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Joey
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PostMon Jan 23, 2012 8:28 am 
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January 24, 2012 update:  The beta code link now can display the new high resolution topographic maps.  These maps are better quality than the MyTopo maps and have no watermarks and no ads! Scroll down for more info.
=======================================

This link will start a beta version of Gmap4 that includes a new trip planning feature: http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/beta/gmap4_beta_trip_plan.php?ll=44.599997,-119.989014&t=t1&z=6   
I look forward to hearing some feedback.

Trip planning quick start:
1.  Zoom in where you want to do trip planning
2.  Set the map view you want
3.  Click Menu  ==> Trip planning
4.  Click a few spots on the map.  Distance is reported in the lower right corner.
5.  Right click any point
6.  Click “Download GPX file”
7.  Right click the URL to the GPX file and save it on your harddrive
8.  Load the GPX file into your GPS

Each click you just made on the map sets a waypoint and routepoint.  This is the Gmap4 default for trip planning.

For now, this thread is the only trip planning documentation.  Before this feature is added to the  Gmap4 production code, the Gmap4 Help file will be updated.

Key
Click a symbol:  See information about that point
Right click a symbol:  See a context menu of actions
Red line:  Route.  Symbols connected by a red line are routepoints
Black line:  Track.  Symbols connected  by a black line are trackpoints
Red circle:  Waypoint
Black circle:  Not a waypoint

A symbol can be a waypoint and/or routepoint and/or trackpoint.  If a symbol represents a waypoint and routepoint and trackpoint, then (1) the symbol for the point will be a red circle, and (2) the symbol will be connected by a red line, and (3) the symbol fwill be connected by a black line.

All symbols can be dragged (click-hold-drag).

If you do some trip planning, download your work as a GPX file and place that file online, then you can display that GPX file with Gmap4.

The notion of ‘trip planning’ can potentially encompass a wide variety of features.  My goal for the initial release of this feature was to (1) bite off a big enough piece so at least some people will find this new feature truly useful and (2) limit the bells and whistles so that the initial version could be delivered sooner rather than later.  With those thoughts in mind, I adopted the following trip planning goal:
Provide an easy way for the user to make a GPX file by clicking the map.  Allow this GPX file to include waypoints and/or one route and/or one track.  During this process, let the user edit any information that eventually can be displayed on their GPS screen.

Since elevation profiles are not part of GPX files, an elevation profile feature is not included in this first version of Gmap4 trip planning.

I settled on this goal statement for two reasons.  First, many people have handheld GPS units into which they can load GPX files (with their trip planning info) before heading into the field.  Second, much to my surprise, none of the other free online trip planning tools I reviewed allowed the user to edit all the information that can be displayed on their GPS screen.  For example, a Garmin GPS has many different symbols that it can use when it displays waypoints on its screen.  Each symbol is identified with a unique name.  None of the other online trip planning software I reviewed lets you specify those symbol names while doing your trip planning.

Thus, the focused goal for this first version of the trip planning feature of Gmap4 can be restated as:  Build the best online tool for making GPX files.

Another possibly unique feature in this beta version of Gmap4 is the ability to set both a waypoint and routepoint (which can be dragged) with a single click on the map.

GPX under the hood
A GPX file can include up to three kinds of points.  They are:  waypoints, routepoints and trackpoints.  The software in your GPS does different things with these different kinds of points.  What kind of points should you put in your GPX file so you get the most benefit from your  GPS?  Part of the answer depends on what kinds of features are provided by the software running in your GPS for these different kinds of points.  A little careful experimentation by you will quickly shed light.  However, for typical trip planning most people will likely want use Gmap4’s default settings which creates a waypoint and routepoint each time the map is clicked. 

Routes v. Tracks
http://gpstracklog.com/2010/03/handheld-gps-101-routes-vs-tracks.html
http://www.gpsmap.net/DefiningPoints.html

Design philosophy
The first key design goal for the Gmap4 trip planning feature was “click once - write many”.  Most (?all?) other online trip planning tools limit you to only making one type of point (waypoint or routepoint or trackpoint) when you click the map.  Some of these tools will only make routepoints and will not make trackpoints at all, or vice versa.

By contrast, Gmap4 provides checkboxes for each point that you can use to identify the point as a waypoint and/or routepoint and/or trackpoint.  Here are some examples for how you might use this feature.  Reload this beta version of Gmap4, turn trip planning on (Menu ==> Trip planning), click the map once (places a symbol on the map), right click the symbol and select “Edit this point”.  Remember - These examples assume you are starting with only one symbol on the map.

