Friday, February 10, 2012

Topo Map Apps II

Update.-- Garmin updated their Basecamp software (free) with version 3.3.1. They solved a lengthy list of problems which include the stupid popup window when Time Machine backup ejects the disk image from the desktop. It doesn't even look for it now. This mean you can keep it open for the whole time you're working without being interrupted.

That said, however, everything else about this application remains the same, it's good, especially if you own a Garmin GPS unit, which I will sometime this year, but I wouldn't put it on the recommended list. I still find the display hard to get used to since I'm use to the look of USGS topo maps. I still hate Garmin's 2D and 3D look.

Original Post

I wrote a previous post (read here) where I expressed my views on the three topographic map software packages for Apple laptop or desktop computers, specifically National Geographic's TOPO!, Mac Pro GPS and Garmin Basecamp. Well, two months later has anything changed?

For one NG hasn't changed. It's still the same software as before but it runs under Lion (OS-X 10.7.2) the same as before, or at least the parts I use. It still only has one glitch, you can't keep or use it as an icon on your dock. You always have to start it from the Applications folder. I use XMenu which is easier to start apps.

Garmin updated Basecamp, but it still has the stupid glitch it adds unnecessary harddrives to the device field and then pops up window when they can't be ejected. This bug still includes iDisk and Time Machine. This is stupid and dumb as neither are input devices for Basecamp but it appears to be a lesser issue to the developers.

That said, I'm still not enamored with the maps and the lack of ability to flatten the 3D effect similar to NG or just regular topo maps. There is no way to turn this feature off. It's also weird to see the details turned into short straight lines. This is due to the underlying data and interprelating line in between but it's goofy looking.

And lastly, their user's forum, well, it's helpful but then so is a Starbuck gift card you buy for yourself. It's full of people posting questions and bugs and lots of reasponses but little real help in those I read (ok, like mine and a few others). You walk, or surf, away feeling it's a waste of time since the company doesn't seem to respond with changes, fixes, etc.

Mostly, though, with the forum, it can't seem to remember I'm logged in, so after logging it and trying to post or reply, it prompts me for my user id and password again, and I've tried three browsers (Safari, Chrome and FireFox). It's something in the user setup in the forum.

My view of Mac Pro GPS is still the same since there hasn't been an update. I really hate it can't remember the user settings for window openings (only map) and size (defaults to full screen). And loading 20 7.5-minute quadranges (Mt. Rainier NP) on startup is time consuming, you just still and wait. At least it has the setting to remember the maps, but that's about all it does remember.

In the end, my opinion is the same, NG's TOPO! is still the better choice. I've seen some other topographic map software packages for Mac's but I'm not interested right now to buy the app and their map set. Why they all format USGS topo maps different and unique to their app is understandable marketing but dumb for the consumer.

On another note I did try Trailrunner, which is free. It's not a topographic map application, more a sports recreation application but still I found it cumbersome to learn and you need to use a map Website ( to import a route, and that Website is worse because you have to register and using it, well, forget it unless you have a lot of patience to learn and work with it. Not fun or easy.

So, best advice, forget it. It also pops up a window for a donation for 2 minutes before you can use it. Not smart. I'm keeping it for now but haven't used it beyond trying to learn it and the other Website. It's probably a good app, just not user friendly.

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