Recently, I have seen much excitement around MapBox's TileMill and the beautiful maps that can be created with that tool. You can definitely do some cool stuff with TileMill.
That made me think back to a year or two ago when I was creating custom map tiles using Maperitive. So I updated my version of Maperitive and had a look. The GUI has had many improvements since I last used it and I really like the Python-based scripting that is now supported. You can also do some really cool map creation with Maperitive.
A closer look at both applications showed me that both of them allowed a user to generate output in the MBTiles format.
So I thought that it might be helpful to see if we could view these formats within Smallworld. iFactor Consulting's Web Maps Connector (disclosure: I am the product manager for this product) has been focused on web-based map sources. But because of its flexible framework, it was easy to modify it to read MBTiles.
What does that mean for Smallworld users? Now you can create your own beautiful maps using CartoCSS or Maperitive style sheets and integrate them into Smallworld as additional layers. That is pretty cool, in my opinion. In addition to beautiful maps, you can also use Maperitive or TileMill to generate your background tiles for a predefined service area. Then you can copy the file to a laptop or mobile field device running Smallworld and your field crew will have access to beautiful custom-styled background tiles even when disconnected from the web.
The following video provides some more details of how this all works.