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Software Review of:


Russell Albach

From the June, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

This is the second of a pair of mapping applications I recently tried. I tested the first program in the vacation planning mode to lay out a travel map, and it worked great. For this program, I decided to use it as a topographical layout.

TOPO3D software includes a single CD that contains their main program to use with their CDís, and TOPO3D-USGS, which is used to access United States Geological Service maps, and USGS compatible maps.TOPO3D makes use of the flexibility built into vector based maps. Raster based maps are scanned images and you cannot easily change the data on the map. Vector data allows you to resample, scale, rotate, zoom, change colors, and alter the map in almost any way you wish. Some of the main features include DEM (Digital Elevation Models), DLG (Digital Line Graphs), Land Use Land Cover, and Names and Places Database. DEMís are available for any part of the country from the USGS web site 

Note:  most of the materials available from the USGS are NOT FREE, although I did download two free dat files I will explain about later

TOPO3D utilizes all the 250K DEMíS for all states, automatically dividing them into the corresponding 7.5 minute quadrangles and then resamples on 24 foot contour levels. High resolution SDTS 7.5 minute DEMís may also be loaded. Digital Line Graphs are 15 minute series and provide land survey section lines, power lines, roads, trails, streams, drainage, forest boundaries, pipeline, and railroads. The user can selectively overlay these to display some or all of these features. Land Use Land Cover uses actual land cover data (37 different types) and colors can be altered to modify the output to match your printerís capabilities. A direct GPS connection allows you to hook up to a NMEA compatible GPS and get seamless map loading and position plotting anywhere in your state. The maps are fully customizable, and you can add your own symbols, generate elevation profiles, draw trails, import GPS data, and can be used for camping, biking, backpacking, prospecting, search and rescue, and mapping projects, to name just some of the possibilities. It really is nice to have these capabilities in a PC. I needed and used this type of data as a PLM years ago. Back then, if you were in the field and needed computing power, and had no easy access to a mainframe, you had to remove your shoes and socks!
topo map
AEI is new, and does not have many maps of itís own ready. The one in my package was for the state of Colorado. I have been to Colorado many times, so I was able to choose an area I was familiar with. Image one shows an area of Colorado known as Garden of the Gods, and has beautiful rock formations. Remember, this is a topo map, not a photograph. If you look closely, you will notice the main problem I found. The names overlap each other. I had the settings displaying too much information, and this caused the cluttered appearance. If you use the overlay feature, you can selectively display all of this information, but in a more coherent way. Image two is an elevation map of San Antonio I downloaded from the USGS web site and imported into TOPO3D. This was free and you may download others from the USGS and import them directly into your program. mapThey are .dat files, and you select from the Windows-Program menu TOPO3D-USGS, then FILE, and then 250K DEM, and browse to where you saved the download. TOPO3D will open them and display the map ready for use. A note here: as I mentioned above, I think I have an early release, and the help file for the USGS section called SURF.HLP is not on the CD. I tried to access this using F1, and the program said it could not find this file. I discovered it was not installed because it was not on the CD. I used the zoom feature on this San Antonio image, and it made the selected area easier to use. The web site for TOPO3D has very little on it as this is written, so little online help was available. One item that is available is a demo version you can download and try out. The demo is about 8MB in download size.

This program was easy to use, the missing help file notwithstanding, and with the proliferation of mapping materials appearing, I would also rate this program worth adding to your mapping toolkit. 

I did not find TOPO3D available locally, but you can order it online for $69.00.

System requirements: 
Windows 95 or newer; Minimum 100MHz Pentium class CPU (400MHz recommended); 800x600 VGA display (1024x768 recommended).

AEI Outdoors, LLC
515 Winter Road
Jemez Springs, NM 87025
Phone: 505/980-3879. 

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Alamo PC Organization, Inc.
San Antonio, TX USA