TOPO!GPS, TOPO!, and TrailSmart Products from Wildflower
 A preliminary review by Bill Straka (more extensive review to follow later) - 5 January 1999

 Wildflower has been producing scanned topographic maps on CDROM, first for
 the Mac, and these days primarily for PCs, for a number of years. The
 basic maps are from the US Geological Survey (USGS) for the most part,
 with some from the US Forest Service (USFS). TOPO! is a series of CDROMs
 that contain scanned maps of contiguous 7.5 min quads (plus larger area
 overview maps), the US Placenames gazetteer, Digital Elevation Models, and
 other data. TOPO!GPS is the basic TOPO! software with GPSR linking
 capability and comes in several forms - downloadable from Wildflower's
 website, in a separate CDROM that included overall United States maps (48
 contiguous states) down to the USGS US Highway maps, and included in the
 TrailSmart package. TrailSmart is the TOPO!GPS engine packaged with
 scanned the National Geographic Society's Trails Illustrated maps of
 national parks (15 in the first one issued). One advantage of Wildflower's
 products is that Wildflower makes extensive use of actual users in the
 field. That is, they use the experiences of their own staff and others who
 actually do a lot of backpacking, hiking, mountaineering, and other
 outdoor activities. For example, they have worked actively with the BADGER
 project (Bay Area Digital GeoReferencing), in the San Francisco Bay Area,
 and with groups using GPSRs to overlay updated trails onto USGS
 topographic maps in the East Bay Regional Parks District and MidPeninsula
 Regional Parks District.

 Each of the TOPO! series CDROMs consists of a set of adjacent maps at 5
 levels of scale and magnification. Level 1 is a 1:250,000 overview. Level
 2 is the USGS 1:100,000 series, while level 3 is generally from the inch
 to a mile series. Levels 4 and 5 are 7.5 min quads (1:24,000), with level
 5 being a 1:12,000 magnification of the 1:24,000 map. The quality on the
 screen is, obviously, dependent on your graphic card and display. As
 anyone familiar with PCs knows, not all the graphics cards are compatible
 with one another and some depart significantly from generally accepted
 standards. Wildflower has done an excellent job of matching the most
 widely used of the advanced graphics cards, as well as the more standard
 of the "standards." However, like any graphics-intensive software, some
 display cards and monitors, and certain printers, do require some playing
 around to get the best results. One major-name printer that I am aware of
 sends information back to Windows that does not accurately represent the
 printable area or available in-printer memory and can result in Windows
 freezing up. This can be cured by adjusting the margins in printer

 TOPO! packages cover about two dozen regions that include some of the most
 popular recreational areas for hikers, backpackers, climbers, backcountry
 skiers, mountain bikers, and other users of topographic maps. These
 regions are mostly concentrated in the eastern and western parts of the US
 - Northeast, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and Southwest (including
 California, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah). Because the areas are contiguous
 for the most part, urban areas are included as well (San Francisco Bay
 area, Los Angeles area, Tahoe area including Reno, etc.).

 TOPO!GPS is the version of the TOPO! program with an interface to a large
 number of GPSR, including Eagle/Lowrance, Garmin, and Magellan, with a
 number of models from each, plus a generic NMEA interface for real time
 tracking for any receiver putting out the more standard NMEA sentences
 that contain position information. In addition, up and downloads of
 information are available for many models of the 3 named receivers,
 including waypoints, routes, tracks, and trackpoints, although not all
 receivers can accept uploads of tracks per se. The GPS version is
 available as a download of the core software from the Wildflower web site,
 on a CDROM with USA maps, and in the TrailSmart package. TOPO!GPS USA
 (Wildflower was using the Topo!USA name long before Delorme's package with
 a similar name) has 6 levels of magnification, from a relief map of the US
 to levels 5 and 6 being the USGS US Highway map. In addition, Levels 7
 through 9 are a "white map" mode (clear screen with only the waypoints and
 routes) that is used to examine the relationship of waypoints and routes
 in detail without the distraction of the map background.

 TrailSmart  is the result of a cooperative effort between Wildflower and
 the National Geographic Society. National Geographic took over Trails
 Illustrated a couple of years ago. Trails Illustrated is very familiar to
 outdoors types for their plastic maps of national parks. These maps are
 basically USGS topo maps of the park regions with updated trail and other
 data. Wildflower has scanned these and gathered them together into groups
 on CDROM. The first of these covers 15 of the most-visited parks, such as
 Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon. At maximum scale (which some
 people think of as magnification or "zoom", scanned topographic maps from
 the USGS 7.5 min series supplement some of the Trails Illustrated maps.

 Using TOPO! products is quite natural to someone familiar with topographic
 maps and a modest degree of familiarity with PCs (the Mac versions have
 basically been dropped for lack of sales and the large requirement of time
 and effort to produce software for the Mac interface ñ there is little or
 no profit in specialized niche products on the Mac platform). The language
 and paradigm used are those of the experienced land navigator, used to
 travelling in the woods and cross country. (If you are not reasonably
 proficient at land navigation, there are several good books available).
 Switching from a view of one scale to another is rapid (at least on my 300
 MHz Pentium II AGP, with 24x CDROM), either by centering the magnifying
 glass with the plus (minus with shift key) and left-clicking the mouse, or
 by right-clicking and selecting the magnification level. Shifting the
 screen view can be done from the centering icon on the main screen (the
 current map window) or one of the two auxiliary overview windows (showing
 the overall region and the current quad in overviews). The current
 position of the cursor is shown in a box at the lower right (lat/lon plus
 altitude or UTM including altitude) selectable for NAD83 or NAD27. Grids
 can be overlaid on the screen at the user's choice of spacing (even a 1 m
 UTM grid on the 1:100,000 map if you would like to obscure the entire map
 with grid lines). The grid is overlaid on the print as well.

 Great circle ("straight line") distances can be determined by selecting
 the compass tool (nice pun there, since the functions of a divider as a
 compass and a magnetic compass are both served). You place the anchor on
 the first point with the first mouse click, then move the cursor to the
 second point (or points). The distance (choose your units) and bearing in
 degrees (true or magnetic, sorry no radians or grads) are shown. If you
 click on the second point, a line is drawn, which can be turned into a
 vertical profile. This profile can be used to determine visibilities
 between 2 points (for use by photographers or ham radio operators trying
 to determine lines of sight).

 The pencil and ruler tool is used for drawing routes to be followed, for
 example trails to be hiked, much as you would use a pencil and ruler (or
 map scale) on a paper map. Drawing with a mouse is awkward at best, but
 trail drawing in TOPO! has become somewhat easier in the past couple of
 years, thanks to a more sophisticated cursor tracking function and the
 addition of an optional "hotspot" large magnification window that was
 requested by a number of people even back at the original Mac version. The
 "hotspot" apparently does not work with some graphics boards that depart
 from standard graphics formats, but works extremely well with my graphics
 boards. The trail drawn can be selected with the right mouse button and
 functions like a profile generation or GPS route generation selected. You
 can also change the characteristics of the path indication (color, line
 thickness, solid or dashed, or delete the path). Profile generation from a
 drawn trail is much like the line of sight profile, except that the
 profile is along the path. This is useful to determine steepness of the
 path and altitude gain and loss (total calculated automatically and
 displayed with the profile window). Clicking at a given point on the
 profile will show where the point is on the ground and vice versa. The
 generated profile is shown in a window at the bottom of the main map
 window (or selectable full screen).

 Selecting GPS route generation brings up a window that allows selection of
 how to space the points evenly or fitting the path as closely as possible,
 and how many points, as well as asking for a naming prefix. You should
 think about how many points you request, based on how many points and how
 closely spaced they can be in a route on your particular GPSR. You should
 also be aware that TOPO!GPS includes the altitude, which is stored on some
 GPSR, but not others (Garmin, for example does not store altitudes, while
 Magellan does). The GPS points (waypoints or uploaded track points) are
 shown in a window at the bottom of the map screen (which can be hidden).
 They can be edited extensively - name, position, and so on. Routes are
 shown as folders with a copy of the waypoints. Routes can be edited by
 copying, inserting, deleting, dragging, and so on in the waypoint window.
 Other route and waypoint editing can be done graphically on the map view
 using the GPS waypoint tool. GPS information can be stored and recovered
 in a TOPO! formatted file (.tpg), as a file formatted for your GPSR, or as
 a text file. The text file can be imported into a spreadsheet program for
 further manipulation, then later exported for use in your GPSR or TOPO!.
 TOPO! also can import text files in a wide variety of formats, using a
 "wizard" to help in parsing the file (lat before or after lon? Deg min sec
 or ddd.ddd or ddd mm.mmm, or whatever, names included or omitted, etc.)

 The altitude and profile brings up a topic that is at once a great
 strength and the major flaw in TOPO!, TOPO!GPS, and TrailSmart. The
 underlying data is from the USGS for the most part. This means, on the one
 hand, that the maps and other data are among the most complete and
 accurate to be found anywhere in the world (having experience with even
 trying to get topo maps of some third world countries, I can definitely
 attest to how much better USGS data are). On the other hand, this means
 that some maps are quite old. The elevation data displayed for the cursor
 position is interpolated from a DEM (Digital Elevation Model) database
 that is not the same spacing of grid in different areas. The US Highway
 map has some strange discrepancies as well (I have the paper copies of a
 couple sections, so it isn't Wildflower's scanning of the maps that is the
 problem). As an example, the road between Hollister, California, and
 Pinnacles National Monument is shown on the wrong side of the river on the
 US Highway map, although it is correct on the 7.5 min topo included in the
 SFBay CDROM (Big Sur section). The gazetteer, which is the US Place Names
 database, also has some omissions and inclusions, which seem inconsistent
 with one another. But the complaint is directed toward the USGS, not
 Wildflower, or maybe Congress for spending budget on things other than
 areas which are ultimately much more important.

 Another flaw that is somewhat annoying is in the NMEA standard, and that
 is that the timestamp on a waypoint is the time of transfer, rather than
 the time of creation. Thus, downloading a waypoint list, adding to it
 without editing existing waypoints, then uploading to the GPSR changes the
 time stamp in the GPSR (Delorme's SA5 and 6 do this, too, since it is
 NMEA, not the software). You can, however, upload only selected waypoints
 and/or routes, thus preserving your existing waypoints.

 Printing and using the maps can be done using a number of options. I will
 be providing a sample map with a GPS route for Joe and Jack to post in
 1999. The map can be printed in high quality (dependent on your printer
 and some selectable options). On a good color printer, the appearance is
 very close to a USGS map. A laser printer produces a map very similar to a
 gray scale photocopy of a topo sheet. A screen capture (export) can be in
 several graphic formats and can then be inserted into other software (word
 processor, for example). You can further manipulate things in a draw or
 paint program, like Corel PhotoPaint or CorelDraw. You are more likely to
 encounter limitations of your printer than of TOPO!'s printing functions.
 On my printers (laser and color ink jet) the print times for 8.5x11
 1:24,000 scale maps are about a minute from mouse click to paper in hand.

 In a future addition, I will expand on the discussion of features, of
 which there are many, many more. These features will be obvious and
 intuitive to the experienced land navigator, and easy to find. In beta
 testing since early in the summer of 1998, I did not have a manual or help
 files, yet found it very easy. But here are some operations I have carried

 Transferring GPSR data to and from TOPO!GPS - this is very easy and fairly
 intuitive, if you know your GPSR. There are a few problems due to some
 peculiarities of individual makes and models of GPSR, but I found use of
 Magellan ColorTrak and 4000XL-12 and Garmin 12XL to be straightforward,
 with limitations due only to the units themselves. You initialize for the
 particular GPSR and port connection, checking to see that name lengths,
 baud rate, and datum are correct (they always were for several GPSR I have
 information for).

 Creating a trail route and a driving route in TOPO!, then transferring to
 the GPSR - very straightforward, and quite accurate except for long
 highway routes requiring the US Highway maps in TOPO!GPS USA. There the
 limitations of the USGS maps came into focus. I did a route from the SF
 Bay area to Riverside, Calif and return, and actually found the TOPO!
 route to be as accurate as Delorme's SA5. However, SA5 decided the route
 automatically, while TOPO! required a hand-drawn route. But keep in mind
 that TOPO! uses scanned maps, rather than the vector maps of SA5/6, and is
 not intended for automated route planning. At the same time, I didn't have
 the pain of trying to force SA5 to avoid or go via certain roads and
 didn't have the weird quirk of Delorme's products (SA5, SA6, and MapNGo)
 of picking strange routings that can't really be forced to go away.  The
 other night I tried to get SA6 to plan a driving route from SF Bay area to
 a Salt Lake area destination, telling it to do an overnight stop at the
 Peppermill in Wendover and avoid the major construction in the central
 part of SLC. SA6 kept insisting on routing me through the construction
 regardless of vias and avoids. I finally went to TOPO!GPS USA, drew the
 route, told it to put in GPSR waypoints and route, and upload that perfect
 route, exactly what I wanted. Score a Big One for Wildflower!

 I have planned and drawn a number of hiking routes on the Rim of the Bay
 peaks (a hiking series of 6 routes in the SF Bay area that go to high
 points like Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo, and so on), plus hiking trails in
 Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The printed maps
 work very well, of course, as you would expect USGS maps to work. But I
 can print them on waterproof paper (several brands are available), with a
 finer coordinate grid, which makes it easier to use with the GPSR. And I
 have the route easily planned and loaded into the GPSR. When I return
 home, I can easily download the actual track into TOPO!GPS for study (if I
 have my son's laptop, I can do that back at the car before departing - now
 if you want to hike along the trail, GPS in hand and laptop in front of
 your face....). I have actually used this to map some trails in the Santa
 Cruz Mountains that have been rerouted and are incorrect on the USGS topos
 (the Black Mountain trail from Rhus Ridge Road is a prime example).

 Driving routes I have planned and tracks I have downloaded to TOPO!GPS
 include SF Bay area to Yosemite, SF Bay area to Alta, Utah, and SF Bay
 area to Bakersfield, Needles, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Denver, Laramie,
 Salt Lake City, Reno, and back to SF Bay, as well as the Riverside trip
 and local trips within the SF Bay area. The most track points I have
 gotten on an automatic spacing was 1091, which plotted within 100 feet of
 the road at worst, even on the 2000+ miles to and from Colorado and 1600
 miles to and from Alta. I have also downloaded tracks taken from the
 window of a couple of commercial airline companies. I can't judge the
 accuracy of these, obviously, but the tracks looked good in the plots. The
 judgment of accuracy was done on the 7.5 min quads where I had coverage of
 the TOPO! CDROMs. An interesting comparison was between the TOPO! Yosemite
 area and TrailSmart Yosemite National Park - since the underlying maps are
 from slightly different sources. They matched very well.

 There is a bug that Wildflower is working on that shows as a strange
 wraparound for  downloaded tracks that extend for very long distances
 (such as the SF-Yos trip). In this case, the track shows correctly on the
 USA map and TrailSmart Yosemite National Park map (truncates at the map
 edge on the limited view), but shows a strange wraparound problem on the
 SFBay and Yosemite region maps. The track proceeds correctly within the
 map, but at the boundary, instead of truncating, the track shows a leap
 across the map and detail from the other end of the track. A similar
 problem showed up for routes in an early beta version and was cured, so I
 am confident that this one will be cured in the next couple of weeks. Most
 users will remain unaware of the problem unless they take a long trip and
 keep a track that extends over several hundred miles of terrain.

 If you want to use a computerized highly accurate topographic map, and
 your area is covered, TOPO! is certainly the product I would recommend.
 Delorme's TOPOUSA is very inaccurate in its terrain representation, at
 least in the western US, although its roads are more up to date than the
 USGS maps. Other topographic mapping products I have examined have
 limitations as well, not the least of which is that some are not oriented
 to the knowledgable and skilled map user (in one case, I wondered whether
 the producers had ever used a map in the field at all). While the ones
 which accept scanned maps can cover areas not included by Wildflower, you
 have to have a high quality scanner to get a high quality map
 (obviously!). Using DRGs involves a large cost (especially in the
 TVA-covered areas), plus knowing exactly which area you want, and many of
 the products accepting DRGs do not stitch adjacent sheets. There are a
 couple other products which come close, but for the most part, their
 coverage of areas of interest to the backpacker and climber are more