See the Installations topic for installation and activation instructions.    To get to work right now. please read:  




Manifold Release 9 / Manifold Viewer

This user manual describes Manifold Release 9 as well as the free Manifold Viewer product, which tracks Release 9.  Manifold Release 9 evolves so fast this documentation is usually a few days or weeks behind the latest build.   Review the Changes and Additions topic for recent updates not yet integrated into this documentation.  


Manifold does not automatically check for updates.   After installation, at any time check for any newer versions available by launching Manifold and choosing Help - About.   When the About dialog is launched, Manifold will reach out through Internet to check for a new version.    


Developers:  In addition to this User Manual, see the API Documentation.


Manifold means the latest Manifold Release 9 build.  Radian Studio means the "Swiss Army Knife" data engineering tool based on Radian, which in early 2018 was replaced by Manifold Release 9.  Manifold Viewer is the read-only subset of Release 9.    Because Manifold, Manifold Viewer, and Radian Studio are based on the same Radian engine and use many of the same interfaces, we may use Radian and Manifold as synonyms in this documentation.  Release 8 means the prior generation of Manifold GIS products.





Illustrations above are from the Style: Autocontrast topic.  Change the display of data instantly without changing the data.

Radian and Release 9 - A New Generation

Manifold's Radian®  Spatial Data Engine brings a new generation of parallel power to spatial applications. The Radian engine powers Release 9, Manifold's newest generation GIS product as well as other applications, such as Manifold Viewer,  involving both spatial and non-spatial data.   Release 9, Radian Studio, and all other products based on the Radian engine provide far greater performance, power and reliability than the non-parallel technology of an earlier day that is used in classic GIS such as ESRI ArcGIS,  QGIS, or Manifold's own Release 8.


Manifold® Release 9 provides a full-featured GIS that leverages the power of Radian parallel performance and new generation infrastructure to deliver unprecedented quality, performance, and breadth and depth of features in GIS, all at unbeatable value and the lowest cost of ownership in GIS.  Enjoy the spectacular power, total reliability and incredibly low cost of Release 9,  the only GIS in the world with automatically CPU-parallel power throughout as well as built-in GPGPU supercomputer speed.  Release 9 is a superset of Radian Studio, providing all Radian Studio capabilities plus hundreds more features supporting GIS.


Parallel Database


Radian SQL, the native SQL of Release 9, is automatically parallel SQL.   Radian itself is a parallelized database engine that stores its own data within file databases using a very fast format.  Radian by default automatically launches parallel threads to utilize as many cores as are available on as many CPUs as are available.  If one or more NVIDIA GPUs are installed, many Radian functions can launch massively parallel utilization of thousands of GPU cores, all automatically optimized against the use of CPU parallelization.  All applications, like Release 9, that are based on Radian get these benefits.


Designed for Spatial Work


Most DBMS engines are tuned for very many relatively small transactions where each record is usually small.  That limits their performance in applications where an individual record can be very large and an individual transaction very computationally demanding, as often happens with spatial data and in many other areas.   Radian, in contrast, is designed for spatial engineering work where records can be very large.


The Radian engine and Radian format are tuned for work with data of many different types in situations where individual transactions can be very large, computationally demanding and where the data on which they operate can involve very big data, that is, potentially very large records.  Genuinely parallel computation is essential in such applications so that the analytic power of massively parallel architectures such as GPGPU can be brought to bear.il_westminster.png




Radian wraps all that within a very extensive analytic framework, extensive connectivity to many different types of data sources and a rich GUI full of interactive capabilities to slice and dice and otherwise manipulate data.  With Radian Studio the result is a general purpose console that can do sophisticated, large computations on big data whether the data is stored in Radian, within other DBMS environments or in a mix of both.    With Release 9 and the addition of numerous GIS capabilities, the result is the world's fastest and most powerful GIS.


Plays Well with All


The Radian engine  provides rich and powerful SQL not to replace DBMS packages like Oracle or PostgreSQL but instead to more effectively leverage them so we can choose the best combination of tools for any job.   When a task involves many small records or non-spatial work at which an existing DBMS excels, especially if our data is already stored in that DBMS, the best approach will often be to blend the DBMS we already use together with Radian capabilities, perhaps writing queries that simultaneously call upon SQL in both the DBMS and also within Manifold.  Use Manifold where Manifold is faster or more convenient and use Oracle or PostgreSQL where they are faster, to enjoy the best of both worlds.    Manifold will never be slow, so we are never required to use an external DBMS, but if we have one that we know and love Manifold will embrace that relationship too.


