For instance, ArcGIS has what is known as a data view. In the data view you have the map display together with a table of contents. ArcGIS can support multiple data views within the map display. However only one data view can be active at a time. As well as data views there is also a separate layout view. In the layout view you can see your map as it would appear prior to being sent to a printer. Unlike the data view you can have multiple data view frames visible within the layout view. With ArcCatalog, the ArcGIS browser, you can drag vector and raster layer information into either your data view or your layout view. When you drag a vector layer into a data or layout view it will initially be assigned a random colour. You can of course modify the layer once you have loaded it.
Like ArcCatalog, the QGIS browser option allows for data to be dragged from the browser into the QGIS map window. This functionalty operates in a similar way to the browser from MapInfo. However QGIS does not have data frame views like ArcGIS. Also with QGIS there is a separate function, for displaying the map prior to printing, which has to be activated. This is different to ArcGIS where data and layout views are available merely by switching between to the two functions. This printer layout view known as the Print Composer option is the QGIS alternative to the ArcGIS layout view functionality.
MapInfo, unlike QGIS and ArcGIS, has the ability to open multiple map and attribute windows of the current map. Both QGIS and ArcGIS, only allow one data/map window view to be active at a time, whilst within MapInfo there can be many map view windows open at the same time. These map window views, which can show different scales and layers of the map, represent a powerful feature of MapInfo functionality. These various views of layer and attribute data can then be displayed within a MapInfo layout page prior to printing.
Because these various mapping solutions have differences in the way they display maps and attribute data it is therefore not surprising that their related GIS browsers reflect this in the way they operate. However, all of these GIS browser options offer a significant advantage over Internet Explorer because of their ability to preview map layers, view attribute and meta data as well as displaying through icons what kind of data is available.
If you would like to further explore how GIS could help your organisation jps services offers one and two day training courses in QGIS, ArcGIS and MapInfo.