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.


UKJeeper said...

Nice writeup. I've been using Viewranger for years on a variety of Symbian phones so i'm glad to see the other platforms getting all the features i'm used to seeing.

I also use Social Hiking (was out today in fact. Great to see it getting a mention.

While it does have the features of Twitter, photos, etc all being 'geo-tagged' (to your last reported beacon), its main advantage is that you can be tracked real time, so if you don't come home on time it takes seconds to see where you were and what your last reported position was.

I will add that Social Hiking tracking only works properly if you enable 'show old positions' in the Viewranger settings on your phone.

Unknown said...

That is a really helpful article. I have been thinking of buying a GPS for a while and this has really helped me decide to get one.

I started my own walking blog about 6 weeks ago:

OneToRemember said...

We spent some time during the summer developing a new iPhone App called iFootpath Mobile. It has a GPS tracker which records and you can upload the track to our website for editing. We have used it a lot now and it is working well.

We reviewed other Apps too to see what they offer. Although they all have similar functions they are built for different uses. For example some are for walkers, joggers and those using a bike. Some are for meeting friends on a walk and some ...... well to be honest we didn't really figure it out. Viewranger looks to have the most features and probably the biggest fan base.

We have built ours so that walkers can navigate along detailed route descriptions with pictures and of course a map - all are available on the iPhone - or you can print them from the website. We hope that it will find some fans. Although we hope to appeal to serious walkers we also want to attract the casual walker that likes to explore highways and byways, river walks, etc.

iFootpath Mobile - as we call the App -also allows walks to be tracked and uploaded to our site. You can then download them and upload them to other sites if you wish. On the website we have added a GPX file editor. It allows you to trim, edit and add waypoints and then save. we have noticed that sometimes the track can go a bit wiggly. With the editor you can get rid of the squiggles. You can use the GPX editor on the website even if you don't use our App as you can upload directly. (You will have to register which is easy and quick)

So we are every pleased with our App and hope that some of you may give it a spin. Here is a link if you want to look closer at the features.

The website has some detailed user guides for the App and GPX/GPS editor.