HomeSoftware


Free GPS maps
Ken in Regina
A new user to the forum has suggested that there are no good free maps for GPS use, That has not been my experience. So I thought I would start a discussion to share sources of good quality free maps.

Here are two sources where I have found good quality maps.

OpenStreetMaps - http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/

GPSFileDepot - https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/

I'm sure there are others.

...ken...
werdnanostaw
You need OziExplorer (or other software capable of reading .ECW files) to use the free Natmaps 1:250k map of all of Oz in one 2.5GB lump.

It is a georeferenced "paper" map so it tells you where you are but you can't use it for routing.

We use it when looking for wild camping spots, ie the green bits = NPs, SPs, NRs, SFs... If it's green it's a potential target. Oz is a very big, very empty place. Our motto is "If they can't find you they can't fine you."

We don't bush bash, ie we don't stray from existing tracks, and we always take our rubbish with us so we don't think we're harming our campsites in any way.

We use maps from the OSM.nl website above in nRoute for route planning (all over the world, not just in Oz), both on a tablet PC, and a Navman PND on the windscreen for directions. Why Navman? Coz it came free with the car.

http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/national-location-information/topographic-maps-data...tal-topographic-maps

Exploreoz bought the rights to Natmaps 1:250k and updated it to 1:200k and added POIs. It is available to view for free online but if you want to use it in satnav software it costs about USD70.

https://www.exploroz.com/eotopo
Boyd
Mobile Atlas Creator (MOBAC)is a really great open source program that runs on Windows, Macs and Linux.

http://mobac.sourceforge.net

It allows you to create your own maps from any publicly accessible web source. Many online sources are included in the distribution but you can add your own mapsource definitions. For example, I created sources for a large number of maps available from the State of New Jersey including historic topo's, USGS 24k topo's and high resolution aerial imagery going back as far as 1930.

The real use of MOBAC is exporting maps in a wide variety of formats that are compatible with just about any device. There are many Android and iOS apps that can use these or you can export as OziExplorer or Google Earth for Mac/Windows. Garmin and Magellan handheld GPS devices are also supported. There are even formats that work on Windows Mobile and Symbian!

I have also developed my own workflow for getting any map into the MOBAC format and am now using it as a platform to distibute the large and very detailed maps that I make myself. Here are two examples, they include full instructions for installing MOBAC on your computer. This one includes aerial imagery for Southern New Jersey mapped onto LIDAR elevation data to create 3d shading: http://boydsmaps.com/download/LIDAR_in_the_pines_2017.zip

And this one shows tax parcels, homes and other features in the New Jersey Pine Barrens: http://boydsmaps.com/download/parcels_in_the_pines.zip

If you are interested in the New Jersey State maps I mentioned earlier, download this small file and drop it into the Mapsources folder in MOBAC. You will then be able to choose any of these online sources when using MOBAC. http://boydsmaps.com/download/njgin_mapsources.zip

I setup my own domain to host these files and other maps, but still haven't found the time to build a proper website there. I have always been a big fan of gpsfiledepot and have well over 40,000 downloads of my own maps there. But it's a Garmin-centric site and I have stopped developing maps in their format. I just don't find their products attractive or a good value anymore. Makes me sad, but they just haven't kept up with smartphones.
Ken in Regina
Thanks for that info Boyd. What app(s) do you favor on your smartphone?

...ken...
Boyd
My criteria for choosing apps is based on how well they work with the maps I create myself. That might not match what the "typical user" wants. But I primarily use Galileo on iOS. They have an Android version that I haven't tried, but the reviews complained it was inferior to the IOS version the last I checked.

TwoNav is available on iOS and Android and appeared to be identical the last time I checked. It also integrates with the same company's "CompeGPS Land" program for Macs and Windows. We have a thread about this here somewhere. My only complaint is that too much of the screen is filled with user interface elements and I prefer simplicity with just the map and a few basic controls.

There's an interesting iOS app called Map Plus that works well but it's a bit strange. My main complaint is that it doesn't have a proper "track up" mode. Instead, it orients the screen in the direction it thinks you are facing. This probably works fine for hiking, but it's a mess in the car and almost never orients the map in your direction of travel.

On Android I like Oruxmaps. I have a Samsung tablet but rarely use it anymore. I wish they would release an iOS version, it's really my favorite app due to the degree of customization. I gather it has changed since I installed however and is no longer available through Google Play. Just have not kept up with things on Android.

I don't use routable maps on any of these, although Galileo has recently added support using OpenStreetMap. For routing, I use the Garmin StreetPilot app, which is only available on iOS. It's basically the same thing as a Nuvi on your phone.
Ken in Regina
Thanks Boyd. I'm an Android guy. I've tried Oruxmaps a few times but generally give up on it after a bit each time. As you mention, it's hugely customizable. The unfortunate part for me is that I have to do a bunch of customization even to use what are, to me, fairly basic functions.

Each time I try it I invariably give up before I've got it to work the way I want.

I sure wish Garmin would make StreetPilot available on Android. I've long since given up begging them to do that. They always reply that they have a good Android app. I think it was a rebranded DeLorme app they got when they bought DeLorme. Can't recall what it was called and I can't even find a Garmin nav app in the Google Play Store today, except for the old Earthmate DeLorme app that's for topo maps.

...ken...
Boyd
Garmin's Android app is Navigon, which they bought a number of years ago. I have the iOS version and it's OK but I just don't like style of the maps and the StreetPilot app feels so familiar. But StreetPilot costs as much as a dedicated GPS when you add the in-app purchases for traffic, pedestrian mode, etc. And just to be sure that you don't replace your dedicated GPS with an app, Garmin cripples the StreetPilot app in ridiculous ways.

