MicroImages' Client Testimonials

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Why TNT?

As TNT isn't that well known I wondered if users could find the time to explain why they use TNTmips.

Is it part of a GIS toolkit, or is as much of an "all in one" program as it appears.

My areas of interest are natural resources and ecology, based in the UK, and the GIS programs I have some familiarity with are ArcView, Mapinfo, Idrisi, ILWIS and Manifold

I am beginning to make more use of GIS and reviewing my options for updating my software, particularly as I am moving away from Windows towards a Mac/Linux mix.

I know this is a rather open ended question, but would appreciate some comments.

Response 1:
I have been using TNTmips since 1989.

At that time, it was a DOS-based program called MIPS (Map and Image Processing System). I had just taken a university teaching job at Fresno State after having been at JPL where a scientist like me was not allowed to do his or her own processing and programming. Eventually, it became a Windows (X-Windows) based package . called TNTmips.

When paired with the free TNTlite program (which is great for students who need to have a GIS software package at home for doing homework), TNTmips in my educational lab was a perfect way to handle teaching and learning situations. TNTmips includes ALL of the processes that are now related to geospatial information handling:

- Raster data
- CAD data (not the same topology requirements as vector data)
- Vector data (with points, polylines, polygons, and more in ONE file)
- Database data (stand alone or at "attached" attributes to GIS elements
- Hyperspectral data (a special class of raster data . hypercube format)
- Surface modeling tools
- Unsupervised and supervised classification tools
- A scripting language (SML) (that I use daily . many written in just a few minutes for special purposes)
- Direct access to many external files: Raster, CAD, vector, database, text (and spreadsheets) files

Today, I am an independent consultant. I use TNTmips to serve all of my clients. I give guest lectures to university students and teach them, in the space of a 3-hour lab, how to use TNTlite to do a practical project . from start to finish.

When MicroImages, Inc., added export to TNTview, then this $500 program could be used to export TNTlite-created objects to external files.

Other GIS software packages, which do what TNTmips does, cost much more than TNTmips. Many of them do not include all of the elements in the list above. TNTmips is a complete package.

TNTmips does not time out. You can, if you wish, use the purchased package for the rest of your life. Or, you can pay a small annual maintenance fee to keep it up to date.

And, when I call technical support at MicroImages, a live person always answers and quickly addresses my need for information or for changes to the software. Some of the processes now in TNTmips are ones that I created.

I now work mostly for commercial ag companies. They use TNTmips almost exclusively.

Even though I have had almost 20 years of experience with TNTmips, I don't use but a fraction of the total capabilities in it. And, I never found a GIS-processing need that could not be done with TNTmips. The extensive documentation on the MI Web site is all I need to learn how to do some new process . new to me . as I might need to know how to do for a specific new situation.

I have worked also in a GIS environment where many different GIS software packages were being used. TNTmips always was my "secret weapon" for solving development problems that arose . ones that other software could not address.

Response 2:
Many thanks for the detailed reply. I certainly like the completeness of the program and the downloadable tutorials are impressive in their coverage. TNTLite is also extremely useful to fully explore the program.

From a teaching point of view however, I am using ILWIS as I cannot develop any realistic ecological projects that fit in the size constraints. Which is a shame as it is a wonderful teaching resource.

Any way thanks again, for the useful comments.

Response 3:
We've been using TNTmips for a few years now, and there are many reasons why its our platform of choice, and why we wanted to represent the software in our part of the world. Here's a few of the key ones:

1. Cost of ownership. TNTmips is excellent value for money to start with, but its the ongoing cost that is really important to companies like ourselves. We came from an ESRI and MapInfo backgrounds and as an independent business that needs to run lean and hungry to manage growth, restrictive licencing and high-cost maintenance really hurts. We commonly deliver systems as web services, and if we did so using other products, the more users we have, the more connection licences we get stung with and the higher the cost of ownership becomes. We also need functionality on tap as every system we build needs facets we've never built before. With other products this would mean having to purchase and maintain new extensions. Often those extensions are 3rd party and that in turn raises the time cost in support and ultimately leads to higher cost of ownership. Likewise if we have to add extensions every time we build a new system, what's the return on investment of the original software? Not much is the short answer. Speaking from an Economic point of view, building a business with TNTmips, and the rest of the TNT suite, just makes good financial sense.