1.  To make just waypoints:  Uncheck the routepoint box.   Click Save & close.
2.  To make just trackpoints:  Check the trackpoint box and uncheck the other two boxes.  Click Save & close.
3.  To make just routepoints and then make just waypoints:  Uncheck the waypoint box.  Make all the routepoints you want.  Click the map where you want just a waypoint.  Rightclick the point you just made and select “Edit this point”.  Uncheck the routepoint box.  Check the waypoint box.
4.  To make waypoints and routepoints and trackpoints:  Wrong way:  Check the trackpoint box (all three boxes are now checked) and start clicking the map.  The black line (track) is on top of the red line (route) on the map and while that looks cool, this is most likely not a useful thing to be doing.  Right way #1: First make just trackpoints.  When you are done making trackpoints then edit a few trackpoints and check the boxes to make them also waypoints and/or routepoints.  Right way #2: First make just waypoints.  Then click where you want to start making trackpoints.  Edit that point so only the trackpoint box is checked.  Make all your trackpoints.  Then edit each point that you want to be on your route and add a check to the routepoint box.

The second key design goal for the Gmap4 trip planning feature was “stickiness”.  In other words, the next point you make should have characteristics that are similar to the prior point.  For example, if you are making waypoints then the default GPS symbol name will be the same as the GPS symbol name of the prior point.  If you change the GPS symbol name then that new name will be used as the default for the next waypoint you make.

Also, when you edit a routepoint or trackpoint notice you have the option to “Insert point before” and “Insert point after”.  The type of point inserted will be similar to the point you are editing.

Mistakes to avoid

If you want to use Gmap4 to make a GPX file with trackpoints, then usually you want those points to only be trackpoints.  It is almost certainly a mistake to make a waypoint and/or routepoint at each spot where you are making a trackpoint.  On the other hand, it is OK to first make all your trackpoints and then edit a few of those trackpoints to also make them into waypoints and/or routepoints.

Limitations
If you have started to make routepoints, then you cannot make trackpoints.  If you want to make routepoints and trackpoints both, then make your trackpoints first.

Internet Explorer (IE) is slow.  This trip planning feature executes a whole pile of code in your browser.  I’m using windows XP and have IE8, Firefox 8 and Chrome 16.  IE8 is noticeably slower than these other two browsers.  Did I mention that IE is slow?

Notepad++
If you decide to do some experimentation to help learn what kinds of features your GPS provides for each of the three different kinds of points (waypoints, routepoints, trackpoints), then a good idea would be to conduct your experiments using GPX files that have carefully controlled contents.  To look at and possibly edit a GPX file, I highly recommend the freeware Notepad++.

Wrap-up
You can use this beta trip planning tool on any device that (1) has a browser and (2) is online.  This includes desktops, ipads, smartphones, etc.  Please let me know of any bugs you find and suggestions you have for improvements.  Also, I plan to produce some small GPX test files that people can use to explore the features their GPS offers for the three different kinds of points.
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rossb
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PostMon Jan 23, 2012 2:24 pm 
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I think this has value beyond portable GPS usage. This could make it much easier to build trip reports for those of us who don't own (or choose not to use) a GPS. For example, I made this one and it was pretty hard to do so. This will make it much easier. That is, assuming that GPX files can be used just like KML files (which is what I created before).

As for feedback, here goes: The first thing that jumps out at me is that I like the bright red. This makes the track easy to see. If the goal is to eventually be able to make (and download, or even host) KML files, then changing colors would be really nice.

I initially didn't like the big red circles, but now I like them. They kind of get in the way, but if you have to move one of the points, it makes it really easy.

It took me a while to figure out how to insert a new point in between points, but not that long. That is very good. I'm sure if I started getting into it, I would read the help, but I didn't need to. The right click options on the point (which allow you to insert) are really intuitive. Nicely done.

The menu is rather large at this point. It is almost at the point where you might consider having three menus. I'm sure you could group them without too much trouble.

Do all menu items make sense once you have started to make your file? If not, then maybe you can grey out the ones that don't (e. g. Data File On/Off). I prefer greying out over hiding menu options, but I'm not a UI expert (I'm a general purpose software engineer).

