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Favorite Topo Map Software?

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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby BSquared » Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:25 am

I like MacGPS Pro and iHikeGPS, both by James Associates in Boulder, CO.

MacGPS Pro allows me to use *any* maps I can find, as long as they are, or can be, georeferenced. Almost all states' USGS topo maps are available free in the proper format. Of course, they have the same pros and cons as all USGS topos: superb cartography, virtually perfect topography, but generally out-of-date trails and other human structures. I don't typically print maps from my computer, but the few times I've tried it, MacGPS Pro seems to have handled it well.

I haven't used iHike GPS much (it's the iPhone/iPad version), but the little use I've given it has proved it to be quite satisfactory. It also uses USGS topo maps exclusively, and it uses the iPhone's GPS (with additional triangulation from cell-phone towers, resulting in extremely rapid fixes) to show one's position on the map. It has the usual range of GPS features: waypoint and track import/export and so on. James Associates has been among the best companies I've worked with for updating, at least for the MacGPS Pro product.

I haven't tried a large number of such applications, but I sure do like the Harris maps, and I'll be tempted to try the Harris iPhone app the next time I get a chance to get out to the Sierra.
Last edited by BSquared on Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby tomcat_rc » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:00 am

I have Nat Geo Topo - it is ok for most applications and works well with Wind7

IMHO - Maptech's Terrain Navigator is the Cadillac of mapping software. Unfortunately it is expensive. I have an earlier version which I keep a WinXP desktop still hooked up for just this program function. The advantages have been: very accurate trail system maps - 90% approximate for California; drawing tracks and converting them to usable GPS track is outstanding; 3D view is remarkable - Topo and Garmin do not even compare. Disavantages: track file foes not convert well to other programs(newer versions that may have changed); maps not loadable into Garmin GPS(synchs for tracking and waypoints fine). My older version does not work with Win7 - not going to pony up for newer version while I still have options.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby Electra » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:22 am

I use the older Nat Geo version from Wildflower Productions and have not considered any newer software though i do enjoy using google earth and other online sites. I am biased though about the Wildflower product as i consulted for them for about a year but I do think for folks into backpacking like us, it does a really good job for basic planning. Google earth is amazing but i have yet to dig in on all the features. I can waste hours just cruising and gawking at the Sierra from different angles!
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby SSSdave » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:03 pm

Not a GPS user. At home I use the Google Earth application for satelite views navigation.

And for quick online map work use ACME

http://mapper.acme.com/about.html

The nice feature is one can switch between map, satelite, topo, etc maps staying in registration easily.

The commercial map applications are nice if one needs to check on trails since the USGS versions are sometimes out of date. Don't like the usual larger scales used like 15 minute. But otherwise I am fine just printing out for free from 7.5 minute maps at:
http://libremap.org/data/

The scanned quality is high, much better than ACME etc. Then just import the result into ADobe Photoshop or Gimp.


garry c >>" It's pretty hard to get a quality map if you have to shrink it down to 8.5X11. Sometimes I will print one at work on a better copier than I have at home and on 11X17 paper."

In order to maintain high resolution if I want that level of quality, I learned how to split maps up into 8.5x11 standard paper sizes and then color print them out after which that exactly fit together so I can tape em. But not something most people would be able to figure out. Of course having a decent printer helps being able to print border to border. I also work just a few miles from the USGS Menlo Park complex and yearly visit their huge stacks of maps and always by a modest pile.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby gdurkee » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:44 pm

I'm a major fan of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop (current: build 1750). It's got a huge variety of basempas available from esri online as well as the ability to load shape files (the common geospatial data standard -- e.g. for roads, trails, mines or whatever). It also handles a wider variety of coordinate systems than any other mapping program; and has an excellent 3D view (when connected to the Internet).

