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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

Des Newman's OziExplorer for the PC

15th September 2002 

Reviewed by Mike Barrett

 

OziExplorer is PC software so why are we reviewing it here? Well the simple answer is that to create your own maps for use with OziExplorer CE you need the PC based product to calibrate the map files. OziExplorer is much more than just a map calibrator for OziExplorerCE as you would expect from the price difference. As this site is all about GPS for the Pocket PC this review will only concentrate on the features that are applicable to creating and analysing functionality for OziExplorerCE.

OziExplorer CE

The first thing that I ought to point out is that a fully functioning and registered version of OziExplorer is $75 but there is a trial version which lets you do virtually all you ever need for no cost. You should let your conscience and the usefulness of the software be your guide. Software like this is only extended and enhanced by the donations of registered users.

 

 

The main OziExplorer (PPC/OziCE) feature list is as follows:

  • Scan and Calibrate your own maps
  • Import maps created in a number of digital formats
  • Create and maintain waypoints
  • Create routes
  • Create Tracks
  • Create proximity zones around waypoints
  • Handles a large number of grid systems
  • Supports a number of different map projections

The other (non PPC related) features

  • Direct support for a number of GPS devices (not PPC)
  • Ability to upload/download to GPS devices (not PPC)
  • Print maps and waypoints
  • Display interactive moving map
  • Navigate using GPS input
  • Create events
  • Add comments to maps
  • Create and manage points
  • Create and manage alarm zones
  • Distance and area measurement

OziExplorer window showing Zion National Park Narrows map.

A screen shot of the OziExplorer interface.
Click on the image for a larger picture

 

The Trial version has the following features disabled:

  • Cannot save Waypoints or Events
  • Cannot communicate with GPS for upload/download
  • Cannot save map image to bitmap
  • Will only run for 1 hour

For the purposes of this review an Toshiba Tecra with 128Mb Ram and 500Mz Pentium III processor were used along with a HP scanjet 4470c scanner.  This review focuses on the OziExplorer PC software, click here for the the OziExplorerCE software.  

 

Software Installation
Installation is a simple matter of downloading the demo software package from the OziExplorer web site. At 5.7 MB it is quite a hefty download for those of you with dial-up connections. Then just run the downloaded executable file. You will probably want to download the trial version as well. If you are going to download digital maps in GeoTIFF format than you will also need to get the GeoTIFF support file from the Utilities : Optional Extras page. To create maps for OziExplorerCE you will also need to download the Img2ozf utility also from optional extras.

The software can be registered using links on the OziExplorer web site. This sends you to the ShareIt shareware registration site where you can provide your credit card details and pay for the registration key. The turnaround time between placing the order and receiving the registration key was extremely fast.

To use OziExplorerCE and prepare maps for it you only need to register OziExplorerCE and use the OziExplorer Trial Version to create your maps. There are a few restrictions imposed but they do not affect the operation of the CE software. If you find the OziExplorer PC Version useful then you can register that as well.

 

Configuration
The file menu is where all the configuration of the software is done. As can be seen there are a large number of options that can be set. The most useful of these for OziExplorer CE users is to select an alternate grid. For displaying the British OS grid reference select Map then BNG for the alternate grid. If you are using the American DRG files then select UTM as the alternate grid.

OziExplorer configuration window

Selecting the appropriate distance units will help later when looking at routes, or measuring distances on your maps.

The GPS and COM tabs define the type of GPS device and the settings used to communicate with it.

The Objects tab allows you to set the width of the route line. The track tab provides input for track width and colour. The moving map, and navigation tabs allow you to configure how GPS interaction works with the system. Finally the GPS simulator allows you to set the controls for the simulator.

 

Using the software
When you first load OziExplorer you are presented with a window with an extensive toolbar and lots of menu options. The toolbar provides a subset of the more commonly used menu options. To start using the software you need to load a calibrated map as described above.

