I'm looking for some insight on MAPublisher. Right now I do most of my work in ArcGIS and then bring pieces into Photoshop and/or InDesign to improve background images, labeling and layouts. I have barely scratched the surface of Illustrator, but recognize that I need to make a significant effort to include it into my workflow. So with that here are my questions:
1. How useful do people find MAPublisher over exporting vectors/rasters from a GIS source and manipulating/editing/labeling in Adobe (be it Illustrator or Photoshop or if anyone is crazy like me InDesign)? I already have an investment in my current software/workflow so I want to be sure that the investment in a new "tool" is going to be worth the added lift. I can see that it would make some of my tasks more efficient, I'm just curious if we're talking a slight bump in productivity or it's a game changer.
2. Is there a significant difference between version 9.4 and 9.5 - I have CS5.5 and wondering if I were to invest in MAPublisher if I need to also upgrade to CS6?
2A. A related question - is it worth upgrading to CS6 regardless?
3. Do people find the extra investment in LabelPro to be worth it, or are we talking only a minor improvement in what MAPublisher/Illustrator offer?
4. Any experience/advice on Geographic Imager - is it significantly useful beyond what ArcGIS/Photoshop is capable of doing?
Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer,
1) MAPublisher is a BIG help in working with raw GIS data files directly in AI, but I don't know if it's a game changer. If you already have ArcGIS, you can work around not having MAPub by exporting from Arc to AI files. But it can be tedious. MAPub certainly makes the work flow much easier. Add to that some of the extra controls that MAPub gives you around creating attribute driven selections and styles in AI.
The real benefit will come from intensive map production in AI, if all you are doing is touching up ArcGIS layouts you don't really need it. If you are doing a lot of production mapping with AI and using Arc just to set up the files for importing into AI then MAPub could be areal help. It also makes exporting your maps to GeoPDF or interactive web formats a snap.
3) I have not needed LabelPro and I personally think the price is out of line with what it provides. It might be a good investment if you were constantly producing very label heavy documents with thousands of labels per map (think detailed city street maps or parcel maps).
4) What do you need to do with your images? Imagery in a GIS to publication workflow is usually just for background information and if you already have Arc this can be handled quite nicely by Arc and MAPub (which imports geo refed rasters). If you are looking to do transformations, overlays, shaded relief outside of Arc I'd recommend Natural Scene Designer as an alternative. I think Geographic Imager is better suited to handling production that involves a large raster library and no other GIS software in the workflow, so figure you could use MAPub and GeoImager together and drop Arc for production.
I know I sound like I'm being critical of MAPub, I'm not. I love this software, it makes a huge difference in my work, but you need to measure it against the work you do to see if it's really needed. For me once Avenza drops CS6 support I'm probably done making maps. I can't imagine working without it, but I can't afford Adobe's new price structure with CC for what I make in money off my maps each year.
I'd follow the links Ted gave you a run the trial version to see ho you like it. Have a map set up ready to go so you can really dig in and see what it can do for you.