Product Review: Terrain Navigator Pro version 7.01

January 12, 2006

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_Maptech, Inc.
10 Industrial Way
Amesbury, MA 01913


Terrain Navigator Pro is available in network and stand-alone editions. Stand-alone editions are priced at $299.95 per state.


I first reviewed Terrain Navigator Pro 6.3 for Directions Magazine in July 2004. Recall that Terrain Navigator Pro is a software program that provides access to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic quadrangle maps and USGS Digital Ortho Quarter Quads (DOQQs). The software allows the user seamless access to the topographic maps across the state or region purchased. The topographic maps are produced in two scales - 1:24,000 and 1:100,000. The DOQQs are displayed at a scale of 1:12,000.

The USGS topographic data is included on CDs with the product, along with a Geographic Data Enhancement CD that includes things like landmarks and cities. The Data Enhancement CD is mainly used to show additional geographic layers on the map and to do searches within the product by address, city, ZIP, etc. The DOQQs can only be accessed through the Internet with a subscription to MapTech’s website (free for first year with purchase of the product)

Figure 1 shows the user interface of Terrain Navigator Pro 7.01 with a topographic and DOQQ map displayed.
Figure 1: Terrain Navigator Pro 7.01 user interface. (Click for larger image)

What’s New in Terrain Navigator Pro 7.01

Maps and Aerial Photo Updates

Terrain Navigator Pro provides access to updated DOQQs and topographic maps, where available, through the Internet. The software will automatically check for updates if the user selects File>Map and Aerial Photo Updates via Web. The user can choose to u update maps for the licensed coverage area or update maps in the current CD region, States that are large in area or have a lot of updates may require a large amount of time to download. The software provides an Escape option to abort the download process if you need to stop the download for any reason.

Project Management

Terrain Navigator Pro includes functions that expand the management of projects from the previous version of the software. Projects are used to store a set of layers (markers, range rings, tracks, etc.). By storing your layers in different projects, users can group and organize the data they create in the software. Projects created by other users can be imported into the software (File>Import>Archived Project) or current users can export their projects for storage or sharing with others (File>Export>Active Project). Projects can also be opened, renamed, and deleted using the Layers>Change Project option. The active project name is shown in the Title Bar of the software so the user can see the name of the current project.

Custom Grids

The Preferences option (File>Preferences) includes a new option to create custom grids on the map to serve as a visual aid. The user can specify the line width and the spacing of the grid based on the coordinates system of the map or measured against magnetic North. The magnetic option allows the user to specify the distance of the custom grid in feet, kilometers, meters, miles, and yards. The custom grid will be rectangular in shape but does not need to be in perfect squares on the map.

Marker Export Options

The newest version provides new export options for marker symbols created within Terrain Navigator Pro. Markers can be exported as a Marker Generate File (.GEN), Marker File (.GPX), or as an ESRI Shapefile (.SHP). Maptech provides a free extension for accessing the topographic maps as raster images within ESRI’s ArcGIS software. Users of ArcGIS can combine the raster images of the topographic data and the exported marker shapefiles, which were created within Terrain Navigator Pro, for additional analysis capabilities within ArcGIS.

Two-Window Locked Mode

Terrain Navigator Pro includes the ability to lock the display of two windows when they are both open in Two-Window mode. This function locks the display in both windows on the same geographic area and changes both windows simultaneously, when the display in one of the windows is changed by zooming or panning the map display. The Two-Window Locking Mode can be accessed through the Window> Two-Window Locking Mode or by pressing the Two-Window Locking Mode button under the small the USGS topographic overview map on the left. Figure 1 has the Two-Window Locking Mode enabled so the windows are synchronized.

3-D Route Animation

3-D Route animations have been expanded to allow the user additional options when recording route animations within the software. The camera button on the lower left side of the user interface will automatically record an animation of the 3-D window but does not provide the user with any options for a route animation. To create a route animation in 3-D, the user must first create a route and then choose File>Export>Route Video Clip. Figure 2 shows the options available when recording a Route Vide Clip.