Image at right: Manifold users enjoy an endless range of instant background maps using web servers.   

Release 9 Capabilities

Radian power applies to all applications based on Radian, such as Manifold System Release 9 and Manifold Viewer.  Release 9 capabilities include:





(Illustration at right from the Labels topic.)


 Release 9 provides exceptionally easy means to:



All of the above are part of Release 9.  In addition, Release 9 adds hundreds of more capabilities to provide the world's best GIS product.  See the Changes and Additions topic for the latest new capabilities.

Tables and SQL

The "documents" of Manifold are projects that are saved as files using Manifold's three letter .map extension, short for "Manifold Project."   Projects can contain data or can links to other data sources, which in turn can contain data or links to yet other data sources.     Projects also can contain all the other components with which Manifold can work internally, such as tables, images, drawings, maps, scripts or queries.    Opening a project within Manifold shows all the components in that project within the Project pane.  


Manifold stores all data as tables.   It's obvious when database information is kept in tables but going beyond that virtually everything in Manifold is also saved as data in a table. Every bit of data, regardless of its nature - vector, raster, textual and so on - is exposed as part of some table.      For example, a V8 program in a Manifold project that appears in the project pane as a script is actually saved within a special table in the System Data section of the project, stored as the contents of a text value for a record.


Manifold's "everything is a table" approach delivers two key benefits: first, every bit of data can be accessed via SQL and second, everything that can be accomplished via the standard user interface can be done via SQL as well.  In fact, many templates in dialogs such as the Transform panel will at the click of a button automatically write SQL to do what they accomplish, if we like.


Manifold's built-in, highly optimized query engine works with queries written in SQL language so a straightforward, standard way of working with data in Manifold is already at our fingertips in a language we already know.    Beyond that, every standard and well-known programming language also provides straightforward ways of working with data within tables.


Another benefit of "everything is a table" is that many types of data can be visualized in different ways for different purposes:  storing data in a table allows many different presentation facilities to display that data as desired in different ways, including simultaneously in different windows.   


Manifold has many ways of displaying data from tables, including special facilities for displaying and working with different types of data.   For example, pixel data for images is better understood when presented visually than as more abstract records in a classic, row and column table presentation.    Different presentations of multiband image data might choose different bands, or different iconography or styles applied to vector data can transform how that data is perceived.


Organizing everything at a fundamental level as tables also provides order and efficiency through modularity and standard interfaces.    A common set of operators or GPGPU parallelizations that work through SQL with binary data in tables can apply to many different types of binary data without having to write, to maintain, to document, and to teach many different special cases of how such data is presented or used, for example, as images or terrain elevation surfaces.


Of the many benefits of "everything is a table" one of the best is the openness achieved by enabling connectivity to a vast range of database management systems and the databases they store, in which many different types of data for many different purposes are maintained worldwide.  Whatever is the DBMS an application, an organization or an individual has chosen, the ability to use data stored within that DBMS easily and conveniently within Manifold comes naturally with Manifold's "everything is a table" approach.


Easy connectivity to data stored in external DBMS data sources also allows Manifold users to take advantages of the benefits of those DBMS sources, for example, using data sources that are already installed and scaled out across thousands of cloud based servers.


Why Radian was Created for GIS

A key impetus for the creation of the Radian engine was the growing amount of spatial data, in ever larger data sets utilized by ever more sophisticated applications.  Growth in data sizes plus growth in analytic sophistication drives an increasing need for tools designed for spatial data and spatial applications as opposed to classic, non-spatial DBMS data and applications.   Spatial data is data which has meaning tied to location, either actual geographic locations or location in abstract form such as the location and dimensional space of a CAD drawing.


(Illustration at right from the Transform: Overlay Topology topic.)


Classic DBMS applications will often involve a very small number of records with very small data in each record.  For example, a credit card transaction involves only a handful of very small records associated with a single credit card and a single purchase transaction.  Altogether, the operation might involve only a few thousand bytes of storage.


In contrast, a single operation in spatial applications can involve millions of records where each record is huge, potentially involving truly massive amounts of storage.   For example, displaying a single complex drawing can touch millions of records and involve gigabytes of storage.