In general, this is outstanding. Over time, if you add all the features of Google Maps, then you could essentially replace the middle man. In other words, here are the steps I took when making the previously mentioned KML file:

1) Drew lines and markers via http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/draw/ (now I would use your website).
2) Downloaded that map as a KML file, to my local hard drive.
3) I logged into my GMail account and went to Google Maps.
4) I selected "My Maps", "Create New Map" and then "Import" to move the file from my local hard drive to the Google servers.
5) After importing the map, I named it and tweaked it (I changed some of the colors and descriptions).
6) I then clicked "Link" on Google Maps, to get the link to "My Map". This was something like: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=37.0625,-95.677068&spn=59.597077,135.263672&z=4&msid=101173821947798398669.00048f2b5d8e228befdc5
7) I ignored everything but the "msid" parameter. I copied the "msid" value into your website.

So, if you match Google, feature by feature (and then some) then step 5 (the tweaking) isn't really necessary. If so, then really it is a question of whether you want to host files or not. If so, then you could skip all the steps. If you don't want to host, then maybe you could add a step allowing users to save the file onto their Google account. This would allow users to skip several of the steps.
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rossb
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PostMon Jan 23, 2012 2:54 pm 
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Another thought: Is there a way to load a file and edit it? That would be extremely valuable.
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Joey
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PostMon Jan 23, 2012 9:38 pm 
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rossb wrote:
Another thought: Is there a way to load a file and edit it? That would be extremely valuable.

I wondered how long it would take for someone to request this feature.
Answer: Not long at all.  lol.gif

I added that to the list of possible enhancements for the next version.

And in response to your earlier post:

1.  Yup, might be time to split the menu

2.  Q:  "Do all menu items make sense once you have started to make your file?"
A:  Hmmmm...  Well I'm not convinced that any of the items on the big drop down menu do not continue to make sense after one has started to do trip planning.  For example, you might display the contents of a KML file, then start to do some trip planning using that KML file for guidance and then want to  turn the display of that KML file off(Menu ==> Data file on/off)

3.  Yes, a future version of the trip planning feature will let you save a KML file.  In order to get something out the door, that feature is outside the scope of the initial release of the trip planning feature.
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Joey
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PostTue Jan 24, 2012 8:46 am 
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rossb wrote:
If so, then really it is a question of whether you want to host files or not. If so, then you could skip all the steps. If you don't want to host, then maybe you could add a step allowing users to save the file onto their Google account. This would allow users to skip several of the steps.

I have never been interested in taking on the added responsibility of hosting people’s data and doubt that I will change that view.  Storing your KML files by importing them into POGM (Plain Old Google Maps) is a good plan due to POGM’s editing features that you are already using.  But see below for the “bad news”.

Tip:  In addition to importing KML files into POGM, you can also import GPX files into POGM.

Since POGM does not have an API, I don’t think there is any way for me to automate a process to help people store files on POGM.

Another good way to place GPX and KML files online (so they can be read by Gmap4) is to upload them to Google Sites.  Bad news:  Google Sites does not have any tools to let you edit your files.  Good news:  Google Sites does not change the contents of your KML files like POGM does.

What?  You didn’t know that POGM was changing the contents of your files?  Read on.

Here is a small KML file I made by hand using Notepad++.
https://sites.google.com/site/gmap4files/p/demo/three_symbols_right.kml
This is a bare-bones file that just has three waypoints.
Each waypoint uses the same symbol image.
The URL for the symbol image only appears once in the file.
The file also has two comment lines.

This is the right way to build KML files.  Each waypoint in the file has a latlng and a ‘short image name’ (I made up that phrase) that points to the URL for the symbol image.  Since those three short image names are the same, they point to the same image URL.

I imported this small KML file into POGM and saved it.  Then I clicked where it says “KML” and downloaded the KML file:
https://sites.google.com/site/gmap4files/p/demo/three_symbols_wrong.kml

Surprise!  POGM changed the KML file.  The KML that comes out is not the same as the KML that went in.  First, POGM stripped out the comment lines.  Second, each waypoint now has a different ‘short image name’ which POGM invented.  Because these short image names are different, the URL for the symbol image now appears three times in the file.

Yes, both versions of this KML file will produce the same map when viewed with Gmap4 or other software.  But if you ever want to edit your file by hand, the original version of the file will be much easier to work with than POGM’s version.

At some point in the future I would like to add a feature to Gmap4 that will let you import GPX/KML files and edit them.  But my code will certainly will not be making unrequested changes to your files.
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iron
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PostTue Jan 24, 2012 12:41 pm 
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you're da man joey!

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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Joey
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PostTue Jan 24, 2012 9:04 pm 
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The embedded map below is displaying the new high resolution topographic maps.  To compare to the MyTopo maps,  click the button in the upper right and select “t2 MyTopo” in the drop down menu.

