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Avenza Maps 3.5 Released

We’re excited to announce that we’ve completed the release of Avenza Maps 3.5 for iOS and Android.  This update contains new features and performance improvements as well as fixes for reported issues. Some highlights are mentioned below, for the full release notes see below.

Plus subscription. We’ve renamed the Unlock Map Imports subscription tier to Plus. The simply named Plus subscription tier will better align with more features that we’ll be introducing in the near future. This subscription still allows you to import as many of your own maps as you want—ideal for map and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoying sourcing and loading their own or third-party maps.

Active and inactive maps. In this release we’re introducing the ability to make imported maps (not including those downloaded from the Map Store) inactive. In previous releases, the standard version (without a paid subscription) allowed you to only import up to three of your own maps into the app and were limited from importing any more. However, now you’ll be able to import as many of your own maps as you’d like. The first three imported maps will be considered ‘active’ and available to use with all of the app’s functionality. Subsequent imported maps will be considered ‘inactive’. Inactive maps can still be opened and viewed, but without GPS location and map tools enabled. You will have the ability to delete active maps that you no longer use and then activate new ones to stay within the three active map limit. Maps downloaded from the Map Store (versus imported from an external source) are always location-enabled and are never limited. To import an unlimited number of your own maps with full location-enabled features and functionality, Plus and Pro subscriptions are available.

Sort and filter your maps. This release provides some handy sort and filter options on the My Maps screen. You’ll have the ability to sort by distance (how far away a map is from your current location), by name, by date, and by how much storage the map takes (measured in MB). In addition, you’ll now be able to filter maps to show only those from the Map Store, maps that you imported, folders and collections, active or inactive maps, just maps (no folders), or all items.

 

Map Store Login and My Account improvements. The user interface around logging and viewing your Avenza Maps account details has been vastly improved. You now have the ability to change your password, change your email, and view your download history. The Download History screen has new functionality as well. Previously you were only able to download one map at a time. Now you’ll be able to select multiple maps at a time and download in bulk. In addition, you’ll also be able to access map descriptions without having to go to the Map Store to look it up.

 

Layers now available on Avenza Maps for Android. Rejoice Android users, layers are finally here! Having the same functionality as the iOS version, map features (placemarks, lines, tracks, areas, photos, and schema) are now contained on layers. Map features can be managed here, including adding, deleting, and editing map feature information. In addition, the layers can be linked (and unlinked) to maps, so that map data can continue to be used even if a map is no longer on the device. Similarly, if that map is installed again, you’ll be able to link that layer to the map again. You’ll also be able to export layers data directly from the Layers screen without having to go into each map.

 

Better quality Map Store previews. All of the map listing previews in the Map Store have been updated and now have higher resolution of busy sections of the map to provide better detail of features, lines, labels, and colours.

Release Notes

  • User experience improvements, including sorting and filter options on the My Maps screen
  • Newly designed Map Store Login and My Account screens
  • Re-discover, select and re-download previously purchased Map Store maps using new options available on the Downloads History screen
  • Export Layers data directly from the Layers screen
  • Link a layer to any available maps or unlink from all maps from the Edit Layer screen
  • Better quality map previews in Map Store
  • More granular control of map features’ visibility
  • Manage, import or export your data independently of maps using the new Layers tab on Android
  • Brand new bottom navigation bar on Android

 

You can get Avenza Maps now from the App Store and Google Play.

Google Web Mercator Still Causes Issues For Map Makers

You would be hard-pressed to find a person living in a developed country who has never used Google Maps, let alone heard of it. In May 2017, Google announced there were over two billion active Android devices and that the Google Maps app had over one billion downloads. Take into account the fact that Google is the runaway leader among search engines, it’s not a stretch to think that Google Maps is one of the most widely utilized desktop and mobile applications in the world.

While Google Maps has been in use since its debut in 2005, few have taken the time to consider the technical cartographic elements under the hood. For most everyday users, they don’t need or care to understand the cartography—it’s a tool to get directions, view their neighbourhood, or scope out a destination for their upcoming trip. However, cartographers and GIS software developers alike have been reluctant to praise Google. This is because Google Maps uses a variant of the well-known Mercator projection known as Web Mercator (also often referred to as Pseudo Mercator or Google Web Mercator).

While there are several pros and cons of the Web Mercator projection, it comes under fire mainly due to the fact that locations away from the equator undergo severe stretching and distortion. This can be easily visualized using thetruesizeof.com, which is a tool that allows users to compare the size of countries if they were located at the same latitude. Let’s use Brazil and Greenland as an example. In their normal locations, Greenland appears to be almost four times the size of Brazil.

However if we move Greenland down to the equator, it shrinks to nearly a quarter of the size of Brazil, which in reality it is.

 

A number of publications, presentations and GIS blogs have warned about the “dangers” of mapping using Web Mercator. A lack of understanding between the standard Mercator and Web Mercator projections and the resulting inaccuracies forced the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to issue an advisory to all internal departments prohibiting the use of Web Mercator. But the popularity of Google Maps has prevented Web Mercator from going away, thus GIS software and third-party mapping applications continue to support it.

In previous versions of MAPublisher (9.9 and earlier), the absolute scale (e.g. 1:500,000), relative scale (i.e. 1 in = 1 mi), and scale bar length were all calculated based on the projection’s point of true scale. Because Web Mercator’s point of true scale is always along the equator, the scale bar tool did not account for the stretching a map experiences as latitude changes. The scale values conflicted with the actual distance on the Earth.

We received numerous feature requests to have the scale bar length calculated based on the latitude at the centre of the MAP View. For MAPublisher 10.0, we made adjustments to our scale calculations to do just that. However, we quickly realized we were still reporting the equatorial absolute scale value.

To fix the discrepancy between the two values, MAPublisher 10.1 introduced an option to adjust the absolute scale value by the scale factor, which is calculated based on the MAP View’s centre latitude. This ensures all three scales are in agreement. It should be noted that this feature is best suited for medium to large scale maps. Small scale maps cover too great a distance for the scale to be consistent across all areas.

So let’s recap. Google Maps is great for the beginner and amateur cartographers, providing an easy to use tool for spatial data visualization. However, the Web Mercator projection should be avoided, especially if performing data analysis or if mapping for military, surveying, or geodesy purposes. But what happens when you absolutely need a Google-friendly web map? Do not include the absolute or relative scale values because as the zoom level or location changes, the scale value is no longer correct (in some cases a scale bar is okay). Additionally, Google and Bing web tiles display dynamic scale bars that update based on map location and zoom level. However if you really want to include a scale graphic to give the reader some perspective, MAPublisher provides the tools necessary to ensure your map is as accurate as possible.

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