research technology

GPS mapping tools [Orig posted: 03/06/2005]

I have been spending a lot of time looking for various bits of software that will allow me to visually inspect the huge GPS dataset we have collected as part of the MMM project. Here is a quick listing of software that will hopefully save someone else some time 🙂

1)USAPhotomaps: a freeware tool written by Doug Cox that will display GPS route and waypoint information over maps and aerial photos that it downloads from the USGS and the MS Terraserver. It also can display USGS points of interest along with TIGER streets information. A triumph of freeware with available source code though no licensing information is mentioned.
2)TopFusion: This is a shareware program that also plots GPS routes and waypoit info over different types of maps. Is a little bit more user friendly that USAPhotoMaps and also allows you to easily add and remove multiple datapoints sets for quick comparisons across datasets. It can also convert between different data formats. The demo version is almost fully functional while the full version is $40.
3)Google Maps: As you can see from my earlier posts I am a big fan of the Google Maps interface and its relative hacker friendlyness. Engadget had a wonderful article on how to add you own waypoints to google maps. also has some easily modified code to display GPS coordinates and image thumbnails on Google Maps
4)GPSVisualizer: This is very cool site that lets you upload GPS coordinates in a variety of formats and displays them as SVG, PNG and JPEG files.
5)Mapserver is the result of a NASA funded OSS project at the University of Minnesota to develop web apps that can display spatial information. While not a full fledged GIS tool it does support have a good amount of functionality including the display of GPS points. The fact that it is an internet app just makes it an attractive deployement option.
6)Mappr is a geobloggers like site that displays georeferenced Flickr images on a map.
7)The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a USGS initiative to mark the locations of almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States and its territories.
8)GPS Coordinate converter is a site that can covert between different coordinate formats and display a map of the area
9)GPX format: GPX or the GPS Exchange Format is an XML based format used to exchange GPS information. A full specification of the format can be found at

UPDATE: I’d like to add some more tools to this page
10) TagMaps widget: This is a YRB project that allows you to make a flash map that displays tags using just a simple GeoRSS feed (or file). You can see a samples of what is possible here and here.
11) GeoRSS maker: This is a mashup that I wrote to allow you to quickly make a GeoRSS feed using the GeoNames database as well as the geocoded articles on Wikipedia. When you enter a search term and press the “Search” button, GeoRSS maker returns the top 5 results that match the users query. Once you have verified the location from the description and/or links, just hit the “Add (Item)” button to add the item to the GeoRSS displayed on the bottom of the page. Just keep on doing more searches and adding items till you have the required GeoRSS which you can copy and paste into a separate file. More details are available in this blog post.

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