Introducing Spatix, a New Platform for Terrasolid
Published On: July 13, 2020
The primary Terrasolid modules used in LIDAR processing are TerraScan, TerraModeler, TerraMatch and TerraPhoto. These modules have long been developed as applications which run on top of MicroStation, with a few additional Bentley products supported as well. Large parts of the source code were implemented to only compile for MicroStation use, and all the dialogs and tool settings were implemented as MicroStation dialogs. The MicroStation CAD platform provides the basic tools to create, modify, delete and manage vector elements. It provides the view management and manipulation tools in addition to vector exchange capabilities. Not only that, but the CAD system provides productivity tools to the user, such as hot keys and VBA scripts, not to mention the ability for users to write their own tools.
For more than a year, a large development effort has been made to convert dialogs and settings to Windows dialogs. As well as to isolate the interaction with the CAD system to a dedicated layer. Why go through all the effort? To make it feasible to build Terrasolid applications that run on other CAD or GIS platforms. Or, to build standalone applications that do not use an underlying CAD. The result has been the ability to now provide users with a choice of more than one platform.
Why Another Platform?
Many customers have expressed a desire to run Terra applications without MicroStation, so Terrasolid wanted to offer a choice. For new customers, Spatix provides a means of having an easier evaluation, a simpler offering, a lower price and a simpler delivery. Spatix is licensed and provided by Terrasolid and comes as part of the software price, which has not changed with the addition of this new option. For existing customers, they may choose to continue running on MicroStation or switch to Spatix. And yes, may even run both on the same machine using the same license. The applications are nearly identical in functionality on both platforms. In both the new or existing customer case the customer can decide if they wish to run on MicroStation or Spatix.
What is Spatix?
Spatix is a small 3D CAD system developed by GISware Integro. It has its own file format, .spx, which stores the vectors, vector attributes, etc. Spatix supports the vector element types commonly used within the GIS, surveying and mapping communities. Spatix has a programming interface for applications called, "ixApps". The user interface is built with Qt libraries, having up to eight view windows, and there are the familiar pulldown menus and icon toolboxes. Spatix is still missing some important functionality, such as the ability to exchange vector data, though the most recent version can now read v7 and v8 design files. We expect some of the more important missing functionality, such as fences and a way to exchange vector files with AutoCAD, to be added in the coming year.
Figure 1 : TerraScan for Spatix
MicroStation vs Spatix
MicroStation is a reliable product that has been around for a long time. As such, there are other applications, both COTS and proprietary, that customers run on MicroStation. MicroStation is rich in features, has better data exchange capabilities and comes with a comprehensive suite of tools. Many of which Spatix does not contain, but also many that a typical LIDAR user would never touch.
Spatix does not cost anything extra. It can be activated using any of the Terrasolid licenses. Hence, it doesn't require any extra agreements, such as a SELECT agreement with Bentley. Spatix is a much smaller and simpler CAD package. It does some things better, though currently only minor features, such as better visibility when many display types are overlaid. However, it will become better over time for some things, such as stereo viewing and full 3D depth control.
The Terrasolid for MicroStation and Terrasolid for Spatix applications come from the same source code and are functionally identical whenever possible. Recall, however, that MicroStation has a lot of functionality that Spatix does not contain so the applications cannot be identical. For example, there are no cell library tools in Spatix, so the TerraScan Find Poles tool cannot really be used. Likewise, there are no custom line styles in Spatix, so you cannot use that option in the TerraModeler Draw Profiletool for surfaces.
Download and Try Terrasolid on Spatix
More information on Spatix can be found in the Spatix User Guide, the What's New in Terrasolid Jan 2020, and the Terrasolid Product Installation and Setup Guide on our searchable support knowledge base.