National Atlas and National Map changes

The USGS has announced that the National Atlas will be taken out of service as of September 30, 2014. According to the detailed product availability information, much of the data will be available via the to-be-enhanced National Map system, or as data downloads "at no cost from Earth Explorer".

This transition appears to be mostly a resource realignment (basically reducing the number of sources and web sites they need to maintain.

In addition, the USGS has also announced that "[L]ater this year we will deliver these new framework datasets at one million-scale: networked hydrography, updated streams and waterbodies, streamflow gaging stations, cities and towns, Federal lands, Indian lands, wilderness areas, and urban areas."

For those of you who are using USGS WFS and WMS services, based on the National Atlas, be warned that the services will be taken away September 30, 2014, but that the USGS is " currently evaluating options for continuing small-scale Web services beyond September 30, 2014, and will provide updates here."

Using CartoMobile to Enhance Historic Sites

The United States National Park Service maintains and controls more than 84.4 million acres of park land in the United States. Much of the land is historical in nature and has been preserved for future generations to enjoy and learn about the various parks. The use of the parks is as varied as the many historical and ecological characteristics that define each unique location. One of the most popular types of parks within the United States are National Military Parks. These parks are typically located on the sites of famous battlefields and other important historical and strategic locations around the country. Among the popular locations for park visitors is the National Military Park at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was the location of one of the most important battles during the U.S. Civil War. The battle lasted three days and there were approximately 53,000 casualties combined. Gettysburg is also the location where Abraham Lincoln gave his most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address. Due to the significance of the battle the Gettysburg National Military Park hosts more than one million visitors per year as they take in the natural beauty of South-Central Pennsylvania and attempt to understand the military and historical significance of the battlefield. 

Having personally been to Gettysburg I can attest to the fact that the battlefield is quite large, and has a wide range of positions that are challenging to understand. This is especially true when you want to know where specific units and specific generals were located on the battlefield. The National Park Service has constructed monuments to give some idea about the locations of various units, but I think we can make the location awareness even better. In the following example, we highlight the ways in which Cartographica's and CartoMobile can be used to improve location awareness in the field. 

The process that is to be described involves a number of steps that we can summarize here.

  1. Locate a map of the positions of both armies. The image can be found by performing a Google search. To streamline the process I decided to only create layers for the infamous Pickett's charge that occurred on the third and final day of the battle. The map I used can be downloaded on the Pickett's Charge Wikipedia page
  2. Georeference the army position map using Cartographica. To georeference the image I used Cartographica's powerful suit of raster tools. To view the process for georeferencing an image check out the following links: Georeferencing Cold War Images, How to georeference images with Cartographica. The process for georeferencing begins by importing a raster image by choosing File > Import Raster Data, and then choosing Edit > Georeference Image
  3. Use the georeferenced image to create a polygon layer. In this step the goal is to use the georeferenced raster image to help draw new polygons in vector format. To draw new polygons first add a new layer by choosing Layer > New Layer. Next choose Edit > Add Feature. You will be prompted to select a layer type, select Polygon. At this point you can begin drawing new polygons by control clicking to add ground control points. The first image below shows the georeferenced Pickett's charge image. 

    The next image shows the new polygon being drawn.

    Note: when you look at the map there are a lot of individual units to draw. To make this process easier you can use Edit > Duplicate to quickly create an identical feature on the same layer. This allows you to quickly duplicate the first polygon you have drawn and simply drag it to the next unit position. For more information on adding features check out the following blog post, streamlining workflow when adding features. 
    The final unit position map (Note: the map below already has attribute data added, which is discussed next).
  4. Enhance the new polygon layers with additional attribute data. In the map above additional attribute data has already been added. Those attributes are the commander, unit size, and casualties of each unit during the battle. This step took a little additional research into what the units at the battle were comprised of. In general, my layers are estimates based on information about unit size, and casualties. Please do not take the numbers here as fact. Much more research is required to be more confident that these numbers are correct. To add a new variable/attribute  choose Layer > Add Column. Next, you can manually enter each unit commander name by typing within the Data Viewer. In my quick research I found that brigades (the army units in the map) were comprised of about 1000 soldiers. Also I found that the Confederates lost approximately 50% of their soldiers during Pickett's charge, based on those number I created the Unit Size and Casualties attributes. 
  5. Export the new polygon layers as shapefiles by choosing File > Export Layer's Features. Save the files to a desired location. 
  6. Use iTunes to add the new army position shapefiles to your iPhone. Open iTunes and sync your iPhone. Go to Apps and click on Cartographica. At the bottom, under File Sharing, click Add and then add the new polygon layers showing the army units. The image below shows what the iTunes set up should look like. (Note, Sallie the Christmas dog at the top!)
  7. Open the new shapefile in CartoMobile for quick reference while visiting the battlefield. See the images below.

Cartographica 1.4 and beyond

At ClueTrust, we're proud and excited to deliver version 1.4 of Cartographica into the hands of our customers.

This has been a long journey from the last major feature release to this one, and although we have added a lot of new functionality to the software and made many improvements, it became clear to us months ago that something was going to have to change for us to be more responsive to the needs of the market and our customers.

To that end, we have been bolstering our automated testing capabilities, enhancing our hands-on testing regime, and changing how we track and execute changes in order to reduce internal dependencies and ensure software quality while shipping enhancements more frequently.

We appreciate the patience that you have shown as we have gone through this transition, and we're excited to be able to move towards a more agile delivery schedule.

As we do so, we encourage all of our customers to use the Feature Requests section of our support site to provide us with ideas for features or enhancements.   We read it regularly and use it to gauge the interest in individual requests.

Going forward, we are setting a goal to release features every 6-8 weeks, and bug fixes between times as necessary.