2. Support. Everyone needs it. In the past I have been involved with helpdesks for other GIS products and know very well how they are conducted in a way that drives sales rather than supporting users. When you have a support query, you want answers as soon as possible. In competing software houses you may call support and be told it will be looked into and two weeks later you receive a message to tell you its a software flaw. Typically you may be told that if you wait for the next upgrade that will be in 6 months and will cost extra, or you can buy an extension that you mostly won't need now and it will fix the problem for just another six thousand dollars. That doesn't do you or your business any favours. On the other hand the support from MicroImages is quite phenomenal. We are at the opposite end of the clock to the MicroImages crew in our time zone and yet if we lodge a support query at the end of our day, there is detailed help when we arrive back in the office the next day. Furthermore, the support team really understand all facets of the software, and while there are specialists when needed, genuine help is never far away. For us however the best thing about MicroImages' support services is that they think hard about every query and when customers need functionality that could be added to the software and would benefit all users, it may be built in for the future. This type of support is very user focussed, so for us as high traffic and platform oriented users the level of support available from TNTmips and the MicroImages team is many times better than anything we have ever experienced before and a core reason for using the products.

3. Flexibility. We are system integrators as much as anything, so we need software that can talk with anything. We are faced with obscure formats, unsupported databases, stubborn suppliers and all the things that go along with being data agnostic on a daily basis. When we look to build a solution for a client, we first do our homework on their business as a whole. Typically we have graphical packages, databases, cad systems, other spatial products, hardware based systems, mobile connectivity and sundry other systems in use that we need to pull together into one nice holistic system. TNTmips is like a universal translator in that it can understand and re-communicate to many different sectors. What's more, it can natively use data from 3rd party systems with ease, meaning that operators are in the box seat for dealing with data. Its very common for clients we take on to have invested huge money, and possibly backed the wrong horse, in certain products. From their perspective, they don't want to pull the pin on a large scale investment and want someone to make it work the way it always should have. If that means they have spent a million dollars on a non-relational database built in Visual Smalltalk for example, they will not be ultimately receptive to being told they can have a spatial system with all the extras as long as they change all their data to fit a new format that will work spatially but will also mean they can't communicate data back to suit their need. Of course TNTmips isn't just flexible in a data sense. As you are no doubt aware its platform independent, has a small footprint for a complex software, is non modular so it expands in its delivery as your needs increase. Furthermore, when used in combination with TNTserver, can be used to deliver your data to end users without the need for multiple low usage software licences. Flexibility is extremely important to us as technical people, and also to us as a business as it contributes greatly to the cost of ownership and return on investment as noted above.

4. Speed and power. TNTmips is fast. Lightning fast compared to many software's of this nature. We have massive databanks here and that data needs top be processed and moved automatically in many cases. Big data has always been a strength with TNTmips, and our internal benchmarks border on unbelievable at times. In running a very complex network analysis TNTmips did the job 322% faster than the next fastest GIS product for instance. Even then the benchmark on MapInfo was unfair against TNTmips as the other product simply couldn't produce the results as completely as TNTmips. In reality if the other product could have matched the functionality, the speed of operation would have made it impractical for production use. More notably than outright speed is the sheer power of the software. Where else can you switch from Network analysis to basic cartography, to 3D CAD and then to HyperSpectral analysis without changing software. That is serious horsepower in anyone's language. Moreover since Mike and his team have working on the underlying architecture, the processing power has grown greater still. There is a flyer in the MicroImages materials from some years ago that uses the tagline of 'Tools, not toys'. We believe that to be truer than ever with TNTmips in comparison to other products.

5. Evolution. TNTmips and the rest of the products in the MicroImages suite have evolved with us, our technologies and industry standards. When the spatial world moves, TNTmips moves with it. In fact often ahead of it. In something as simple as coordinate reference systems, our newest system (NZTM/NZGD2000) was available in TNTmips several years before it was in other products. We like to think we are at the cutting edge with some of our systems. The only reason we are is because TNTmips allows us to be and continues to evolve as fast as we operate.

One could wax lyrical about the virtues of the software all day, but the above represents what I see as the core reasons we chose this path. Its also why our clients come to use for outsourcing and custom applications - we have the flexibility that TNTmips affords us. I for one wouldn't choose anything else.

Response 4:
Many thanks for this detailed reply, it has to say a lot about the product that both you and Jack are willing to put this amount of time and effort into answering my question. Its certainly food for thought, while I remain undecided on the best way forward for my GIS needs. Its certainly encouraged me to spend some serious time with TNTLite before making any final decision.

Thanks again

Response 5:
TNTmips is a commercial software and not a shareware (like ILWIS) , so I couldnot appreciate the word 'shame' in this context, however to add my comments on "Why TNT? " my observations as a user are

a) It doesnot have innumerable plug-ins or add-ons , hence not very confusing as to which to buy ?

b) Pricing is fixed as a policy, open to public and not a variable factor depending upon propsect type ,as I observe with other vendors.

c) The tech-support is an "icon", just click it and it serves your purpose , trust me it is one of the best in industry.

