MI Process/Manifold Process/Useability/"learnability"



416 post(s)
#16-Jul-09 01:04

Actually I have just done a google search for Manifold Mapinfo and this thread came up on the first page - quite good for marketing!!

So feel free to Join In!!


10,081 post(s)
#17-Jul-09 00:44


I don't use MapInfo, so can only lurk, but what a great discussion this has been. Great idea.

goujeers34 post(s)
#16-Jul-09 05:24

I agree with almost all this, except rotation of the labels is not possible without an external routine. It's easy, but you have to specify the number of degrees of rotation, rather than drag a handle.

Mapinfo's thematic mapping has more features without needing anyone to write a script - important if most of what you do involves some sort of thematic presentation.

Mapinfo's ability to set a default projection not only by project but by user avoids the irritation generated by having to confirm projection every time.

Mapinfo's screen refresh can take ages, especially if you have several layout windows, where Manifold's is almost instantanous, even without a CUDA card. This alone makes Manifold preferable for any work that doen't need the extra thematic mapping options. Just try moving a map of all postcode boundary polygons for a UK local authority in each of them!

Manifold's database features are better though Mapinfo's SQL query wizard obviates the need to learn and understand the compexities of SQL.

Manifold's Intrinsic fields are brilliant, and I can find nothing equivalent in Mapinfo.

Manifold's programmability scores heavily.

A full licence for Manifold costs less than Mapinfo's annual maintenance fee.


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