When the map is loaded you can move the cursor around the map and read off the current co-ordinates at the top of the screen. This helps verify that your map is calibrated correctly. In addition to the main window you also have two small windows: cursor view and map view.

 

OziExplorer toolbar

 

 

 

 

 

The Cursor View button toggles the cursor window. The cursor window is a blow up of what is under the mouse pointer. This allows you to get almost pixel precision when calibrating your map or positioning waypoints, routes etc. You can drag the cursor window around with the mouse and position it exactly to your requirement.

 

 

 

 Oziexplorer cursor window

OziExplorer toolbar

The Map View button toggles the map view window. This window shows where the current visible section of the map is in relation to the entire map. The current section is shown outlined in red and can be dragged anywhere in the map view window instantly repositioning your map.

 

The toolbar also provides a drag hand to move the map with some precision, and a zoom facility to grow or shrink your view of the map. For map management there is also an index window which will show your map and position on a map of the world, and also a facility to show all other maps which are at the current cursor position.

 

Creating a map
The first step when using OziExplorer is to obtain maps. There are some maps provided on the OziExplorer web site on the Maps page. These are mainly high level maps showing full country detail, allowing you to get general positioning at your location.

Creating a map is as simple as getting a digital map image, calibrating it, converting it and loading into your Pocket PC. Unlike the other mapping software reviewed here OziExplorer uses raster graphics (pictures as opposed to line drawings) for it's data, thus allowing flexibility at the expense of size. A map is the combination of a graphical map image and a calibration file.

There are a number of sources for the map image. If you are lucky enough to live in the United States then most of your maps are available as free downloads from the Internet. There will be a separate article dealing specifically with the acquisition of digital maps in the near future.

When calibrating the map OziExplorer provides the means to define a large number of Datums, Projections and Grid systems. If this is all technical gobbledygook to you then don't worry the map calibration masterclass (coming soon) should clear all that up. Basically all of the main methods for portraying and referencing a section of of the surface of the earth are catered for in this package. Get your map, scan it into the computer, then use the calibration tools to define where particular spots on the map relate to the data provided by your GPS.

 

If you are using GeoTIFF format files then these can simply be imported already calibrated and ready to use. The image to the left is a copy of the file import menu and shows the variety of pre calibrated formats available.

OziExplorer accepts a wide range of graphic file formats so your source map can come from virtually anywhere. As there is no set format for the maps, indeed they are just pictures, there is no restriction as to what you base your map on, all you need to do is provide reference points. You can obtain maps and charts in many different mediums, you can even use satellite or aerial photography.

Whichever method you choose to calibrate your maps you will be left with two files: the original graphic map and a .map file containing the calibration details.

 

 

OziExplorer import menu

As you will want to use these on the Pocket PC the graphics file has to be optimised and converted into a special format for OziExplorerCE. These formats have been developed for use in OziExplorer and OziExplorerCE. The format allows paging of the image from disk and therefore is faster to load and requires little memory for image display.

 

The map calibration file and the converted graphical map are then transferred to the Pocket PC. OziExplorer/maps directory and you are ready to go. I tend to store my maps and calibration files on a dedicated store card allowing me to manage them using a CF adapter on my computer.

 

Using Maps
OK so you've got your map and calibrated it so what else can you do? Essentially you don't need to do any more, but you would be wasting a lot of useful functionality. One of the big benefits of OziExplorer is that you can 'add value' to your maps by marking features on them. These can be in the form of waypoints, tracks, routes for use with OziExplorerCE you can also add map features, map comments, events (for Lowrance or Eagle GPS units), points and point sets.

You can also import tracks and routes from OziExplorerCE and examine the actual route that you took. There are also tools available to measure distances and bearings from one point to another.

This review will cover Waypoints, Routes and Tracks as these features are useable with OziExplorerCE.

 

Waypoints
A waypoint is a position on a map. Waypoints can be used for a wide range of things from pinpointing points of interest to mountain tops, to your local supermarket, fishing hotspots on rivers and lakes, sandbanks on estuaries, landmarks etc.

