All Topo Maps, Version 7 Professional by iGage Mapping Corproration

All Topo Maps, Version 7 Professional, by iGage Mapping Corporation, is a program for viewing and working with USGS topographic quadrangles. This program provides a powerful set of analysis and annotation tools, while retaining the feel of working with the original topographic sheets. The quadrangles can be displayed as individual maps (with their original borders), but also as a composite map spanning several individual sheets.

All Topo Maps internally stores coordinates in the coordinate style selected for the main display. Lat/Lon, UTM, MGRS and State Plane coordinates are all supported in a variety of datum. All Topo Maps performs NAD27 to NAD83 conversions using NADCON (with or without HARN adjustments) or with less accurate Molodensky approximations. iGage has also integrated the published BLM coordinates (GCDB) for section corners where available, and hand-snapped the entire PLSS grid where GCDB is not available. With the optional PLS tool, All Topo Maps can convert from aliquot part or footage calls directly to geographic coordinates. Elevations are derived from the National Elevation Database (arc-second spacing 0.1 meter resolution) and may be displayed in feet or meters.

Some of the software tools include: profile preparation (Figure 1), input of the shape of parcels by either PLS, or metes and bounds description, and display of NGS control data sheets (Figure 2). Other features that may go beyond a typical surveyor's needs include, visibility modeling for towers, search and rescue search grid patterns, and optimal placement for circular irrigators in irregular shaped fields, although these tools may be useful to place a GPS receiver or check RTK radio coverage. Plug-in tools are available from other venders as well, providing for things such as full featured deed plottings.

The graphics on the map can also be manipulated for visualizations and analysis. The quads can be overlaid with relief shading (Figure 3), or elevation coloring, and the original display colors modified to suit your needs. Map can be printed and/or exported in a variety of formats to be loaded into other software, and can also be resampled to control the image size. Although maps are stored as individual quadrangles, a "bigtopo" tool allows multiple sheets to be combined in any way needed. Bigtopo also allows you to create new borders around maps generating all the information that is shown on a typical quadrangle border. It is interesting to note that the maps are stored in a compressed but "lossless" format, meaning that all the details on the map are seen in the original scanned clarity, and won't become fuzzy as they are enlarged.

Maps can be marked up with both linework and text, and waypoints created to mark locations. Links can be added to these annotations, so that additional information, such as data sheets, websites or digital photographs can be incorporated. A versatile import and export routine is included, which allows the annotations to be used with other software packages. Annotation data (but not the topographic maps) can also be imported and exported from handheld GPS receivers, and real-time locations that come from a GPS in NMEA format will be displayed on the map.

All Topo Maps are created from USGS Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) quadrangle base maps. All of the 1:24,000, 1:63,360 (Alaska), 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 maps scales are available for a state. In addition to the map revisions available as DRGs, iGage scans new maps as they are released. New maps are immediately available via internet download, updated map CDs are produced yearly that contain the new map revisions from the previous year. All Topo Maps sets include both newly release maps and old map revisions. Some quadrangles have as many as five revisions available. Any piece of a map, entire maps or combinations of maps may be exported as raster images (BMP, GIF, TIF, PNG and JPG formats are all supported with a variety of compression settings.) DEM or XYZ elevation files can be exported in UTM, Lat/Lon or State Plane projections. Exported maps and DEMs are royalty free; no permission to publish is required.

I found the software relatively easy to use, although a few basics needed to be learned prior to being efficient at using the tools. Every function can be accessed from the onscreen menus, and most have a keyboard shortcut as well. With a little practice, plus the shortcut list on the back of the manual, a user can become adept at navigating around. A bound instruction manual is provided, as well as on screen help. The program has a more technical feel to it than seems common in a lot of software recently, coming from its extensive use of keyboard shortcuts, and from its frequent use of text boxes, which describe in detail what steps the software is doing internally during most operations.

All Topo Maps is typically priced less than $200 per state (or group of smaller states), a great value especially considering the range of features it provides. It runs under Windows 95 and newer, or as a virtual PC on a Mac. It installed and ran flawlessly on my Windows XP test machine with a 3Ghz processor and 508MB of memory.

If you use USGS topographic quads much at all, this program can be very useful. From its basic function of printing a portion of a quad or composite quads, to more advanced uses of plotting GPS information and deed information, it has a wide range of possible applications.

About the Author

  • James White, PLS
    James White, PLS
    Jim White owns a private practice in Schenectady, New York that provides surveying and software development services.

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