Topographic Mapping

Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews


Short Reviews

Topo! Interactive Maps Version 2.6.6


USGS Topo Maps at Topo! State Series in 1:24,000 scale (7.5 minute): Arizona; California; Colorado; Georgia; Idaho; Illinois; Michigan; Mid-Atlantic: complete state coverage of Delaware, Maryland, Virgina, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia; Minnesota; Montana; North Carolina; Northeastern USA: complete state coverage of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hamphire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont; Oregon; Pennsylvania; South Carolina; Utah; Washington; Wisconsin; Wyoming. $99.95 each. All 50 US states available by year-end 2001.
USGS Topo Maps at Topo! Regional Series in 1:24,000 scale (7.5 minute) of more than 30 recreational and metropolitan areas: Adirondack Mountains & NY Capitol region; Colorado Front Range Cities & recreational areas; Colorado Rocky Mountain ski & wilderness areas; Connecticut, Berkshires & Southern Green Mountains; Death Valley, Joshua Tree & East Mojave Desert; Grand Canyon, Bryce & Zion National Parks; Greater NYC, Long Island, Catskills & Pocono Mountains; Greater DC, Shenandoah Valley & Seneca Rocks; Greater Boston, Cape Cod & Rhode Island; Lake Tahoe & surrounding wilderness & ski areas; Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, & surrounding areas; Maine, Acadia National Park & Baxter State Park; Minnesota Boundary Waters, Western Lake Superior & Twin Cities; Mount Shasta, Lassen Wilderness & the Trinity Alps; New Hampshire & the White Mountains; North Cascades, Mt Baker & surrounding wilderness areas; North Carolina High Country & Piedmont recreational areas; North Georgia, Great Smoky Mountains & Atlanta; Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands & Puget Sound; Phoenix, Flagstaff & central AZ wilderness areas; Portland, Mount Hood, Southern Washington & Oregon; San Diego, San Jacinto Wilderness & Anza-Borrego Desert; Salt Lake City, Wasatch Range & Uinta Mountains; San Francisco Bay Area, Wine Country & Big Sur; San Juans, Telluride & Southern Colorado wilderness areas; Seattle, Mount Rainier, & Central Cascades; SE Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey recreational areas; Sequoia/Kings Canyon & surrounding wilderness areas; Vermont & the Green Mountains; Yosemite, Mammoth & Central Sierra Wilderness area. $49.95 each.
USGS Topo Maps at Topo! TrailSmart National Park CD-ROM'S in 1:24,000 scale (7.5 minute) inluding trails, trailheads, campsites, hiking, safety and trip-planning information: National Parks of the USA - 15 Major National Parks (Yosemite, Denali, Hawaii Volcanoes, Yellowstone, Shenandoah, Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier, Arches, Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier, Great Smoky, Olympic, Grand Teton, and Acadia national parks); National Parks from Montana to Texas; National Parks of the East Coast and Midwest; National Parks of Alaska; National Parks of the Canyon Country and Southwest; National Parks of the Pacific States and Far West. $29.99 each. The Complete TrailSmart Maps: National Parks of the USA $99.99.
GPS enabled through separately sold Topo! GPS module at $39.95 including USA atlas maps in 1:500,000 scale.
Topo! Image Support for ArcGIS geographical information system (http://www.esri.com: ArcView 3.x and ArcGIS 8.1) seperately sold at $499.95 including a free Topo! State Series (order by November 5, 2001!).

Instant elevation profiles, real-time coordinates for GPS users, and extended capabilities for exploring, customizing, and printing seamless topographic maps. Draw a freehand route and TOPO! displays its distance, generates an elevation profile showing ups and downs, and prepares it for uploading to a GPS. Download free files that show you great places to go outdoors at the mapXchange, including activity-specific info for hikers, bikers, paddlers and skiers. Personalize the maps to your exact needs. Add colorful symbols, text and routes. Select the exact area you want, even if it is larger than the screen or covers multiple USGS quads. TOPO! prints a trip-ready map with 3D shading, grids, scale bar and north arrow.

Fig. 1: 100% view of a 1:24000 USGS Topomap, profile calculation of a downloaded mapXchange trail and the compass tool of Topo! Interactive Maps Version 2.6.6
Please click on the image for a closer look!


System Requirements:
Microsoft Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, NT; 16 MB of memory; double speed CD-ROM drive; 256-color monitor; 486 DX/66MHz PC or higher. Works with all color and black & white printers supported by Windows. Works with most popular handheld receivers manufactured by Garmin, Eagle, Lowrance and Magellan. Direct link requires input/output capabilities and a PC cable (sold separately). Macintosh version also available: PowerMac with 48 MB RAM, 2x CD-ROM drive, color monitor, QuickTime 2.5, OS 8.5 or later recommended. Also requires downloading the free TOPO! Mac Viewer.



Usage & Evaluation:

National Geographic Topo! Interactive Maps offer the basics and very nice interactive altitude profiles but no 3D views. Even a 3D-shading was missing in the maps under evaluation (Greater NYC, Long Island, Catskills & Pocono Mountains and Topo! GPS module including USA atlas maps). The resolution of the topo maps is excellent. Customized printouts include grids in Lat/Lon and UTM as well as map annotation with markers, routes, and tracks. An additional nice feature is the compass tool to detect the compass direction (and distance) of a waypoint towards a chosen viewpoint. Unfortunately, an area calculation feature is missing. Topo!'s special strength is the variety of free downloads of special map features such as trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and even birding or water ways for paddling and river running (mapXchange). Most special map features include detailed waypoint information such as water sources, junctions, river fords and points of interest. To use this features you must have the corresponding map CD! If you find a nice trail, you can share this information by uploading your Topo! maps.

Together with MapTech's Terrain Navigator, Topo! provides the highest quality topo maps in this comparative test. In addition it is shipped with most of the advanced features offered by any of its competitors. Only MapTech's Terrain Navigator offers more features but lacks the nice mapXchange additions.If you only need a regional coverage, $49.95 sounds like a lot - but you get a whole lotta maps and features for your money. State coverage of 1-8 whole states at $99.95 is for most states even cheaper than MapTech's Terrain Navigator. No free demo download available!

Company Information: http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/topo/




Dr. Thomas Wassmer, voice: (208) 247-9204, e-mail: tom at infotom.com