The waypoint properties window shown on the right shows all of the options available for creating and modifying waypoints. However only the Name and the Proximity Distance are displayed in OziExplorerCE the description can be viewed in the OziExplorerCE waypoint list.

Proximity distance is used by OziExplorer to play a sound when you come within a certain distance of the waypoint. These can be used to inform you of arrival at locations or to warn you of sharp drops or sandbanks.

There are options to load and save the waypoints, enabling you to create waypoints for specific purposes ie Mountain Summits, positions of fishing lakes, etc.

 
OziExplorer waypoint window

There are a wide range of options to handle waypoints you can open a waypoint file which will import all points in the file. You can append visible waypoints from a file allowing you to generate a customised waypoint file for your map. You can also import and export text format waypoints.

There is a waypoint list window which allows you to view and edit waypoints en masse. The waypoint list provides a number of features to manage your waypoints including the selection and deletion of all waypoints not on your current map. Using these facilities you can create a database of specific points of interest in a global file than import them into your current map and remove all of the points not within the boundaries of you map. This can of course be extended to the use of multiple databases for specific activities or functions which can all be loaded into OziExplorer and a consolidated map specific file created.

The waypoints from OziExplorerCE can be imported directly into OziExplorer. This allows you to create waypoints at interesting locations in real time and then bring them back to analyse in OziExplorer. A good example of the usage of this is to record your journey and synchronise photograph locations with waypoints.

 

Routes
Routes are a series of waypoints linked together. There can be a number of routes in a single route file. Route files created in OziExplorer are compatible with OziExplorerCE.

 

Once again there are a number of ways to create a route, the easiest being to create a number of waypoints then open the route editor (shown on the right) click on the AddWp button then click on your waypoints on the map.

 

You could also click on the Properties button. This displays the Route Properties window which allows you to select and deselect Waypoints to include in your route.

 

If you click on the Show button the ROute Details window is displayed. This gives the cumulative route information on a leg basis. Detail included in this display is Leg distance, Accumulated distance and bearing to next waypoint.

 

At the waypoints in the route you can create a 'proximity zone' this can be used for a number of things though primarily for navigation instructions. This could be used to warn of sharp drops ie exclusion areas, or shallows around coastal regions.

 

 

 OziExplorer route editor

 

The narrows in Zion National Park Utah map

The picture on the right provides a comparison of the route as shown on OziExplorerCE. Note that there is no control of the placement of waypoint labels, and also the Waypoint names are used rather than the descriptions.

 

One anomaly I did notice is that OziExplorer needs to have the correct waypoints loaded into the map to be able to display the route. The actual locations of the waypoints are saved with the route file so OziExplorerCE is able to display the route without the waypoint file.

 

Once again route files are interchangeable between OziExplorerCE and OziExplorer. You will need to transfer the waypoint file from your Pocket PC device for the route to be shown correctly.

The picture on the left shows a route up the footpath from Temple of Sinawava in the Zion Valley National Park Utah. This is the start of the popular Zion Narrows hike up the Virgin river. The section routed here is the paved section prior to entering the river.

 

Please note neither the author or PocketGPS assume any responsibility for anyone attempting the hike shown here. Take advice from Park Rangers prior to setting out. Flash floods are often experienced in this area.

 

Note that the route is displayed as a direct line to the next waypoint (straight through a cliff) you can change this by adding additional waypoints.

 

 

 The narrows in Zion National Park Utah map on PocketPC

Tracks
Tracks are essentially a sequence of special waypoints that are automatically recorded to a file, and displayed on the screen. With OziExplorer you can download your track file from your Pocket PC and display it in full on your PC.

This enables you to analyse the exact route that you took. OziExplorerCE does not record a timestamp with each track point so it is not possible to determine how long particular sections took but it does allow you to match your actual movements to the planned route. This will allow you to edit your route for next time you make the trip.