To change the amount of hill shading on the high res maps, click Menu ==> Hill shading.  There is also a new URL parameter: &hillshade=.  Allowable values are 0-35.  The default hill shading is 18.

See more info below the map.

View larger size in new window

And now, the rest of the story.

I explained in an earlier thread (http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7996002) that the USGS has embarked on a project to make very high quality scans of all the paper maps they have published.  The USGS put those scans online as ordinary pdf files.  However, applications like Gmap4 which use the Google Map API (Application Program Interface) cannot display pdf files.  Instead, we need to have map “tiles” that comply with certain specs that Google has adopted.

It turns out that there is a software developer and backcountry guy in California by the name of Matt (http://caltopo.com) who has obtained those high resolution pdf files from the USGS and wrote code to process those files into map tiles.  This is easier said than done since there are a pile of arcane steps involved.  Matt contacted me a few weeks ago and inquired if I would like to display his tiles.  He showed me a sample and I jumped at the chance.  The tile quality is simply stunning.

Matt’s topographic tiles are better quality than any other topographic tiles you will see in any  Google map based application, period.  Plus, to the best of my knowledge the variable hill shading in Gmap4 is a unique feature among apps that are based on the Google Map API.

Now let’s peek under the hood.  In order to let you see these high resolution topographic map tiles, they have to be online somewhere and we’re talking about a mountain of data.  Matt is hosting his tiles on Amazon’s cloud service.  Amazon charges Matt (1) a hosting fee and (2) a data transmission fee.  It is my great hope that the Gmap4 user community taken as a whole will be willing to make sufficient donations to pay its share of Matt’s Amazon bill.  Once the startup dust has settled, Matt will turn on some stat gathering and then we will know more about the financial load Gmap4 is putting on his account.  I’ll report further on this point when I know more.

Keep in mind that at least for the present time Matt’s tiles do not include the updates that the USFS added to the USGS maps.  In order to see that info you need to use the MyTopo tiles.  For an example, use the Gmap4 ‘search’ feature and look for Twisp.

Finally, Matt’s high res tiles should cover the states show in green on this index map:
http://nationalmap.gov/historical/index.html
As the USGS finishes high resolution scans for the remaining states, Matt will be processing that data into tiles.

Enjoy!
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puzzlr
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 1:43 am 
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Amazing work you are doing. I'm sure it will pay off some day!

The new hi-res topo looks great, but are they just better versions of old map? That set you posted has some obsolete features that have been updated in the GeoPDFs on the USGS site.

And for the other hi-res tiles, are you talking about this kind of GeoPDF presentation? I have downloaded a number of these and don't find them very useful. Much of the map is too dark, the annotations are too big, and the contours are hard to see.
GeoPDF Example
GeoPDF Example

I know it's also possible to get just the imagery underneath, and I've done that too, but they don't make it easy to figure out how to stitch the pieces together. There's no overlap so I can't let Photoshop just figure it out like it would for a pano stitch.

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Joey
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 5:30 am 
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puzzlr wrote:
The new hi-res topo looks great, but are they just better versions of old map? That set you posted has some obsolete features that have been updated in the GeoPDFs on the USGS site.

And for the other hi-res tiles, are you talking about this kind of GeoPDF presentation? I have downloaded a number of these and don't find them very useful. Much of the map is too dark, the annotations are too big, and the contours are hard to see.

The new high resolution topographic maps are scans of the most recently published paper map.  They are not the new GeoPDFs.  As a result, some of the info on these maps is indeed obsolete.

Gmap4 does not display the new GeoPDF file format.
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 11:04 am 
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puzzlr wrote:
The new hi-res topo looks great, but are they just better versions of old map? That set you posted has some obsolete features that have been updated in the GeoPDFs on the USGS site.

Map layer developer here.  Yes, they're just better versions of older printed maps.  In the posted example, you can see that MyTopo is based on the same map, but with colors normalized to a standard palette and relief shading added in.

There are a couple ways to get more up-to-date information.  One is the USFS' Primary Base Series quads, which MyTopo used when available instead of the USGS maps.  I'm developing a separate map layer based on these, but they generally don't have vegetation data and don't cover all the national forests.  It will be done in another week or so and Joseph can include it if he wants, but he might need to make some UI changes for it to work well.  My caltopo.com UI is built around blending multiple layers together, so my map development efforts have focused on making multiple mix-n-match layers with partial coverage, rather than one definitive layer a la MyTopo.

