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ArcInfo 8 is an easy-to-use, fast, modern, and powerful GIS.

ArcInfo 8: A New GIS for the New Millennium

The fundamental methods of how people interact with a GIS--maps, data, and toolsArcInfo 8 is a significant new release of Esri's professional GIS software. ArcInfo 8 has been redesigned and reengineered to be easier, faster, and take advantage of the most modern concepts of software engineering and GIS theory. The key feature of the release is that it makes sophisticated GIS usable by nearly anyone familiar with desktop computing. This is a major change from ArcInfo software's historic reputation. While the depth of functionality in ArcInfo is extraordinary, new user interfaces and wizards make it easy by presenting users with what they need when they need it.

New parts of ArcInfo include

ArcCatalog Object Editor Personal SDE
ArcMap Geoprocessing Server Charting
ArcToolbox VBA Reporting

New User Interface
The most striking feature of ArcInfo 8 is its new user environment. ArcInfo 8 is accessed through three new applications that represent the fundamental methods of how people interact with a GIS--maps, data, and tools.

diagram showing how GIS consists of data, maps, and toolsUsers will typically interact with the system by having two or all three of these applications open.

  • ArcMap is the map-centric application for editing, displaying, querying, and analyzing map data. In addition, ArcMap contains a sophisticated scientific charting and graphic system, an object-oriented editor, and a full report writer. ArcMap is the environment for working with map data and creating production-quality cartographic output.
  • ArcCatalog is the data-centric application that locates, browses, and manages spatial data. With ArcCatalog you can create and manage spatial databases. ArcCatalog is where users lay out their data schema in the database, and specify and use metadata.
  • ArcToolbox is a complete environment for performing the hundreds of rich geoprocessing operations provided by ArcInfo such as data conversion, overlay processing, buffer creation, and map transformation.

Data Management
The ArcInfo geodatabase model is implemented on standard relational databases with the ArcSDE application server. ArcSDE defines an open interface to database systems for our users. It allows ArcInfo to manage geographic information on a variety of different database platforms including Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, and others. If the underlying database technology supports spatial types (for example, Oracle Spatial), ArcSDE can use the native spatial type implementation. In addition to providing the bridge between ArcInfo and spatial database implementations, ArcSDE application server defines an open C application programming interface (API). This API defines a relational (simple feature) view of the geodatabase.

ArcInfo 8 includes a fully functional "Personal" version of Esri's Spatial Database Engine (SDE) technology called Personal ArcSDE. This runs on the Microsoft Jet Database Engine (the database engine used in Access). For users who want to manage their data in another multiuser database (e.g., Oracle or SQL Server) operated in a client/server fashion, full ArcSDE is available as an add-on extension.

Data Models
ArcInfo 8 supports two primary geographic data models--the georelational model (i.e., coverages and shapes with attributes) as well as a new object-oriented model called a "geodatabase." The new applications of ArcInfo 8 support both of these models.

At ArcInfo 8, the georelational data model is extended into an object-oriented model that allows users to add behavior, properties, and relationships to their data. The geodatabase model allows definition of features that more closely resemble the real world. This object-oriented model is extensible for users with more specialized requirements, allowing for user-definable features.

This new data model is implemented as an extension to standard relational database technology. The new model supports topologically integrated feature classes, similar to the current coverage model. However, it extends the coverage model with support for complex networks, relationships among feature classes, and other object-oriented features. The new ArcInfo 8 applications (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, and ArcToolbox) also work with geodatabases as well as with coverages.

The geodatabase model defines a generic model for geographic information. This generic model can be used to define and work with a wide variety of different user or application specific models (i.e., water networks, electrical features, and other domain specific data). By defining and implementing the behavior of a generic geographic data model, ArcInfo 8 provides a robust platform for creating and working with different user data models. ArcInfo 8 allows easy creation of custom data models using visual tools such as CASE and standard UML notation.

Unlimited Customization Options
ArcInfo 8 addresses the needs of most end users by providing a series of out-of-the-box GIS applications. It also provides more advanced users and developers with a comprehensive customization capability. Programmers and nonprogrammers can easily customize ArcInfo 8 using the drag-and-drop and menu-driven tools. Industry-standard Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is in the box for all scripting and application customization jobs. Advanced programmers and commercial application developers will also be satisfied with the completely extensible object-component data model and tools, and the open data management API. Any COM-compliant programming language can be used to customize and extend ArcInfo 8.

Other Enhancements
ArcInfo 8 updates and enhances many basic technologies employed in previous versions of ArcInfo. Enhancements include improved versions of the ARC, ARCEDIT, and ARCPLOT applications; the AML and Open Development Environment (ODE) customization capabilities; and extensions such as ArcScan, ARC GRID, ARC COGO, and ARC NETWORK. New features of the basic product include a complete Java development environment that allows users to program complete applications in Java on any supported platform (i.e., a Java ODE API). Also supported are new cartographic generalization tools, updated and new data converters, and much more. For more information on these new features, please see the accompanying article on ArcInfo 8 platform support.

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