It has all the same routing and waypoint features as a Nuvi, but you can't import or export anything. It only works with data you create within the app itself. I developed a method of moving my waypoints one at a time by converting them to a list of coordinates, e-mailing it to myself and copy/pasting them into searches in the app. But that is rather tedious.

Even worse, Garmin released a buggy StreetPilot update awhile ago that just crashed immediately when you ran. They had a support post saying that you should just delete and re-install if you had this problem. This fixed the crash problem but deleted all the waypoints I had painstakingly moved to the app - they were gone forever, very frustrating. That same update still crashed regularly in the area around NYC. A few months later they finally introduced a new version that has been stable and I didn't lose any data updating.

It would be trivial for Garmin make *the* killer GPS apps for outdoor and auto use but they just won't do it. They are too fixated on their hardware business. I don't think they even make much off maps anymore, every gps includes a lifetime subscription. And it's absurd that you can buy a factory refurb Nuvi with lifetime maps for $60 but a one time purchase of just a City Navigator map costs $80.

Garmin is a hardware company and is determined to milk every last cent out of that business as long as they can.
Ken in Regina
Garmin management is shamefully uncoordinated. It seems like everything is done in silos. Why do different models of Nuvi seem like the software functionality was developed by different teams? Why can they build something excellent and then simply toss it?

They built an excellent navigation app (Mobile XT) for the Palm operating system but never bothered to port it to the next mobile operating systems.

They evolved Mapsource into a pretty decent navigation app for Windows, then they replaced the navigation features with the start of another excellent Windows app (Mobile PC). Then when it turned out to be good functionally but not terribly stable they just walked away from it.

They introduce really useful features on one model of hardware but they never make it onto other, newer models.

If they would ever provide an incentive for the various product managers to sit down and integrate all the good stuff they could dominate navigation in ways that would rival Google in Search or Amazon in online retail.

...ken...
Boyd
In today's world I don't think anyone will dominate if you have to purchase their expensive hardware that only works with their proprietary maps. But a best of breed app would be nice. I would pay a premium price for that but not sure if that many others would when there are so many cheap or free options that are "good enough".

I might even be tempted to buy an advanced dedicated Garmin device with a big screen. But they have failed miserably with the GPSMap 276cx which costs $700 and only has a 5" screen. Its poor performance has alienated some of Garmin's biggest fans - see: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/garmin-announces-the-new-gpsmap-276cx.1178312/

Then there's the Android based Monterra which was a good idea but was discontinued before they ever worked out the bugs. And $600 for a device with a 4" screen at 480x272 pixels was ridiculous. But the interesting thing there is an app called (IIRC) Garmin Outdoors provided all the handheld functionality. So that Android app already exists but they won't offer it separately.
GoneNomad
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
In today's world I don't think anyone will dominate if you have to purchase their expensive hardware...
Very true, especially if the hardware device is pales in comparison to mid-grade tablets from Samsung, LG, etc., that not only cost less, but offer features like LTE connectivity that Garmin's PNDs do not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
But a best of breed app would be nice...
Especially if it had features (e.g.: specific vehicle types/sizes for RVs & trucks) that free nav software doesn't, including some that were implemented on S&T (e.g.: time of day, not just elapsed time), and others still lacking (automatic time-zone-change adjustment, etc.).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
I would pay a premium price for that but not sure if that many others would when there are so many cheap or free options that are "good enough"...
Most people are happy with the free software that's already on their phone, and happy with the screen size of that hardware too, so that probably leaves too few potential customers to support development cost of the better alternative. The only possible exception is for truckers, who are required by law to conform to certain standards (now including electronic logging), but CoPilot, which pre-dates googlenav, has that segment cornered, even though it's hardly a top-flight performer.
Boyd
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoneNomad
Especially if it had features (e.g.: specific vehicle types/sizes for RVs & trucks) that free nav software doesn't
Again, that would be a no brainer for Garmin since they already have the Dezl and RV series large GPS devices. I've gotta believe porting the unit software to Android and iOS would be trivial.

But that is the last thing in the world Garmin is going to do.
Ken in Regina
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
Again, that would be a no brainer for Garmin since they already have the Dezl and RV series large GPS devices. I've gotta believe porting the unit software to Android and iOS would be trivial.

But that is the last thing in the world Garmin is going to do.
Yeah, it's pretty clear they have no interest in the software monetization model in areas where they can still sell a decent number of hardware devices. They've shown that time and again.

...ken...
GoneNomad
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
Again, that would be a no brainer for Garmin since they already have the Dezl and RV series large GPS devices. I've gotta believe porting the unit software to Android and iOS would be trivial.
Evidently not, considering the extent to which Garmin (and TomTom, for that matter) screwed up the implementation when they tried.

I think Rand MacNally (oddly enough) may be about the only one that did this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
But that is the last thing in the world Garmin is going to do.
True, they're stuck on the stupid mindset that they can only protect their IP by making it available only on proprietary hardware.
Ken in Regina
Actually they did a great job initially. Mobile XT on the Palm operating system was an excellent port of the functionality from their hardware devices. They even took advantage of some features of Palm that weren't available on the hardware devices. I still have one of their iQue 3600's and it still works a treat.

...ken...
Boyd
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd
I setup my own domain to host these files and other maps, but still haven't found the time to build a proper website there.
Just to follow up.... https://boydsmaps.com is finally online, although I still have a lot to do and more maps to add. There are 8 maps in my universal format plus an updated New Jersey map in Garmin's traditional (.img file) format.

The maps are all "Jersey Centric" for now. But if you are interested in Mobile Atlas Creator, I spent quite awhile writing a detailed 30 page tutorial on installing and using the software. https://boydsmaps.com/docs/Using-Mobile-Atlas-Creator-with-Boyds-Maps.pdf
laptopgpsworld.com About