By Chris Drage
With the ability to mark and save routes, tracks and waypoints, check its length, the completion time and even look at the profile of the gradients along the route, there are no unexpected dead ends or village-pond duckings with digital mapping software.
Instead they bring a new dimension to geography lessons and topics, including mapping skills, settlement, tourism, topography, coasts and land use. No other software can give you a proper Ordnance Survey (OS) map on your computer screen or mobile device and allow you to draw routes, highlight places and make notes without ruining the original.
Customisation has never been so easy and Quo2, with its vast array of colours, text and transparency levels for route planning and annotation, is ideally suited for education. Available for all levels whether you’re interested in adding to your resources in the geography department of a secondary school or college or run Duke of Edinburgh awards or whether you are simply a primary school interested in giving children a visualisation of the walks they will undertake during a school outing or field trip. There’s definitely something for everyone.
Quo2’s first and most obvious attribute is that the application is completely free – you only pay for the maps you wish to use. Once you have the map data you require, you can begin planning the route, establishing waypoints and print out the result on your own printer for each and every excursion. (The full Quo2 application is downloaded from Mapyx who will be on the Software2 stand at BETT 2010 - U29.)
Once you have installed the software you are ready to purchase whatever mapping data you require, and here Mapyx wins hands down over its competitors in that OS digital maps are much more reasonable purchased through Mapyx than from other sources. Although 1:25,000 Explorer maps look very inviting, you are best advised to purchase a set of ‘tiles' to suit your specific area of interest – at around £12 for six. OS Landranger 1:50,000 series will probably suit all your needs and these are far more cost effective.
A simple click to explore waypoints and escape routes
Using Quo2 to create a route is very simple indeed. You just click on the ‘Route’ button at the top and click to place your waypoints. To end the route, just right-click at the last waypoint. Having done this, most of the functions you need are available by hovering over the route and right clicking. From the sub-menu that pops up you can print out the map, create a route card and export the route to a file, GPS or mobile device. The map printing and route card functions are clearly laid out and work well, while transfer to GPS is again simplicity itself.
Quo2 gathers overlay items like routes and waypoints into ‘Projects’. This allows you to create a set of waypoints, for instance, to go with a route or a set of routes and save them off easily as a group, a useful feature if you are in the habit of creating additional waypoints for escape routes, points of interest or landmarks you might want to add in on the day. All these items can be managed by clicking the ‘Explore’ button in the menu bar. This opens up a box in which all your saved overlays can be viewed and manipulated.
One difference between Quo2 and applications like Memory-Map and Anquet is that the former encourages you to work with sets of waypoints. It is very simple to make a waypoint set into a route within Quo2. You simply create an empty route and drag the waypoint set on to it in the Explore panel. The advantage of this method is that the waypoints are automatically numbered (Route1, Route 2 and so on) but through Explorer these can be changed to something more meaningful.
A very useful function if you want to have a tidy set of uniquely named waypoints to transfer to your GPS or if the receiver has limits on the number of characters. With other applications this can only be done one at a time. Although the waypoints are numbered sequentially in the Quo2 system you can pick and rename at random. For example giving a junction of pathways it’s own name.
The 3D ‘fly-throughs’ that learners will love
Other features I particularly like are the ability to zoom in and out from a location and see the mapping change automatically to one of an appropriate scale. This saves you the trouble of changing the map when looking at a wider area and changing it back as you zoom in to work in detail on a route. Similarly I like the fact that many file formats are supported. Single buttons bring up clear options to import or export to file, GPS or a mobile device.
The online purchase of new maps is also very straightforward. Click the ‘Tile Shop’ button on the menu bar and then select the scale of mapping you require. The tiles you can buy are overlaid over the map you are looking at in the application and you can click to select them. If you have a route plotted, this makes it very easy to see whether you have the right tiles. Once chosen the price of your purchase is displayed and a single button press takes you straight into the online shop to make payment and download the map tiles. Compared with other digital mapping applications these bundles are great value.
I am a sucker for 3D ‘fly-throughs’ and Quo2’s ability to open a view in Google Earth in 3D and allow you to pan and zoom to check out the route and topology is something I am sure all learners will love. Quo2 is not perfect by any means (it's also a Windows-only product) but it does what it purports to do very well. Mapyx is a clearly a company that listens to users and delivers what they really want. Thoroughly recommended!
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 4
Value for money 5
Mapping software for Windows computers, freely downloadable (charges for maps)
Software2 (Mapyx) – Stand U29
Ordnance Survey – Stand E56