You can also use it offline with your own set of digital data. A disadvantage is it's printing abilities are limited and this version doesn't superimpose a useful grid. Supposedly both will improve with the next build, maybe released this summer. There's also various user-built add ins that extend the capability (georeferencing, photo tagging, a utility that tells you if a point has a Street View in Google).

Anyway, worth trying out. It's free.

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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby BSquared » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:27 pm

Whoa, now we're talking about the big guns! I completely agree with George, but imho this is professional-grade stuff, with a moderately (at least) steep learning curve, yes? I'd love to get into this, and maybe I will, given that retirement is now on the near horizon...
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby gdurkee » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:54 pm

Ah. You may be confusing ArcGIS Explorer (the one I recommended above) with ArcGIS 10, which is definitely high end and has a learning curve. Though Esri is trying to put that within reach of the average map geek. They've got a great $100/year license fee for ArcGIS 10 desktop for home users (non-commercial).

But, anyway, Explorer has a short learning curve. In fact, you can wait for my (along with co-author Vanessa) exciting "How To" on using Explorer, along with other geeky stuff: Using GIS for Wildland Search and Rescue. Hoping it's out in July. The PDF will be free (I think...).

There's also ArcGIS Explorer Online, but not quite as versatile.

g.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby obxcola » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:42 pm

I have Nat Geo topo 4 and also Expert GPS. I keep going back to expert gps. The maps cover the entire country for a lifetime fee of $79.95. I've never had any real problems with transferring to a new system /computer and etc and I've had the software ( or license ) now for @ 12 years.

They update regularly and have good service. Works great with my gps. Also have color and B/W satellite photos and you can open google earth from the program........ but haven't figured out if you can transfer waypoints or tracks from expert gps to google earth. Probably...... there're a lot of capabilities I haven't figured out how to use........ yet. I have a little garmin 301 for the waypoints and print my maps as needed with the waypoints shown on the maps. Usually just waypoint intersections or critical spots like passes. I may buy one of the new little wrist size garmins but the exoert GPS is a keeper so far! I really like having the data on the internet instead of an expensive CD as well. Lots faster even than the software loading the data from the CD as download speeds are going through the roof and a heck of a lot less expensive.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby BSquared » Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:02 pm

gdurkee wrote:Ah. You may be confusing ArcGIS Explorer (the one I recommended above) with ArcGIS 10, which is definitely high end and has a learning curve. Though Esri is trying to put that within reach of the average map geek. They've got a great $100/year license fee for ArcGIS 10 desktop for home users (non-commercial).

But, anyway, Explorer has a short learning curve. In fact, you can wait for my (along with co-author Vanessa) exciting "How To" on using Explorer, along with other geeky stuff: Using GIS for Wildland Search and Rescue. Hoping it's out in July. The PDF will be free (I think...).

There's also ArcGIS Explorer Online, but not quite as versatile.

g.


Sorry: indeed I was confusing ArcGIS Explorer with the bigger ArcGIS. My bad. Keep us posted on that book, George! If it looks good enough, it might stimulate me to actually boot my Mac as PC occasionally (something I otherwise hate to do) ;)
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby gdurkee » Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:05 pm

And there's the question: what free or cheap mapping software is out there for the Mac (not that I'd ever use one. But I know people...).

g.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby rlown » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:39 pm

what is a Mac? :D

I'm a mapsource (garmin) and GE fan. All I need. There is newer garmin sw but i don't want to lay down 129 buxx to find out how it is or if the maps are any better/different. I use the 24k West garmin set.

I still fondly look back at the days when i lived near Menlo Park and could go over during lunch and sift through the USGS maps and buy a real map.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby Mike M. » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:19 pm

I still fondly look back at the days when i lived near Menlo Park and could go over during lunch and sift through the USGS maps and buy a real map.


When I lived in SF and worked in the Financial District back in the 70s and 80s, I did the same thing: using my lunch breaks to peruse the printed 15 minute topo maps at the USGS office on Battery Street. I still have a fairly complete collection, although many are weathered and worn. Come to think of it, so am I!

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