Chris Drage introduces a new world with digital dimensions
screen wikimedia geographyThese days most people navigate between A and B using Google Maps or, if the journey is by road, an in-car satellite navigation system. As soon as you step off the beaten path however, you quickly discover the limitations of both, especially if you ‘zoom-in’ anywhere other than one of the main urban centres.

So it begs the question of why bother with digital maps when the paper versions, with their wealth of information on footpaths, bridle paths and the topology of a region, provided by Ordnance Survey, has served us so well for more than a century?

Well, at a very basic level digital mapping can replace the Ordnance Survey OS sheets by allowing you to print specific areas on paper. Also, digital maps don’t get mislaid or lost, wet, muddy and torn! However, to assume that as the limit of the positives is to miss out on the essential advantages of digital mapping – the wealth of useful tools and information that a digital version offers.

With mapping software and the appropriate digital map loaded, you can plot a route, check its length, the completion time and even look at a profile of the gradients and elevations along a route. And you can quickly see the effect of any changes that you might make to the route.

Once a route is complete, you can save it, or sections of the route, to be recalled for later use. You can prepare route cards and print them, showing waypoints and gradient profiles and, indeed, print paper copies of the digitally mapped route. Lastly, you can download the data to a GPS receiver (with the equivalent map installed) and use the device on the walk or field trip as a guide and as a track-logger. On return to the classroom, data can be uploaded from a GPS receiver and displayed on the original digital map for comparison and discussion.

Take the weight off your feet – fly through the landscape

For schools, digital mapping software can bring a new dimension to geography lessons, including topics like mapping skills, settlement, tourism, topography, coasts and land use. It is management software that will take a digital Ordnance Survey map and give you a 3D image of the landscape and the ability to "fly" through it.

Three examples of this kind of digital mapping software are Anquet, Memory-Map and Quo2Anquet can only be purchased online and it is a bit pricey.  However, the software is easy to use, with easy route-planning tools, 3D Virtual Landscapes and so much more. Anquet’s GPS software enables you to plot routes on familiar digital mapping, and then simply download your data to Garmin and other GPS receivers. Pocket Anquet is GPS software for your Pocket PC or Smartphone, which allows you to take your GPS maps outside with you. Although Anquet enables you to plot routes and print exactly the digital maps you require, it is not quite so good at handling tracks.

For nearly 10 years Memory-Map has been a market leader, used worldwide by outdoor enthusiasts. Its award-winning software offers a wide range of detailed colour images of maps and charts and is compatible with all major handheld GPS receivers. Being long established in the digital mapping arena, Memory-Map uses leading cartographic organisations like OS and Geographers' A-Z in the UK, and Maptech in the USA.

Memory-Map's Navigator software includes printing and planning tools which, when combined with the fully geo-referenced Memory-Map Cartography and a GPS receiver, provides a fast, efficient and easy to use solution.  It is sold from a chain of dealers or via the company’s website but unfortunately, the latter offers no discount and OS maps from Memory-map tend to cost more than those purchased from Mapyx who also offer Quo2.

Quo2, a bit of a latecomer to the digital mapping market, offers 1:50,000 Landranger and 1:25,000 Explorer OS mapping scales for PC and Windows mobile devices. It is extremely easy to use while offering everything you need to plan and draw routes, highlight places of interest – and print out your own personalised map or transfer to and from GPS receivers. For schools, Quo2’s greatest asset is undoubtedly its complete flexibility over downloads. Typically education users will purchase the Quo2 GB package, then buy the 1:25,000 mapping tile by tile, as they need it. The minimum purchase is only £12 so it won’t break the bank.

Utilitarian, but friendly software

One of the cheapest available licensed OS maps on the market, Quo2 also offers features that the others do not. For example, the ability to compare route profiles (such as the nature of the ground and weather conditions), the option to display the chosen route in Google Earth 3D view, direct links to Walking World and being able to manage content.

Overall, there’s not much to choose between Memory-Map and Quo2, however, in mapping terms when it comes to price-per-km, Quo2 is a clear winner. For education users, I would thoroughly recommend Quo2 as a utilitarian, but "friendly" OS mapping software offering affordable OS maps. Oh, and the cost of Quo2? The application itself is FREE!

Given the choice, I'm sure we would all prefer to use the OS Explorer maps at 1:25,000 scale and the OS’s copyright fees reflect this popularity. Overall, the cost of 1:50,000 Landranger maps is quite reasonable. It is probably a good idea for education institutions to purchase the whole GB in 1:50,000 mapping (cost from £100 to £200) and then just purchase the 1:25,000 mapping for the area of specific interest (purchasing the whole of GB at this scale costs a prohibitive £1,800 or so!).

When it comes to choosing between the different mapping software on offer the issues are not the maps – they all offer the same OS mapping content – but usability, cost and easy access to the popular 1:25,000 mapping.  Do your research because prices vary widely and compare prices between mapping companies by checking out the price quoted per km2.

Copyright rules for reproducing Ordnance Survey mapping

Local authority funded, aided or financially supported schools are covered by the copyright licence held by the local authority with Ordnance Survey.  This enables them to:

  • Acquire paper maps from anylocal authority;
  • Acquire digital mapping supplied to any local authority by Ordnance Survey under their Mapping ServiceAgreement;
  • Acquire other digital data, purchased by your own local authority from Ordnance Survey in addition to the Service Level Agreement;
  • Use digital data acquired in a computer system;
  • Copy any mapping the school has purchased, or acquired from any local authority, for all internal requirements;
  • Allow individual students to request a copy of a map directly from the local authority for a school project provided that a letter of authority from the school is presented with the request, and the copy remains the property of the school and not the student;
  • You may include a location map in a prospectus or magazine sold or distributed outside the school;
  • Local authority schools can use mapping on their websites, however they need to be aware of the terms and conditions. Therefore we advise they contact the appropriate local authority for details.

The Mapping Service Agreement includes:

  • Ordnance Survey Mastermap - Topography layer
  • Ordnance Survey Mastermap - Integrated Transport NetworkTM
  • 1:250,000 Scale Colour Raster data
  • 1:10,000 Scale Raster data
  • 1:50,000 Scale Colour Raster data
  • Code - Point ®
  • Code - Point polygons
  • Boundary-LineTM
  • OS Street View®
Bett 2010 logo


BETT 2010
January 13-16, Olympia, London
A useful starting point for information about geography products and services at BETT is the stand of the Geographical Association (Q42-2)

More information

Ordnance Survey - Stand E56

In Part 2 of Geography@BETT we’ll take a detailed look at Quo2 mapping software. In Geography@BETT 3 we'll look at GPS devices

Chris DrageChris Drage is a CISCO Regional Academy Manager and an adviser and trainer with Central Brent Education Improvement Partnership. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia: Atlas Turned to Stone (1882) by Edward Burne-Jones