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Topic: Mapping Software, whats the best< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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HHiking Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2013, 12:33 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hello All,

I am trying to publish a short digital trail guide Ive been working on.  I am curious about what everyone thinks is the best mapping software to use.    Thanks for your help.
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Lamebeaver Search for posts by this member.
trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2013, 12:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Online, I use Google Earth and ACME Mapper
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2013, 12:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Can I publish with those?  Free of worrying about getting sued?  I will be charging a small fee for my finished product.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2013, 2:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What kind of mapping software you use depends upon what kind of maps you want to make. Do you want topographic maps, physical relief, satellite photos and so on, or are you satisfied with merely line drawings with a few landmarks identified?

I doubt that you will find mapping software that is completely free of copyright. DeLorme Topo, for example, will allow you to use their software and publish your work online. But you must include a notice such as "Copyright 2011 DeLorme Topo USA." And the company stipulates that its product not be used in work that is primarily a collection of maps. That may create problems for you.

Google Earth and Acme Mapper are both copyright-protected by Google Inc. You need written permission from them to publish. And neither is mapping software so much as they are simply online mapping resources.

Your safest recourse for knowing you own the copyright is to use US Federal Government maps and draw in the trail lines yourself. Topographic maps are an example. Federal Government maps are not copyrighted. You can use a graphics program on your computer, add trails, placenames etc. and you still retain all rights to publish your creations.

But what you do depends upon how much time you are willing to devote to the project and what kind of maps you want to create. Here is an example of a map I've made and have complete copyright to. To make the map I typed all labels, and used only layers in the public domain (that is, Government map layers that are not copyrighted). The software I used was not mapping software. It was graphics software that can overlay transparencies.

But the map took a lot of work and I don't expect to ever get paid for that work. A guy never knows. More examples are located here.

If you really want "good" maps, you are not likely to make much money relative to the time you have to spend to get a completely copyright-free product. So you ask yourself, "Do I really have something to contribute that people will pay for?" Don't count on it. Otherwise, you contact mapping software companies one at a time and see what kind of arrangements they will make with you regarding copyrights. I suggest you prepare to present examples of your work.


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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2013, 7:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I would think both Google and ACME would appreciate the free publicity.  You're not actually publishing the maps, just the links.

Offline I have an older version of iGage All Topo Maps (Colorado).

For printed maps, I really like National Geographics "Trails Illustrated" series.  A copy of (your state) Gazetter comes in handy too.

You can't have too many maps,
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2013, 8:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

ExpertGPS Pro.  Import everything, exports gpx, kml, kmz, and shape files.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 10 2013, 8:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

For publishing maps, you want GIS software.

Something like Quantum GIS or MapWindow GIS is open source.  You have to find all the data you're going to use, or generate it yourself using public data like Travis described using.  Some other data is available if you're willing to pay for it.  That's usually very high resolution elevation data generated by private companies or satellite data from the newest imaging satellites.  Older imagery from older satellites is typically free.  Even the stuff from the commercial satellites.

If you really want a high level of control over your maps, there are other products on the market for producing high quality maps.  Manifold GIS is a moderately-priced product (I have a version that cost me just over $300).  ESRI's ArcGIS is the industry standard and you pay for it.  The lowest level license will probably cost you over $1,000 unless you are a nonprofit organization (their pricing is very reasonable for nonprofits - one I am working with is looking into buying a laptop and a license of their software for a big database project they want me to work on).

All of these options have learning curves.  They allow you to do detailed manipulation of data to display it exactly how you want.  The open source programs either have less functionality than the expensive stuff or the high level functions are only available via a command line interface.  There's also a lot of specialized terminology you have to understand just to find the function you're after.  You will need to buy books to learn from, and probably still frequent the user support forums.

I have spent the past 13 years using and learning ESRI's ArcGIS.  I have two degrees associated with it as well as a few additional no credit seminars on some specific functionality like Python programming.  In that time, I've also invested a little time to at least get a passing understanding of some of these other programs because I may not always have access to the expensive stuff.

Furthermore, things get tricky if you don't have a Windows computer.  Most programs are limited to Windows environments.  Only Quantum GIS is a multi-platform program that works on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Keep in mind that a lot of people who produce maps for the general public only use GIS software for part of their work.  Many bring their maps into Adobe Illustrator or other vector graphics program to make them look pretty.    ArcGIS can do quite a bit of its own vector graphics manipulation to make the map look good.  QGIS, however, has VERY limited vector graphics capabilities and it's pretty much required that you do that part of your work in a separate program.

I made this map of a small urban trail system as a volunteer project to help the locals.  Maps had been produced by a local agency for distribution around town, but this trail network was simply a squiggle because nobody cared to get accurate data.  I used ArcGIS entirely.

beware, it's a very high-res file that's about 800MB intended for high quality printing.

http://thegpsgeek.com/blog/images/NacTrails.png

I also provide a .kml version of the trail data this map is based upon on my website.

For consumer level programs, I am a huge fan of Topofusion.  But the best program I've been able to use hands down is ArcGIS.  Puts all consumer level stuff to shame.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 12 2013, 3:12 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Before choosing mapping software, identify your needs. Are you going to use mapping software to build complex topography maps with manually plotted routes? Do you need to track business travel expenses? Or perhaps, have you promised to plan a glitch-free family vacation?
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