Opening a multi-gigabyte image and manipulating that image to extract features may require accessing many thousands of records (for thousands of tiles) and processing gigabytes of pixel data for just a single editing operation.   Likewise, a single command to locate features that intersect within millions of objects in a large drawing, for example, a drawing showing all real estate parcels within a large city's territory, can involve millions of records, each of which might be very small or very large.


A command that requires fetching and active work with each of millions of records is a  rare event in classic DBMS work, but it is perfectly routine, perhaps happening every minute, when doing editing or other typical workflow in spatial applications.  At the same time spatial work often requires significant computations which process very large amounts of data in each operation.


Classic DBMS products have become very fast and very capable over the years so most have sufficient raw performance to be adapted for spatial work.  Almost all of the big, enterprise-class DBMS pacakges, such as Oracle or PostgreSQL, have had "spatial" capabilities added to the DBMS.   Most such spatial capabilities work remarkably well.   That classic, non-spatial DBMS packages can be adapted for effective spatial work is a tribute to their core power and performance.    But given their general purpose nature they do not provide in a single, integrated package an infrastructure that is optimized for the distinctive needs of spatial work with spatial data.  That is why they can end up being slower than desired for spatial work.


To support fast spatial work with big data, the Radian engine was developed.  Radian is completely new technology carefully developed and built from the ground up.  When tightly integrated with GIS (Geographic Information System) capabilities within Release 9, Radian infrastructure provides unprecedented power in GIS.  


Just as classic, non-spatial DBMS products have found uses in spatial applications, the Radian engine originally designed for spatial needs now is employed in non-spatial applications as well.  Many users apply Release 9 for general purpose data engineering, working with tables and data that have nothing to do with spatial data.  Release 9 is so fast, it connects to so many data sources, and it provides such convenient facilities for typical DBMS tasks like ETL workflow, that many users routinely apply Release 9 within their non-spatial, DBMS work.  Release 9 features specific to spatial work, such as built-in support for projections, have been coded in generalized form so they do not in any way detract from the performance of Release 9 in non-spatial applications.    


Examples in this documentation will often involve spatial applications because those often are universally understood: not everyone may understand an abstract image representing hot points in computational finance, but everyone knows a map of roads or a satellite image of farms and fields when they see them.  Don't let the choice of such spatial examples prevent understanding the very broad applicability of Release 9 in non-spatial work.  mfd_logo_shad_125_150w.png

Manifold Viewer

Manifold Viewer is a free product from Manifold that is a read-only subset of Release 9.  Viewer has significant limitations compared to Release 9:



Despite the above limitations Viewer retains so many Release 9 user interface commands and functions that the same user manual - this user manual -  is used for both Release 9 and Viewer.  Viewer users who read this documentation should keep in mind the above limits.  If a command or menu option does not appear, that is usually because of one of the above limits in Viewer.   In most situations the situation will be clear.    Viewer is aimed at Release 9 generation .map format.  Viewer will open and display Release 8 format, but at the present time without importing or using Release 8 formatting.


Manifold does not provide technical support for Manifold Viewer.  Hey, it's free!


Always Run the Latest Version

Manifold Release 9 and Manifold Viewer evolve rapidly.  New Release 9 builds fix bugs and add numerous new features.   They are free to download and use by licensees.   If we have already activated Release 9 on the computer, un-installing an older build and then installing a newer build will not require an additional activation key.   Running the latest build guarantees we will be able to open .map and .mxb created by new builds, which older versions might not be able to open.


new, improved versions of Release 9 usually will use the same .map project format as earlier versions, but sometimes improvements will require changes to .map project format that older versions cannot read.   Newer versions of Release 9 will always be able to open .map project files created by older versions, but older versions might not be able to open .map project files created by the latest version.



Always run the latest version of Release 9 or Viewer.   If a Release 9 .map or .mxb project file cannot be opened, install the latest version of 9 or Viewer and try again.  Older versions of 9 or Viewer might not be able to open projects created by the very latest build.


Read these Topics Next

Getting Started


User Interface Basics


Advice from Engineering


Advice: An avatar or photo representing tech support / engineering staff often appears near caution warnings, tech tips or other useful information.


Enjoy Release 9 and Manifold Viewer!




Radian and Manifold are registered trademarks of Manifold Software Limited.    多种 and 弧度 are trademarks of Manifold Software Limited.