Figure 2: Route Video Clip Options. (Click for larger image)

The user can specify a Camera Height above the ground, in which the height of the camera varies with the contours of the land. A sea level camera height that is at a fixed height above sea level is another option. The Camera Tilt determines whether the lens should point up, down, or straight ahead and at what angle. The Camera Heading includes options to "Always look in this direction," "Follow route line with offset of," and "Always face specific point with offset of." The Clip Details allow the user to specify the Duration in # of frames, speed or time, Frame per second and Frame Size. The user can also specify options for the animation to Bank camera on turns, Smooth view when turning/tilting, and Show route on map.

Printing Options

The File>Print options have been expanded to allow users to specify exact scales more easily and define margins for the printed page. A new scale bar option can be included on the printouts by checking the Scale Bar checkbox on the Print Window. Figure 3 shows the options available on the Print Window.

Figure 3: Print Window Options. (Click for larger image)

GPS Position Averaging
Terrain Navigator Pro is equipped with a position-averaging feature, for maximum precision in marking locations when collecting data with a GPS unit. Stationary GPS units will report slightly different coordinates as satellite signals fluctuate. To enable the Position Averaging function with a GPS unit, click GPS > Utilities > Position Averaging. Next, leave the connected GPS in that location for some time in order to allow it to acquire satellite signals and make several position reports. To start collecting those position reports, press the button labeled Start. The Number of Samples tells you how many position reports Terrain Navigator Pro has acquired from the satellites. Elapsed Time indicates how long Position Averaging has been underway. After the user is satisfied with the number of samples taken, press the button labeled Create Mark. Terrain Navigator Pro will take the average of all positions reported by your GPS since GPS Position Averaging is turned on, and will place a mark at the averaged position.

Automated GeoPin Placement

GeoPins are similar to hyperlinks on a map that serve as links to other files, websites, images, etc. GeoPins can be added to Terrain Navigator Pro by choosing Layers>GeoPins and adding the GeoPins through the dialog box, or can be added by dragging and dropping files from Windows Explorer directly on the map. Terrain Navigator Pro will automatically place GeoPin files with a date and time stamp that are dragged and dropped directly along a GPS track. Files will attach themselves chronologically to the track based on the time the track points were recorded. For example, if you go on a hike and record your progress as a GPS track log, and use your digital camera to take photos along the way, you can upload the track log and the photos into Terrain Navigator Pro. The digital photographs will be automatically placed at the correct location where the photograph was taken.

Additional Enhancements
Waypoints along a route can be edited or created using the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) bearings. Tracks can be appended to one another through the Layers>Tracks option. The end of the first track the user selects in the Select Track to Append dialog box will be joined to the start of the second track. The Fill options have been enhanced for looped routes and tracks. The fill color/pattern will extend inward or outward from the route/track line, but only as far as you specify under the Buffer Size option of the Fill Option.

The user interface for the latest release of Terrain Navigator Pro looks essentially the same as previous versions, except for the addition of a few new buttons and menu items for the new functions. The Terrain Navigator Pro 7.01 builds upon the user friendliness of previous versions by providing functional enhancements and access to updated data through the current release of the software.

Samples of the data available with Terrain Navigator Pro can be found at the Maptech MapServer, which is a free online mapping service that allows you to browse topographic maps, nautical charts, coastal aerial photographs and aeronautical charts. The MapServer is a great resource for users who are curious about an area outside the licensed CD map coverage. Users can view, print and e-mail maps and charts, free of charge, but cannot download the topographic data to the hard drive. To access the Maptech server, press the Maptech button on Terrain Navigator Pro’s toolbar to go straight to the MapServer website (an Internet connection is required). Navigation controls let users scroll around the maps and charts. Users can also toggle between different types of coverage, and personalize maps online.


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