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Bob Thurston brought up another topic on his thread about GPS, so I thought it deserved a thread of its own.

Bob Thurston wrote:

"Thanks folks, I really appreciate getting that advice about gps devices. I just bit the bullet and ordered a gpsmap csx, like Mark's. I'm hoping that the elevation works better than what Mark said but I don't have any great expectations about this.
I really enjoyed seeing folks at the rrtc meeting, and I found Duane's presentation inspiring. I'm hoping to delve into some of that computer mapping during these quieter winter months. In a roundabout way this prompts another question-- since my wife pretty much monopolizes our desktop computer these days I will have to get a computer. The question is, are these mapping and drawing programs easier on PC's or on macs? And: how much memory should I be sure to have?"
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In my experience, Google Earth and all of the online mapping tools work equally well on the PC and the Mac.

For drawing maps, Laurent Lacroix steered me towards EasyDraw for the Mac. It is pretty intuitive and you can buy a fully functional trial license for $20 that lasts a year I think. It gives you a good opportunity to try it out for very little money. The permanent license is $60 or $70.
Google Earth also has a (Tools > Ruler) measuring tool which makes it easy to determine the straight-line distance between points, e.g., between start and finish on a course.

I also use it to determine the elevations for points along a course. The elevation shows up in meters at the bottom of the screen as you move the mouse pointer along the course.

For drawing maps, I use a Mac with Freehand. It more functional and easier to use, but the down side is the $399 license fee.
I have an older version of the same GPS. I purchased the Topo Canada maps and am very pleased with them. As well as the Topo data they have excellent road data and routing capability. One thing I like when measuring is to be able to see upcoming curves and corners even if they are hidden from my line of sight. I assume that the US Topo maps are similar.
I also bought my 60cxs a few years ago and purchased the City Navigator maps. Very detailed road information. The maps also include information about businesses. I have not updated the maps since I first bought them 4 or 5 years ago (since it is not free). While driving we will occasionally run into a disagreement between the maps and the roads, but this has never happened when measuring a course. I think most road/name changes are on highways and main roads, not on local roads where most races are held.

On an unrelated note, one of our pet peeves with the navigation part of the Garmin software is that when you are traveling and ask it to show restaurants for example, it shows the ones behind, as well as in front of you. Does it really think we care about the restaurants behind us? We can't find any way to change this. Does this happen with other GPS devices people have?
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Thanks for the quick replies! In the meantime I went ahead and ordered the City Navigator ("lower 49 states") and also the topo map for southeast US. I guess it's extravagant but it sounded like that would be the best way to have good information about streets and also about off-road areas. I'll have to be sure to dig up some woodsy courses to measure to justify this, but anyway I should be in a position to compare the 2 kinds of map.
Mark, what if it's a really good restaurant, would you go back for that? They could use that in promotions, if so ("gps users turn around to get here . . .")
If you're cheap as I am, you might want to get the free software from that includes OpenOffice Draw that can be used to draw maps.

Here are some of its features:

You can establish numerous "layers" such as a base map of an area used for numerous courses and other layers for the information specific to the different courses.

You can use a JPEG image, or a screenshot, as a base layer that you can draw on top of. You can incorporate the image in your map, or make it invisible in your final product.

You can draw near-unlimited detail by using View/Zoom to effectively work at great magnifications.

You can export your final product as an easily shareable PDF or JPEG file.

I'm convinced a more graphically talented person could do a much better job, but you can look a one of the maps I made with OpenOffice Draw at

The package of software that includes the drawing program also includes a spreadsheet program that seems to do everything that Excel does, including math with time.

If you have questions, you can contact me at
In reference to Mark Neal's question above, I draw each side of the road separately. Maybe there's a way to draw both sides of the road at the same time, but I've not found it. You might be able to draw one thick dark line for the whole road, and then use a light line within the dark line for the measured route. I think Jim Gerweck experimented with that approach, using different software.
I use Adobe Illustrator. The "layers" feature allows creating a layer of "black roads" traced from the Google map on the layer below. These "black roads" can be copied to a layer above and made white and thinner. This produces roads with two edges and all intersections.

Correl Draw has a feature that produces a two-edged road on a single layer.

Both these are fairly expensive software packages used by graphic artists. However, older versions can be found on eBay much cheaper.

