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6.8.3: How do Arc/Info and Intergraph MGE compare? (Geographic Information Systems)


This article is from the Geographic Information Systems FAQ, by Lisa Nyman lnyman@census.gov with numerous contributions by others.

6.8.3: How do Arc/Info and Intergraph MGE compare? (Geographic Information Systems)

From: sonny@tfssun.tamu.edu

I use and teach both systems on a regular basis. Like you, I cut my teeth
on ARC, but I have used MGE and other Intergraph products enough to
be fairly comfortable (I've even switched from using Erdas for remote
sensing to Intergraph's ISI).

connecting to a database:

MGE on Clix or NT -- incredibly simple because of RIS
ARC -- takes some work

editing graphics:

MGE -- uses Microstation for graphic manipulation, very nice CADD product
ARC -- arcedit and ADS are clumsy in comparison

simplicity of use

MGE -- more complex to learn than Arc, requires more "gis" knowledge
ARC -- relatively easy to learn despite the number of giga-commands

data capture:

MGE/Intergraph -- incredible amount of stuff that interfaces directly to
MGE, we have retired our digitizers and use their
vectorization (GEOVEC) and character recognition
(ISCR) software for data capture
ARC -- ADS and ARCSCAN (Haven't used ARCSCAN)

operating systems:

MGE ---on Clix (System V unix) or NT (I love NT, this comes from an
affirmed unix head who has Linux on a home computer). NT is
a stable and reasonably fast operating system. Setting up the
network is laughably simple as is connecting to databases.

ARC --Runs great on Unix boxes (I'm most familiar with SUN OS)

It's difficult to compare performance, since the platforms are so
different. MGE runs on WinNT or an Intergraph Clipper with UNIX. I tried
out the proprietary Clipper box. Even on the Clipper, MGE is not very
standard, it uses a proprietary graphics interface instead of XWindows.
The ARC/Info package, on the other hand, runs on most popular UNIX
platforms (I used a fast Sun SPARC10) and uses XWindows for graphics.
It's almost impossible to compare the performance between these two
very different platforms. Both seemed acceptable in performance.
Both products are "loaded". I'm confident that either will be able to
"get the job done", regardless of the requirements.

1A. MGE architecture: MGE is built around a CAD system. If the planned
geo-system is CAD-intensive, then MGE has a distinct edge. ESRI
provides the ARC/CAD product to compete in this arena, but MGE is
a CAD at its core. The data is stored in layers or covers. The
product has a built-in GUI, but it is not that easy to use (Now let's
see, which of these 500 buttons do I need to press?). MGE does come
with a bundled C-language interface, which I consider important.

1B. ARC/Info architecture: ARC is also stored as covers. It is much
more concerned with "topographical-correctness" than MGE. For example,
when I move MGE data to ARC, ARC will find and gripe about edges that
don't match, polygons that don't close, centroids that are missing, etc..
MGE never finds anything wrong with cleaned ARC data. If the planned
geo-system is to be used for cartographic or polygonal study, then
ARC would be a better choice. ARC/Info is command-line driven. You
can build your own GUI, using the bundled ARCTools package as your
prototype or you can just use the ARCTools as is. Eventually though,
(if you are the programmer) you're going to have to learn those zillion
command names. ARC/Info does NOT come with a 'C' interface; you must
use their own AML language. I consider this a minus.

From: Bryant Ralston <rami@ksu.ksu.edu>

I have worked with both and it really begins with the data structure
of both packages. MGE is built on top of a CAD data model while ARC/INFO's
data structure was built from the ground up as a topoligcal data structure.
Therefore, ARC/INFO really was designed as a GIS while MGE was a CAD-program
(Microstation) with a GIS toolbox grafted onto it. As a result, MGE requires
more 'hands-on' managing of the associated databases while ARC/INFO manages
the database for you. I personally am a geographer and consider myself more
of a GIS user than a CAD user although I started in CAD design with AutoCAD.
Now ESRI has an ArcCAD package similiar in nature to MGE but built on
top of AutoCAD. Beware though to introductory GIS users or former AutoCAD
users ArcCAD can be very confusing.

All in all, to compare ARC/INFO to MGE really depends on what you want
out of your GIS system and the amount of data you have and the form
you have it in now. If you are a traditional Microstation user and have
lots of design files then MGE is probably for you but be careful when you
want to use ARC coverages because the attribute linkages do not translate
very well. With ARC/INFO rev 7.02, they are supposed to be able to export
RIS linkages for use in MGE but I haven't tried it yet.


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