Within a GIS, the table of contents, usually positioned on the left side of the map window, contains the names of the layers available within the map. QGIS, ArcGIS and MapInfo all now provide for the table of contents to be a permanently visible feature within the main mapping environment. MapInfo does differ from QGIS and ArcGIS in that it also has the ability to open numerous map and attribute windows within a MapInfo work session. QGIS and ArcGIS both allow for more than one attribute window to be open in a ArcGIS map document or QGIS project file. However, only one map window is available at a time within the mapping environment. If you have been used to working with either the QGIS or ArcGIS interfaces you may need some time to become accustomed to MapInfo's ability to open multiple map and attribute windows within a MapInfo work session.
Sometimes having all the layers displayed can lead to far too much detail being provided. In this case it is very easy to simplify your map. By selecting individual layers within the table of content and turning off their display within the map window, your map may become more manageable. If you have created a named group for specific layers you can also turn off all those layers within that named group with a single mouse click. Layer order is important within a GIS. Having the layers in the appropriate order will ensure that all the layers display correctly. Otherwise you may find that one layer is hidden by another. It is relatively easy to move layers up or down by clicking on them, holding down the left mouse button and dragging them up or down as required.
Layer names should be relevant. If you have loaded layers from your hard disk and they have cryptic names you can change them within the Layer Properties dialogue box. This changes the layer names within the map window without changing the actual file names on the hard disk. With QGIS it is also possible to rename a layer simply by right clicking and selecting the Rename option.
As well as being able to zoom in and out and pan around your map you are also able to select a zoom extents option to view the entire map. Right clicking on a specific layer will also enable you to be able to zoom to that layer's individual extents.
Maps can be labeled with information from the relevant attribute data which is attached to the layer. Many GIS will offer the option to display this data through a map tip display option as an alternative to labeling the whole map. Features within the map can be interrogated in a number of ways. Perhaps the easiest way, to quickly obtain information about a feature, is to use the Identify tool. This will then bring up the relevant attribute data for the feature selected.
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.