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Software Review of:
GeoQuad
v 4.00a

 

William Morgan is a self-employed locksmith living in Kerrville, Texas. He has been a member of the Alamo PC User Group since 1995.

From the June, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

GeoQuad is a soon to be released program by maptrails. The program can be used for  fishing trips, hunting trips, bike trips, or hiking trips to plan and map a trail. The program is not yet not on sale, but by the time this  is published, it should be. The program is designed to run on most computers  running Windows 98 (or later) , but  does requires at least 64 Mbytes of RAM, a display setting of 1024x768 pixels, and a minimum of 80 Mbytes of hard drive space.  The best feature of this program, is it will allow a dual display of both a graphical map and a photomap.

I had a few problems with the program that is a result of using an internal beta (some would call this an alpha) copy.  I was unable to download a copy of the Kerrville, Texas USGS quad data. This was because the Website server had only been loaded with the data for the west coast. I also had a bad authorization code, but Scott Crouch at maptrails was able to setup a special authorization code for me to write this review.  I wanted to test the GPS feature of this program, but since I could not download the Kerrville quad, I could not make a coordinate test for this review. By the time the program goes on sale,  Iím sure these problems will be solved. 

I only found one short coming- the lack of a quick tour. I did not have much of a problem using the program, once the map data files were loaded, but some one who has not use a mapping program before may have some trouble.  A very nice feature in the help menu is a list of all the USGS topographical map symbols.  Also, each of the map or photo types is explained in the help menu. The help menu explains the programís use of waypoints. Unlike other programs that use only one symbol for a waypoint, GeoQuad has many symbols. Bikes, cameras, boats and tents are but a few of the included symbols.  This allows groups (such a nature club) to plan routes using the waypoint symbols to tell the user that this point is a campsite, boating is good here, and this is a good photo spot. Also, by clicking on a waypoint symbol, field notes can be added about the waypoint. I think (but could not check) that it should be possible to download waypoints to a PDA, then edit the notes in the field on the PDA, and upload the edited notes back into the program. The program comes in a clamshell case and has a small manual next to the CD ROM that is well written.

What makes this program different from other topographical mapping programs is the use of a split screen display. This allows two views of the same area. The program generally uses two scales: a 1 to 100,000-unit scale and a 1 to 24,000-unit scale. There are four types of 1 to 100,000 unit scale maps- satellite photos, USGA 1:100,000 topographical maps, and where available the Bureau of Land Management and the state game management maps. There are three types of 1 to 24,000 unit scale maps-- black and white aerial photos, USGS 1:24,000 topographical maps, and the USGS 1:24,000 hill shaded topographical maps. The only difference between a common topographical map and a hill shade topographical map is that the north slope of a hill or mountain has a dark shade added to make it look more like an air photo. By having two different scale sets and a split display, two modes with about four possible views, the user can plot trails easily. Also as I have stated in other map reviews, the USGS topographical data is over 20 years old. Air and satellite data in most cases is under two years. Using the same scale with a topographical map and photo, the topographical map maybe updated. Also, if different scaled maps are chosen, the smaller scaled map maybe used as an insert map.

The basic use of the program is the plotting of trails. Simply free hand drawing a line on any map or photo can make a trail. It will then appear on the other map or photo of the split display.  The trail can then be named, waypoints set with notes, and then printed.  An important feature of the program  is trail-profiling. By marking a trail on any of the displayed maps or photos, the program will also display a terrain profile. It will also find the highest, the lowest elevation along the trail and its length  (I wish there had been a program that would do a terrain profile when I was taking some of my geology field classes.) 

As I finished reviewing this program, DeLORME has also started to advertise a similar program. It is marketed towards the professional map user as it is sold with a whole state of Sat10 data on a CD ROM. But it does not have the air-photos, and state game management maps, that GeoQuad has as an optional display. Unless there is a need to plan a statewide trail (such as a power line or a natural gas pipeline), more data is paid for that what is needed.

I like this program.   Except for the downloading problem, and the lack of a quick tour of the program, I had no major issues with it. The program should be available for purchase at maptrailís Website. Large software stores will probably have it for sale also. So, the next time for that big outdoor trip, use GeoQuad to plan the trail and scope out the terrain.


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