It is unfortunate that TNTmips may not be known to many, the reason of which needs to be researched but as we all know in Industry, "being technically good" and "high market share" is not always directly proportional.

Response 6:
Thanks for the further comments. I think you maybe misinterpreted my meaning of 'shame'. This wasn't a criticism just a comment on the limitations of the Lite version, which prevented me from using it for teaching.

As an aside, I didn't think ILWIS had ever been shareware, the last I looked at prices it was the same price as ArcView/MapInfo. It did however go Open Source earlier this year.

And of course I fully agree with you about the lack of correlation between high quality and market share.

Response 7:
TNTmips was the first GIS software of any kind I was ever exposed to (in 2002). Previously I had worked in IT and various scientific disciplines and MIPS gave me my first taste of spatial sciences. Any time I have worked with another package (MapInfo, ESRI, ENVI, GRASS) I've always ended up saying "Why can't it do...?" when Mips had the functionality built in.

I worked for an environmental company for a couple of years and as an independent consultant since, always with Mips as my main platform. It has allowed me to tackle major state government projects (I'm in Australia) that big consultancies just couldn't handle using ESRI, because they'd have to pay a lot of money to get the functionality and then more to get the skilled personnel. Usually the biggest problem they faced was data handling - the other packages can't cope with the huge raster files like Mips can.

Things I love Mips for:
- it handles massive data sizes: I've had rasters over 100GB in size processing happily on my system.
- scripting: if you can't find the function you need in a menu, write it. The SML language is very nice to use.
- flexibility: I haven't found another GIS/image processing package with the range of functions that Mips has at anywhere near the price.
- Ability to run multiple versions: I keep all my old Mips versions and often find myself using an old one because there's a bug in the new one. And they have quite good backward compatibility (so your old scripts usually work OK as well).
- Very fast and easy on the computer management side.

Things I don't love Mips for:
- Not the most intuitive interface (although the newer versions are greatly improved).
- Mostly unknown in Australia, which doesn't help getting jobs sometimes where everybody thinks ESRI.
- Support can be a little slow over here, but is still good.
- Can crash in a big way and corrupt your data files. Make sure you save often into another file so you have an emergency backup. This is especially important when creating complex relational databases within the vector structures.

Response 8:
We use TNT in our city administration since 8 years.

With TNT we could handle massive geodata objects (terabyte size) easily, could solve complex geoinformatic problems, and we could handle even exotic database and vector formats. Response time to support requests is very short and the support comprises more than only the technical support.

The software-price is extremely fair and an update is really an update with new features and not merely bug-fixing. Furthermore the quality of our vector data is high due to the strict topology.

TNT is extremely recommendable as High-End-GIS for engineers.

Response 9:
Just a quick note. I agree totally with this last contribution by [Name] and all the previous statements. I usually condense all this with a kind of slogan:

"Fairly better than ESRI's ArcInfo plus ENVI, but at least seven times less expensive!"

Indeed, TNTmips should always be compared to the complete ArcGIS suite (with ArcInfo) combined with ENVI and not just to ArcView, as usually done and as TNT's prices could suggest. ArcView (along with some of its extensions!) can be compared with TNTedit, although it should be taken into consideration that geometrical editing with ArcView is not always a very simple task, while TNTedit has -- in my opinion -- the best editing user interface among all GIS software products (sometimes different from the de facto industry standard adopted by other products, but really much more efficient).

About the prices: why seven times? Prices in Euros, here in Italy ArcInfo costs never less than 25,000 and ENVI 8-9,000, while a single user licence of TNTmips is currently (due to variations in the Euro/US $ exchange rate) between 5,000 Euros for long term quotes (often needed for public institutions) and 4,500 Euros for short-term quotes (often required by private firms). Obviously in other countries prices may be different.

Response 10:
Thanks, I can certainly see the versatility of TNTMips, there is, as you point out, this issue that ESRI being so well known, and in the UK, MapInfo and IDRISI are also well known and clients "expect" you to be using one of these.

But you also make a valid point about costs. One of my clients, who had never used anything other than ESRI found that a project was going to need 12,000 UKP of extensions to complete. On my advice they bought the 500USD (about 250UKP at current exchange rates) Manifold, which did the job and indeed now that they have used something that isn't ESRI, are using Manifold more and more.

Response 11:
Thanks, I'm certainly very encouraged by all that has been said, particularly the good comments about the company.

Response 12:
Yes, there can be no doubt that TNTMips is outstanding value. The only "better value" option is probably Manifold, but this is not as a complete product.

I think here in the UK we are looking at similar numbers for ESRI/ENVI, but in UKP rather than euros !!

Thanks for the coments, its all very useful.