Friday, August 26, 2005

Outdoor Navigator

[Update: MapTech no longer sells Outdoor Navigator. Jeffrey Siegel, the main developer announced a new (free) product line called ActiveMap. The website hasn't been updated for a while. Anytime now...]

Another package available for Pocket PC's that is worth looking at is Outdoor Navigator from MapTech

MapTech package is composed of a PC Host application, a Map Server and the PocketPC client app.

You download a trial version of Outdoor Navigator and install it to the PocketPC unit. After running the installer, the host PC will be able to transfer to the PPC .onm files to its memory card or ROM Flash memory.

For an affordable $19.99 you can activate this package and download topographic maps based on the 1:24,000 series from USGS from MapTech's Map Server as long as they are available.

If you want to try Outdoor Navigator, download also its 35-page .pdf manual for a quick review of its features.


Map Server

To download maps start by pointing your browser to www.outdoornavigator.com. There push the "Download Maps - MapServer" button at the top right of the screen. These maps do not present the same level of detail from those included with NG Topo! maps but are quite decent.

You can search maps by city or place name, state or zip code. After making a selection you will be presented with a map in the default scale of 1:100,000. You can zoom in and select also 1:24,000 and 1:250,000 scales.

At the bottom of the screen you can select the corresponding 1:24,000 map for download. If you don't see this list, you got to the MapServer thru a different sequence and will only be able to see but not download your map.

You can obtain latitude and longitude coordinates by moving the mouse over a map with options to display coordinates in DMS, DD.DD, UTM and dm.mm formats.

Notice that the filename uses the latitude/longitude values plus a combination of letters. The extension indicates the scale used on that map (P24 corresponds to 1:24,000 scale). There are also nautical and aeronautical charts available.

You can download maps for free for use with OutdoorNavigator, but you will need to activate the product after using the PPC package for more than 10 times.

After completing a download, you will be presented with a choice to launch Outdoor Manager, the helper application installed to your host PC that will manage the transfer of the .onm maps to the Pocket PC.

It is recommended that you use a card to store your maps. It takes quite some time to transfer maps to the PPC but a much longer time to write these map files to a flash ROM memory than to a SD Flash card.

It is easy to notice that nautical customers were the original market targeted by this package, you can notice it by the language and features available in its user interface.

Using it

After activating the product, you will be presented with a map of the world. Select Options from the main menu and Select Map. You will be presented with a list of maps available in the PPC device.

Somehow a read error from the memory card kept poping up which made the use of this product a bit of a stretch.

After going past this, you will be presented with the selected map in its 1:100,000 resolution. You will need to select View and Zoom In a couple of times to zoom into the map to a 1:24,000 scale. You can also use the main navigation button (up/down) to zoom in and out of a map without using the menus.

To use your GPS card, select GPS | Setup... Somehow I had to do this every time I launched the product. Select the port and press OK.

To use the GPS with a map select View | Follow Mode. You can select a smaller size for the black triangular cursor used for current coordinates position in the Options | Preferences dialog.

The fact that you can select True or Magnetic Bearings is quite meaningful. But a compass is still the easier way to know right away which way is North.

There is a bug about reading from a SD card that seems to be related with the GPS card being connected or not. As soon as I had obtained a lock with the GPS inserted in the CF slot, I was able to read the maps without crashing.

The moving map doesn't leave your route but you can add a line indicating your bearings and direction.

Waypoints (marks) can be added to a map, and routes saved as a combination of marks. You can use Outdoor Navigator to export and import .mxf (marks) and .rxf (routes) created with other desktop-based MapTech programs.

No comments: