GPS Mapping Software (Warning: Extreme Geekyness Ahead)

WARNING: Drowzyness May Occur; Read At Own Risk

I received a question in a comment about how I post the GPS tracks in my log posts.
Redwing said...

Can you write a post about how you do the GPS track on the map picture magic?

Or if you have, and I missed it, point me in the right direction.

I want to be able to do this for races, for cruising, and for day sailing, but my 14 year old GPS Garmin 128 doesn't quite work on my computer (Mac).

And so when I upgrade my GPS to a handheld, I'd like to know what I should be looking for...


Okay... You Have Been Warned

I have good news and bad news for Redwing. The good news is that I will pass along what I know, the bad news is that it is all Windows PC related. I have heard that the Mac is not so GPS mapping friendly. So if any Mac users have a good solutions to transfer their GPS tracks to their Mac and capture the picture let me know and I will pass it along.

I use two pieces of hardware.
  • Garmin GPSmap 76S handheld GPS receiver
  • Fujitsu Stylistic ST5112 Tablet PC running Vista Business
For software I sometimes use up to five different ones.
  • Mapsource- A charting package that came bundled with my Garmin chart CD
  • Coastal Explorer - The free download version of Rose Point Navigation Systems charting software
  • Google Earth - Well, you know, Google Earth
  • PDFCreator - A program that sets up a print drive on your windows PC to allow you to print to a file in many formats. Including PDF, JPG etc.
  • Windows Table PC Snipping Tool - This is a small screen capturing utility for Tablet PCs.
  • Faststone Image Viewer - This is my preferred image viewer and manipulation software.
In addition, there are times when I need to use certain file types (and I am no expert here)
  • gpx - This is the GPX eXchange format which allows me to transfer data to and from Mapsource and Coastal Explorer
  • jpg - A image file in jpeg format
  • kml - This a data file that can be read by Google Earth
Both Mapsource and Coastal Explore will download the track information from my Garmin GPS and I prefer Coastal Explorer. Occasionaly I need to edit the track info due to a GPS glitch and I have to use Mapsource. For that process I upload the GPS track data from my handheld into Mapsource, then make any corrections or changes and then save a gpx file.

Then I open this new file in Coastal Explorer. To create the image file I either do a screen capture using the Windows Snipping Tool or I print a jpeg to file using PDFCreator. Then I just crop or tweak the image so I like it in Faststone. Then I just upload to the blog and my GPS track gains all the fame it so rightly deserved.

And, sometimes I also load the track data into Google Earth so I can show the track superimposed with a satellite view. I use Coastal Explore which export the kml file that I can then load in Google Earth. Creating the image file is the same as above.

There! Probably sorry you asked. In practice it takes only a few minutes tops. As I mentioned this is just the procedure that I use and I am no pro at this. But it does work for me and is pretty quick. Feel free to enlighten me with better ways.