Thanks again for being patient with us during this transition and we look forward to delivering an even better experience as time goes on.

Using MapQuest satellite imagery

MapQuest has recently made available, through information on their developer website, access to their tile servers for OpenStreetMap-style tiles of satellite imagery (mostly from government sources) and their street databases.   Because both CartoMobile and Cartographica support customized OpenStreetMap-style tile sources, you can now add these to your maps.

Cartographica Desktop

  1. Within an existing mapset, add a new live layer by choosing File > Add Live Map…
  2. Choose Other OpenStreet Map Server:  from the list of sources
  3. Type the following into the URL box:
  4. Click Add

A new layer named OpenStreetMap Live will appear in the layer stack, and you're ready to go.


  1. Create a new map or edit an existing map using Change Map in the gear menu
  2. Tap Add Custom OSM Server to add the new Base Map
  3. Type a label in the Layer Label box
  4. Type the following into the URL box:
  5. Tap Done

Once you have re-entered the map in CartoMobile, you can use the Base Map by choosing it from the Base Maps list in the Gear menu.

Credit where it is due

MapQuest provides these tiles from a few different sources, mostly the US government and some from the Japanese space agency.

Tiles Courtesy of MapQuest

CartoMobile: Your data in your hands

There are a lot of mobile mapping applications for iOS, and even with that as a backdrop, we decided to develop and release CartoMobile because we saw a place for a sophisticated and easy-to-use App for creating and accessing your geospatial data from anywhere.

We're often asked what sets CartoMobile apart from other mapping Apps for iOS. Basically, we believe that you should be able to have easy access to your data on the go. Here's how we have done this:

  • No Need to Import/Export — CartoMobile handles shapefiles and raster files directly. There's no need to do any coordinate translation, format conversion, server uploads, or transcoding. Copy your shapefiles (remember to include the .prj, .shx, and .dbf as well as .shp) using iTunes and then start CartoMobile and add the shapefile to a new or existing configuration. And the data is always up-to-date, so you can grab your shapefiles right off of the device without needing to click Export anywhere.

  • Built-in Form Editor — We think you should be able to make changes to your forms and files right from your iOS device, so slip into the editor in CartoMobile and you can make changes directly to the configuration. Add new options to a choice list, add a new field, change labels. There's no reason to wait until you get back to your computer.

  • Favorite Fields — There are a lot of fields in some shape files. CartoMobile is happy not to display fields which are in the shapefile, but not in the configuration, but that's often still too much. When you are out in the field, it's likely that you just want to look at a few pieces of data at a glance, but might want to see more when necessary. CartoMobile achieves this with Favorite Fields, which can be modified in the field as desired to limit the visible fields. Need to see the rest? Just toggle between all and favorites. Want to change the favorite status? Just tap and hold on a field and toggle the little heart icon.

  • Raster Image support — CartoMobile has extensive support for raster imagery using MrSID®, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, and ECW file formats. As long as your files have been georeferenced (which can be done with "sidecar" files, or directly in many formats), CartoMobile will automatically understand and display these once you select them as a Base Map. This is great for working where network service isn't available or where specialized imagery is necessary.

  • Pervasive CRS support — CartoMobile supports a large variety of Coordinate Reference Systems (CRS, or often, projections). By using .prj files, CartoMobile can be told to interpret and create data in any of the supported systems. For those who are working in environments where linear coordinate systems are the norm, this means you can add a shapefile with an appropriate .prj file and all of the additional data added by users will also be in that CRS. CartoMobile will take care of chaning between CRS (including shifting datums) in real-time and without user intervention. Raster files are also supported, so there is no need to change the CRS before loading them.

In the coming weeks, we'll continue to describe some of the key features and benefits of CartoMobile for customers with sophisticated needs. The iPad and iPhone are great devices for field data entry and we are happy to provide support for these innovative products in our line.

CartoMobile 1.2 released with MrSID® and more

Today, we're pleased to announce that CartoMobile® 1.2 has hit the AppStore with a number of new features and a bunch of bug fixes and usability tweaks.   

The biggest advance in 1.2 is the addition of MrSID and JPEG2000 image formats for Raster Imagery.   This adds to our already robust selections of: TIFF, GeoTIFF, JPEG, and ECW, to create a very complete selection of image formats for offline access.    As with previous formats, you can copy these directly to the device using iTunes and add them to your Map by choosing Import Raster Image.     To accompany this addition, we've added a new section to the documentation covering this, as well as clarifying some of the information about WFS and custom OpenStreetMap services.

Also included in CartoMobile 1.2:

  • Spanish localization now joins English and French language support
  • Shape file CRS (Projection) information is now saved in the configuration file, making it easier to create templates that use CRS other than WGS84 Lat/Long.   Now, if you import a shapefile with an existing .prj file in order to create a Map, the corresponding map configuration file (files ending with .c11amc) will now contain the CRS information and use it when creating new shapefiles on other devices.
  • Labels can now be changed for Raster, WMS, and OSM BaseMap layers
  • All BaseMap sources can now be edited, making it easier to debug problems with missing or incorrect layers in WMS, custom OSM layers, etc.
  • Raster Images can now carry their attributes in .aux files
  • Imagery resources have been updated to support the new iPad Retina Display
  • XML namespaces may now be specified in WFSLayer elements in confgiuration files, making it easier to handle some WFS servers
  • More robust error handling and reporting added in WFS and WMS layers
  • Line and Polygon types are now supported for adding in WFS servers


There have been a large number of bug fixes and a number of interface changes to make CartoMobile easier to use.    All told, we're really happy with how 1.2 came out and we hope you find it as satisfying an experience to work with as we do!

We would like to extend a special thanks to all of our testers and users who helped us with the testing and work on this version.   Please keep your comments and suggestions coming!