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Software Review of:


Russell Albach

From the June, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

When is the last time you used a map, either to find a location, or to plan a travel route? While the familiar folding paper map is still useful, a newer high tech method is available. I had the chance to try out two mapping applications, and had a blast with both. 

The application for this review is made by MAPTECH, and is a CD of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, from their National Park series. There are many types/uses  of these map CD’s, including Surveying, Engineering, Forestry, Search and Rescue, Fire & Police, Real Estate, Hunting, Hiking, and Camping, and many more. Check out the web site for the complete list. 

One of the suggested uses is to plan a vacation. I decided to plan a phantom weekend trip to the park, along with a list of activities to do on arrival. The CD has everything needed from highway numbers to locations of hiking trails and rest stops inside the park. Park attractions like El Capitan are shown as are various wildlife, and recreational opportunities. Hiking, biking, camping, swimming are clearly marked with icons as well as printed names. Simply click on the icons and the program jumps to the indicated location and displays a detailed view. If you want more information, there is area history, geology, weather and climate history, and color photos of various park attractions. Lodging and dining facilities are listed along with reservation information. I started the application and selected the mountain known as El Capitan. I had actually been to this area many years ago, so was somewhat familiar with the park, and therefore able to test the accuracy of the map. There is a tour you can take for the program itself to learn some of the basics for using MAPTECH, and I strongly urge you to use it. While this application is very easy to use, it has such a wealth of features, you will be well served by spending a little time using the tour. You access it by selecting the HELP button on the MENU BAR and choosing CONTENTS. Then simply follow the easy and clear instructions.

The map shows the location along with various icons, and symbols. If you click on this, another screen pops up to display a larger and more detailed view. This brings up image two. There is a camera icon. Click on it and you get a photo of the mountain. All of the symbols and icons I tried displayed more information, so don’t be bashful about trying as many as you want. I decided to plot a route through the park to see several attractions. You have a choice of three methods to do this with the software. One is using the Route Tool and create a path by clicking on the map image. Second, use the Define/Edit Routes window to type waypoint coordinates. The third way is transferring routes from your own GPS unit directly to Terrain Navigator (part of the application). The following is with the Route Tool. 

“Select the Route Tool button on the toolbar, then click on the map to set the starting waypoint. Waypoints are represented by symbols, and are assigned names and numbers. As you create waypoints, the waypoints are joined in sequence by a line. Each line segment is called a route leg. When you are finished creating waypoints, press the Finish Route button (on the toolbar next to the coordinate display). You can now modify all the characteristics of this route, in the Define/Edit Routes dialog. Right-click on any waypoint, and choose Edit Route. This opens the Define/Edit Routes window. You can rename your route, change the color used for its waypoints and legs, adjust waypoint locations, and more. You can also make several adjustments simply by right-clicking on the route itself. With the Route Tool selected, hold the cursor directly over a waypoint. The cursor will change into a combination hand-and-waypoints-symbol. You can now click and drag the waypoint to another position. Using the Route Tool, position the cursor on a leg (line segment) of a route. A small plus sign will appear in the cursor symbol. You can now click, and a waypoint will be inserted in this location. The waypoint will be assigned the next number available: for example, if a route contains six waypoints and you click to add another, this new waypoint will be called Waypoint 7 regardless of its position in the route. You can modify the names of your waypoints as you like: right-click on a waypoint and choose Edit Route Waypoints to change name, symbol, etc. To quickly bring up the map containing a route you’ve created, choose Go To from the Routes menu (or Routes from the Go To menu), and highlight the name of the route you want. The map containing the route will appear, centered on the route’s starting waypoint. With the Route tool, right-click on any waypoint and choose Hide. The route will be temporarily removed from display. 

To restore the route to the map image, use the Layer Selector, or select the route’s name from the Go To Routes menu. To delete a route, right-click on the route and choose Delete. (The Define/Edit Routes windows also provides a Delete function).” You can place your own icons and have virtually no limitations on modifications to your own personal map. I included the above from the Help section as it is a little difficult to locate. I set up a map from the entry to the park, to El Capitan, through McKITTRICK Canyon to Indian Meadow Nature Trail. I was able to build a map that included all available facilities, typical weather and climate conditions, elevations, and then print everything out. This is really COOL!  Did I mention the 3D effect you can use? Shades of “HOUSE of WAX”, “THE MASK”, “THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON”, and “DIAL M FOR MURDER” 3D movies from more years back than I care to remember!. Included in the box is a pair of those cheesy (but effective) cardboard glasses with one blue lens and one red lens. I tried them and they actually work. If you have one of the very latest video cards, (one with ALL the bells and whistles), they have some built in support for software that uses 3D. 

I only touched on one simple function, as this is a short review of a very complex, but easy to use, application. Maps have really come a long way from the days of the impossible to re-fold maps you picked up for free from the full service gas stations (remember them?) that went the way of the passenger pigeon. This program from MAPTECH is good enough for me to give a “recommended” notation.

System requirements: Windows 95 or newer; A Pentium class CPU; 256 color display (16/24/32 bit color for 3D); OpenGL Video Accelerator recommended for optimum 3-D performance; CD-ROM drive; 32MB RAM; Mouse or drawing equivalent.

MAPTECH software is generally available, but if you cannot find it locally, it can be ordered direct for $49.95 to $149.95, depending on what you want.

10 Industrial Way
Amesbury, MA 01913-3223
Phone: 978/792-1197. 

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