We're re-engineering our cartography department and wanted to see if anybody had an opinion or sagely advice on the choice of either of these products for map production in concert with Manifold. I know that Freehand and Illustrator have strong allegiance in the cartography world, but last I heard was that Freehand will be discontinued. Additionally, InDesign has gained a lot of vector and labeling functionality that could make it a reasonable choice for this task. I use the Corel Draw 12 to do that. The Corel Draw import the AI file made with Manifold without problems. We have some Photoshop scripting which we'd like to replicate. Can Xara be automated in any way through scripting? With .Net? Forget about Freehand, it doesn't look like Adobe has any plans with it. At the moment, Illustrator is the way to go, but do try this out before comitting to purchasing it, because there's some quirks between the Manifold exporter and Illustrator CS2. I would recommend doing all the labelling in Illustrator (Manifold exports texts as contours) and having a maximum of one image object per layout that you export (Manifold fills out every image object to the extent of the layout itself, using black pixels). I'm pleased with CanvasX but haven't used the other programs so I can't say how it compares. The GIS add-on allows import of shapefiles. Can I write a .Net program that can place custom labels or symbols on a map? Can I write a .Net program to import and manipulate a raster layer? At the risk of sounding anti-manifold (I am not! but diversity is good!), MapPublisher is quite useful--a plugin for illustrator that can read GIS data. Made by a Canadian company called Avenza, I agree. In fact, my preferred/recommended workflow is do all the data manipulation on the GIS side (i.e. Manifold), export as shapefiles, import them into Illustrator using MAPublisher (one P) and do all of the visualization there. Don't get me wrong, the Illustrator output from Manifold is pretty good, but I like the freedom of doing it fully in Illustrator. MAPpublisher is a worthy product and I like the way it interfaces with Illustrator. But it costs too much!! As I recall I could buy four copies of Manifold for one copy of MAPublisher? I just checked the price: 1149$$$. Ouch, especially considering illustrator is +- 500$. It'll be great when Manifold really gets the cartography all decked out. comparing price is one way to go, but it might be short-sighted--if you can save 50 hours by using a tool i suspect $1k is worth it. at least it is for me. very true and having it all in manifold would let me change data dynamically till after the finish of the layout - and that's when the last changes usually drop in. Worth a few bucks. Canvas X does have some scripting capability but the manual doesn't mention .NET only VBS. Here's a link. http://www.acdamerica.com/support-canvas/support-canvas/scripting_guide/canvas_scripting_reference_guide.pdf Canvas X is scriptable (VBScript, not .NET) but NO to both of Can I write a .Net program that can place custom labels or symbols on a map? Can I write a .Net program to import and manipulate a raster layer? I am new to Manifold and am looking forward to delving deeper into it's abilities. I use ArcGIS, MapInfo, Freehand, Illustrator, CorelDraw and MapPublisher. Why so many? Because we serve a number of masters and need the different packages to different processes. However we are moving all our cartographicproduction from Freehand to Illustrator because it is easier to print from and the control we get for creating patterns and fills is superb. Unfortunately, as I am a long term Freehand devotee, we have to postscript rip our Freehand files to get the same effects. We us MapPublisher all the time to move our GIS files to the graphic environment. CorelDraw has come on in leaps and bounds but I find the interface quirky - personal preferences - and I try and teach it to students and they struggle as well. Perhaps that's me not being 110% enthusiastic about it. I find the other comments made in this thread very interesting - keep em coming! Thanks everybody for all the comments. After researching the alternatives, we've decided to take the Illustrator route. Seems to be the most powerful and the most industry-standard. We've been bitten enough times by taking the non-standard route and not being able to find resources. Canvas X looks pretty promising, but its not very open to extension with scripting outside its environment. Wouldn't it be great if MapPublisher could import directly from a Manifold map file and leverage some of the layouts in Manifold and interoperate to some degree on the labelling? Source.