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Topo Mapping Software


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I have read several threads that touch on mapping software, but I still don't have specific direction for what I'd like to use. I'm demoing ExpertGPS and Topofusion. Topofusion is very confusing and it won't imprt tracks correctly from my Garmin 60cs. ExpertGPS is nice because you can download maps and aerial views across the courntry, but the quality of the topo maps is not good. I have hear others mention National Geographic state maps, MapTech and DeLorme maps, as well.


I am not looking for mapping to use live in the field with a GPS hooked to a computer. I just want a quality topo map that allows me to upload tracks, and to print those tracks for others to use. Also to plot waypoints or caches and print them to get a lay of the land. 3D would be nice but is not necessary. I'd like to be able to view trails and forest service roads so that I can plot some courses on the map, print them, and then download the track to my GPS. Quality of the maps for viewing and printing is important. Care to share your experience with these types of programs for a novice like me?




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Wiser folks than me may give you a better answer, but for the detail that you are looking for, you really need USGS 24K topo maps (so called because they have a scale of 1:24,000). I'm not sure if these are available for free download. I think Teraserver topo maps are 1:100,000. Also, most downlaodable maps are vector graphics (stored points and symbols) instead of raster graphics (pixel by pixel images of paper maps) since they are smaller files.


National Geographic offers its state-by-state Topo! series, that will do just what you are looking for. It does 3D mapping in its latest release. It lists for about $100 per state. I think 4x4 books has it on sale for $70 until the end of the year.

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The National Geographic TOPO! state series maps are fantastic. Version 4.0 with

3-D rendering and flyovers makes it easy to spend a lot of time looking at the areas you have hiked or plan to hike. It does support downoading of waypoints and tracks from your GPSr. I highly recommend this software.

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The MapTech topo series are 1:24,000 scale, and identical to the USGS maps. I believe these are the most detailed maps available for topo use. they are available state to state. I have the Garmin 60CS along with MapTech for NH, and it works great for transfering both waypoints and tracks. And no, I don't own stock in MapTech!

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I guess I should suggest, before spending $$$, to be sure and check out USAPhotomap, which is free shareware that downloads detailed photo and topo maps from Terraserver. I find its interface easy to use after some basic instruction:


When you first open it, enter the coordinates of your location. The screen will have a bunch of blank squares in it. Press F to fill the screen with aerial photos. The aerials come in two sizes (zoomed in and zoomed out), which have to be downloaded separately. You can zoom in and out by pressing Page Up and Page Down. Use the arrow keys on the keyboard to pan.


For topo maps, press T. You'll get the same blank screen. Press F again to "fill" the screen with topo maps. Again, you can zoom in and out.


USAPhotomaps will interface with your GPS, and do lots of other neat things (like let you label features, etc.) You really need a fast internet connection and a big hard drive to get the most from it, since it is download intensive, but once maps are downloaded, you don't have to download them again, and they can be burned onto a CD or DVD.


As I mentioned in my earlier post, the topo maps are probably not quite as detailed as you want. The photomaps go down to 1 meter per pixel, which is pretty darned detailed. And, well, its free! (The author asks for a pay-pal donation on the sign-out screen). Happy mapping!

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USAPhotomap uses/shows the same map data that ExpertGPS shows (terraserver). Which the original poster isn't too thrilled with.


But, what nobody's mentioned is that this data is made up of scans of the actual USGS maps which is about as good as it gets. Those maps are admittedly pretty busy looking when zoomed out, but I think the high detail ones when zoomed in, are pretty nice. NG Topo's map data is also based on the USGS data; they've merely 'enhanced' the data so that they can present it in 3D format, etc.

Edited by Jeeters
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Where are you finding version 4.0?  I don't see it at the NG site, 4x4 Books or elsewhere on the web.




The NG TOPO! Streets & 3-D Views expansion pack when installed on a computer that already has any NG TOPO! state series installed will upgrade the State series to TOPO! 4.0. I don't think that they are selling TOPO! 4.0 by itself just yet.

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NG Topo's map data is also based on the USGS data; they've merely 'enhanced' the data so that they can present it in 3D format, etc.

NG TOPO! State Series maps are scanned USGS maps. I have paper 1:24000 quads and they are identical to what is on my monitor. They do use the data for the new 3-D effects, but the maps are the real deal. I think it is tremendous, if pricey, software. I use it all the time in planning outdoor activities, including caching.

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Upon recommendation of several here.. and a friend that I spoke with today, I have ordered the NG state map for South Dakota along with the 3D and expansion pack. It will take a few days to get here, but after I've had a chance to work with it a bit, I will post my thoughts here. I appreciate all of your input.. this newsgroup is very helpful to someonw just starting - and I'm sure will be valuable down the road. I hope as I get "seasoned" that I'll be able to contribute to others, as well.


Thanks again


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the garmin 60 series isn't on the list?  can anyone verify if this is true or not?

The NGT 4.0 does support 60CS and 60C via USB. Earlier versions do not officially support them but there was a way to do it with a serial connector.


here is a screenshot from NGT 4.0 with the 60CS option.




Edited by woggs1
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