Thursday 2 December 2010

ViewRanger – Now With Open Source Maps

I’ve been using ViewRanger for a few years now and though I’ve not got around to completing a full review to date I’ve always found the product and the after sales support second to none. The latter has often left me completely in awe of their efficiency, quality of communication and level of service. This probably means I hold them in disproportionately high regard but they’ve managed to impress yet again with their latest release.

Viewranger now runs on all three of the major mobile platforms (Symbian, Android and iPhone) and I’ve recently made the move from Symbian to iPhone with the utmost simplicity. I was able to transfer all of my previously purchased maps across to the new platform and as with the previous version – it just works! I didn’t think things could get any better until I received the newsletter yesterday about new ViewRanger’s support for OpenMaps.

OpenMaps iPhone

I’ve been using OpenStreetMap for a while (purely for my support of all things ‘open’) and had always wondered why it wasn’t more widely available for mobile devices. ViewRanger have gone one step further by offering 4 new ‘open’ maps available for use within the program:

· OpenStreetMap

· Bing Road Maps

· OpenCycleMap

· Bing Aerial Imagery

The catch is that to use them you need to either be online to view the maps or previously have viewed the area at your desired zoom level prior to offline use – which is a bit clunky but a small price to pay.

viewranger_openmap_aerial Bing Aerial Maps

The map of most interest to me is the OpenCycleMap and this is simply because it is the only topographical map of the group. I’ve tried a few tiles at various zoom levels and quite frankly I’m impressed. Whilst the details don’t compare to OS maps you get height detail (with contour shading) and as far as I can tell most of the paths and tracks seem to be shown too. I suspect that there will be cases where some walking routes aren’t shown but given that this is a map intended for cycling that’s no surprise!

viewranger_openmap_topo2 OpenCycleMap tile of Buttermere

The maps are updated weekly so I’m hopeful that the developers will continue to add new features and it would be fantastic if there was any way to incorporate more detail to make the maps slightly more useful for hill walkers/mountaineers. Its still relatively early days so I shall watch this with interest but I’d recommend a look now.

photo 1 photo 2

OS Maps detail versus current OpenCycleMap detail

You get the ability to record tracks and make routes through the application as normal and for iPhone users looking for a cheap mapping solution (if not just for a trial of the programme and open maps) Viewranger are offering the app through the iTunes store at an introductory price of 59p! You can upgrade later if you wish to premium OS mapping etc for £14.99 which includes map credits to get you started.

There are a few pretty cool things emerging in the mapping arena lately and if you already use ViewRanger and have a twitter account I urge you to check out Social Hiking which puts a bit of a multimedia spin on mapping and GPS. Its not a bad idea but I’m not yet motivated enough to twitter from the hills but if you are and fancy uploading live photos and videos this is all possible through Social Hiking.

If you give it a go I’d love to hear how you get on with either of the above.