Another is the new computer-generated topos you included a picture of - officially called "US Topo" maps.  These are actually multi-layer PDFs, and with the right tools - not many exist - you can pick and choose the layers you want.  I agree that the default view looks great at first glance but is practically useless in the field.  However, if you download the TerraGo toolbar, you can turn off the aerial layer and bring up the standard white-green background, which makes them a lot more readable.  IMO TerraGo's toolbar is junk, but it's the only free consumer-level game in town.  I'd like to build a layer based on these maps, but the library I'm using doesn't support PDF layer separation and getting rid of the aerial background is a hard requirement for me.

You can also try building your own vector maps by getting trail, elevation and vegetation data and rendering it all out using Mapnik.  OpenCycleMap is the best example of this, but I don't think their backcountry trail data is quite there yet.
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rossb
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 3:12 pm 
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Fantastic. The maps are beautiful. I really like having that much control.

One interesting thing about the maps is how the "Topo High" and "Topo Low" seems to correspond to large scale and small scale, respectively. In other words, if I keep the map on "Topo High", and zoom out, I quickly lose the ability to read the labels. I can still make out many of the features (lakes, for example) but that is about it. This is different than the other map layers (e. g. MyTopo) which appears to switch at some point (some level of zoom). At first I was concerned about this, but now I really like it. I like having the control. It is like a manual transmission.

It is interesting, as even though I generally don't like shading (thanks for letting me turn it off) I like it under a certain circumstance. If I pick "Topo High" and zoom out, I find it really helpful to turn on the shading. With the shading on, I can pick out ridges and lakes (even if I can't read the labels).

One final note: When adjusting the zoom, there appears to be a brief moment where another layer appears briefly and is then quickly replaced with the appropriate layer. This layer that appears for a moment may be the "Terrain" layer, or it may be the same "Topo High" layer, but with a lot more shading. I can't quite tell, but it is pretty easy to spot that something is going on.

Thanks again for all of your hard work (and thank Matt).
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Simon Singer
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 5:07 pm 
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Wow! Joey, your maps are getting even more awesome! I love the shade system. Was it hard to design? Now all we need is a map generating button for the shade mode and I'll be completely set.  agree.gif
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Joey
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 7:30 pm 
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Thanks for the kind words.

Ross,
The t3 maps (Terraserver) and t2 maps (MyTopo) both include scans of maps that were published at three different scales.  If you are zoomed in then you see the 1:24,000 map.  If you are zoomed way out then you see the 1:250,000 map.  And if you have a ‘medium’ amount of zoom then you see a different map scale.  By contrast, the t4 maps (Matt’s tiles) only show the 1:24,000 scale.

Here is the likely reason why you see a brief image flash on the screen when you look at the high res maps.  For the high res maps, Gmap4 displays two sets of tiles on top of each other.  One layer is comprised of Matt’s topo tiles.  Those tiles do not have any hill shading.  The other layer is a set of grey scale tiles that constitute the hill shading.  Matt also made those tiles.  Code in Gmap4 lets you vary the amount of opacity that the hill shading tiles have when displayed on your screen.

Flow,
Most of the heavy lifting for the new maps was the work Matt did to take the USGS data and produce tiles that could be fed to the Google Map API.  I previously had cleaned up the code in Gmap4 to make it easier to add new features.  Only a modest amount of black magic was required to get the shading stuff to work.

Please clarify “map generating button for the shade mode” confused.gif
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Simon Singer
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PostWed Jan 25, 2012 9:58 pm 
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Joey wrote:
Please clarify “map generating button for the shade mode” confused.gif

Alright, what I mean for a map generating button is for a little button that says "Generate Map" (could be done via the menu) which opens a new tab or page that displays a image that is a .jpg image of what you are viewing as well as the surrounding view.

I'll demonstrate this via my map generator. I know it's kinda older code which I do plan on upgrading some day, but the map generation is still very good.

The first screen shot will display me zooming into the mountain/location that I want my map to be of. Then I hit either the tall or wide map generator button below the map (this can be a text link too). In this example I choose Vesper Peak.

Map Location
Map Location

Then when it creates the new page it displays a map which is alright on it's own, but one can get the source of the map and get a bigger version. Here's a screen shot of this:

Then here is the actual map (it is stored in mytopo temporary for a few weeks or so)
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Joey
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PostThu Jan 26, 2012 5:40 am 
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I guess I don't see  the point in making a static jpg when you can make a gmap4 link that shows the exact same thing.  Am I missing something?
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Forum Index > Trail Talk > Gmap4 now does trip planning.   New hi-res topo maps!
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