Delorme Topo USA 2nd report
Delorme Topo USA 2nd report
Delorme Topo USA 2nd report
I kept putting off my second report because the more I play with the software, the more there is to learn about its usefulness. I am not going to include screen captures with my reports because I believe most of my comments can be described well enough to communicate the issues without them. I really like this software! There are a ton of great features that prove Delorme is going a new direction that is unique from what some of the other mapping programs have been doing. Some of the features need some spit and polish but their basics have got me very excited. I have heard several complaints from others about inaccuracies in some of the data, but I did not encounter any problems in the map areas that I examined. I love this program, and can envision myself browsing areas I have never been to, just in order to enjoy the maps!
The literature claims that there is great waypoint management for GPS units. I disagree. I use a Garmin eTrex Summit, and I found the GPS interface to be a little clunky. What I did like about the GPS features was that my routes and waypoints automatically appear on the map where they belong. This is pretty cool because you can mix and match waypoints into different routes. Then you can use the automatic trail routing feature to build a route from those waypoints. This is nice because sometimes I enter in a bunch of waypoints on a trail, some on the way in, some on the way out. When I mix them back into TopoUSA, it allows me to put them back in order and have all the points going in one direction on the new route that I have created.
One feature that laptop and PDA users will find very hand is the ability to use the program for a moving map interface. Most of the other programs out there either do not support moving maps at all or require an additional program that simply utilizes the database CDs you have already purchased. I don't have either of these devices, so I haven't tested them, but if the computer and GPS can keep up and display the maps in real time that I use on the desktop, I would be very impressed. These maps have a lot of data that would be great to have at your disposal when on the road.
You can't add your own waypoints to the searchable database. It doesn't seem immediately obvious to me that you can 'manage' waypoints in Topo USA. I really like the built in data, there is a great data set, I just can't add my own points so that they integrate. I would like to be able to have a point "Home" and "Cabin" and things like that. It may be possible, but the help files did not explain how to do so.
The 3D feature is pretty neat. I really like the pictures that it draws. I like the horizon option that continues to draw the terrain out to the horizon until either blue sky or a large mountain gets in the way. I wish that the 3D picture were full screen instead of the small window that is the default. I also think that it would be a relatively simple bit of code to enable the software to do a full-motion 3D fly-by of your trail. Even a virtual environment that allowed you to scroll forward in the 3D environment would be okay. I assume that Delorme did not include this feature because if would be to slow too render and would irritate people. I think that I would personally be willing to wait for a long render job to create a quicktime or other animated fly-by of my trail. The data is all there.
I found one rather serious problem with the 3D rendering. There is an option to turn off shading when in 2D, but you cannot turn this off in 3D. The problem arises when there are very steep slopes that actually get so much shading that they become black and you cannot see the slope at all. I rendered a picture of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, CA and I couldn't see any of the slopes surrounding the bay even when I turned terrain exaggeration (the degree to which slopes are drawn upwards in a 3d drawing) all the way down to 1x. This area is steeper than most areas but many of the areas that I would like to climb or hike are similarly steep. I don't think anyone using this program in Kansas will run into the problem! On the other hand, places the Grand Canyon are just black due to the shading.
Searching for place names
Wow this has an extensive database! It is great. You can find just about anything. There is the standard search for mountains and places and such, but one feature that I found was really neat was the ability to search for types of places within a designated distance from the center of the map. You can center the map on your trail and then do a search that finds all of the water sources within one mile of the trail! This is a really useful feature. You can specially label all of the creeks near your trail
The routing feature is really, really cool. It works pretty well, except in areas where there are a lot of trails and it can't calculate the trail. I have had this happen several times already. In any case it is much better off than any other version of trail routing I have ever seen.
Doesn't really do so well to tell you the truth. I used it to route myself from the Bay Area to Yosemite and it had me taking fire roads and small side streets the whole way. Shortest distance sure, but it would have taken three times as long. The directions report that it prints out works pretty well, but it only gives one map and the detail isn't good enough to be helpful since it tries to show the whole route on one map.
A little touch and go, but the USGS data that all maps are based on is the problem, not DeLorme. I think that they did their best to use the most current data. I believe that they have additional data discs that you can buy for more detail in your area of interest.