Tracks can be saved and used either in OziExplorerCE or displayed in OziExplorer (PC) as shown to the right. This track was recorded in the Forest of Dean on a walk along the river Wye.  There are many options available for manipulating tracks from the manual creation of track points to deleting and inserting new points in a recorded track. You can split a track into sections to reflect the legs on your route, or you can join two or more tracks to create a continuous track.

Wye Valley map showing track

Reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 50,000 mapping

Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

As with routes you can store a number of different tracks in file and assign them different colours for display. Part of the data that can be saved with a track point is altitude. Using this a track profile can be generated showing the ascent and descent for a particular track.

As with OziExplorerCE there is also a track replay option allowing the track to be displayed sequentially. A Track List window shows each individual point on the track indicating position, timestamp (where available) distance, speed, and heading from previous point.

Strengths and Weaknesses
When taking into account the intended use of OziExplorer combined with OziExplorerCE it is a perfect package for hiking, mountaineering, sailing, Mountain biking and other outdoor pursuits, given proper protection it could even be used for canoeing and white water rafting. It should be stressed that this is not a substitute for mundane navigation methods and outdoor skills, but should be used to augment them.

The weakest part of the package is the acquisition of maps, but this really depends on where you live. If you live in the USA or Australia there is a wealth of digital maps available for little or no cost. Some of these such as the American DRG maps supplied by the USGS are already Georeferenced and just need to be imported into OziExplorer to function correctly.   There is no recreational source of digital raster maps in the UK for OziExplorer that we are aware or have tested.

Ironically OziExplorer's weakness is also one of it's greatest strengths. Providing you have access to the mapping source, either digital maps, or paper maps and a scanner then with a few co-ordinates you can create maps for anywhere in the world at whatever level of detail you require. During the review I successfully obtained and calibrated maps from USA USGS sources, scanned UK maps and online digital mapping sources, with 100% accuracy.

OziExplorer trial version is a must if you want to use OziExplorer CE. With this you can do everything that you need to calibrate and convert maps. You can also create routes. The main restriction of the trial version is the prevention of loading and saving waypoints, especially as OziExplorerCE does not currently have waypoint management.

OziExplorer has a vast array of functionality that is not available on OziExplorerCE but if you can connect your GPS to a PC, particularly a portable PC then you can reap the full benefits of the software. I can see this being extremely useful for marine navigation,for off-road driving or as a navigator on an airplane where the weight of a portable computer and power are not issues.

Possibly the combination of OziExplorer, a Portable PC, pocket PC and a bluetooth GPS receiver could be the ideal combination for a lot of GPS applications.

Digital Scanning of Maps and Downloading of Digital Maps Disclaimer
All maps do hold a copyright notice to prohibit the copying of the maps.  Please check the terms and conditions of the copyright and your rights before digitally scanning any paper maps or downloading of any digital maps from websites.  Most mapping companies will grant you a license to make at least one copy of the map for personal use only, however please check first and if requested to do so, request permission from the copyright holder first before scanning or downloading the digital maps.

 

Ordnance Survey Copyright Restrictions
Permission to scan an Ordnance Survey paper map (which is less than 50 years old) for retention on a retrieval system must be requested in writing stating the purpose of scanning Ordnance Survey maps, scale of mapping to be used and total area to be scanned in cm squared at original scale. Permission will not be given if the customer can be supplied with an equivalent digital mapping product from Ordnance Survey.  A one off data royalty charge will also be applied, calculated using the number of mapping units scanned, and the customer must hold a Digital Licence with Ordnance Survey.

Conclusion

Manufacturers Website

http://www.oziexplorer.com 

Pocket GPS Reviewer

Mike Barrett

Pocket GPS Reviewer Website

http://www.bwww.co.uk

Rating

 

Map Detail

Usability

Points of Interest

Not Available

Map Availability

Overall Rating 83%

How did we achieve these ratings ?

Review Ratings

 

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