The disadvantage I've found with these software is that with all the available features, maps can become pretty complicated and therefore take longer to produce. This, of course is not a software problem.
I also use Illustrator and the key feature for me is it's ability to apply a style to a layer. I created a "road" style with a wide black line under a slightly narrower white line. After creating my road network I apply the style to the layer and like manic all the intersections are joined together without overlapping lines.
Those are great tips. This is a very valuable discussion. Only through this forum and emailing you folks for tips at looking at your maps and sharing files did I figure this stuff out. Some of it better than others. I am just starting to feel like I can make a map pretty quickly now after years. The measurement video is great but I think a map video would save all you regional certifiers a ton of headaches. How about a Youtube? You guys don't get any bad maps to certify do you Wink.

My presentation was mostly showing the different layers I add to Illustrator, in the order I do it. There wasn't a lot of time, so it was a very brief presentation. And, without Illustrator, you couldn't open the main feature of the presentation.

I like Illustrator for many reasons. I wish I had a true "presentation", but without someone having Illustrator, a presentation may not be worth much. It is a hands-on learning experience.
I have recently learned that Adobe is no longer supporting FreeHand, which it got when purchasing Macromedia several years ago to gain possession of Flash. Therefore it will not run on later versions of the Mac OS.
I suppose I will have to figure out how to make my maps using Illustrator now. One thing I like about Freehand was its "Clone" command - I could draw a black line, clone it, change to a thinner white line, and get a road. Clone once more and change to a dotted line, and voila, the running route.
My problem is with my older existing maps. I'm afraid I'm going to have to keep my older iMac just to access them.
Ah, the price of progress.
I'm still using power point from microsoft office to do my maps. I work with my 2003 version, but will be testing the 2010 version this summer. It convert to all later power point versions, and I can do all kinds of pasting into the presentation. I bring a google map picture in and draw my roads by copying. I then delete the google map. I don't have a cool feature for making two sided roads at one time, but copy and paste works great. City blocks are easy with inserting rectangles and leaving space between. I like that I can draw in a larger area than the sheet below, and then resize it. It also will zoom in and out, great for drawing the detail, and then seeing the whole sheet after for the look of the composition. If the map is readable at 75% on the computer screen, it will be extremely readable for most eyes on the paper. I can save this to many different formats. I also insert new slides to draw secondary maps for my race director.

I would love to see some hands-on work with some of the other softwares out there. I'm always looking for ways to make things faster and better.

One important feature that is not available in Powerpoint (even the 2010 version) that many other drawing programs have is layers.

With this feature you can put the background map on a layer by itself and then make that layer visible but locked. This will make the background map unselectable, so it makes it easier to work. When you're done you can make the background map invisible rather than delete it, and it will still be there if you need it. Once you get accustomed to working with layers you'll see how much easier it makes many things.

One drawing program with layers that is free is OpenOffice. At my website below there is a link to download OpenOffice, map examples, and tutorials.
You are right, Mark. Layers make the difference in creating digital maps. Yet, as Guido says, Corel Draw has a handy feature (not easy to find how to do in the help index)wherein you draw your roads in wide black lines, combine them, copy them in place, then change the copied roads - which are now "on top" of the original roads - to white lines, slightly narrower. Voila - all roads look good whether straight or curved. A couple of examples:Capitol Hill Classic 10K Course Map Capitol Hill Classic 3K Certification Course Map. This is essentially the same technique that Paul uses in Illustrator.

Corel Draw and Illustrator (highly comparable programs) do have a steep learning curve for beginners. Some day, if there is sufficient interest nationwide, I recommend RRTC look into getting a company license for either of these programs or both. We would provide individual seats to measurers for a reasonable fee. We could conduct on line classes which cover both the Corel/Illustrator basics and a customized course on map drawing. Certainly Duane, Paul, Guido and others in RRTC could contribute to the curriculum.
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Lyman, FreeHand has the same capability - it has a "Clone" feature which I haven't seen on Illustrator (not familiar w/ Corel). Trace a scan or satellite photo of a road in 12 point black line. Clone, change to 10 point white. Clone again, change to dotted red w/ arrowheads. In about 15 seconds you've created your roads and the running route w/ about half a dozen keystrokes.
Jim - Illustrator has the Clone capability. Simply copy the "black road" line, paste-in-place (keystroke) on a new layer, and you then reduce the line weight, changed to white. Same simple steps you indicate. Oh, yes - "simple steps" if one knows the program well, as with all drawing applications.

All can do the same process, and as Mark says, Open Office is free.
DO NOT upgrade your Mac to OS-X Mountain Lion if you're using Freehand for your maps. With the latest version of the OS-X, Apple has abandoned support for Power PC applications, which leaves Freehand un-supported. I suspect that there may be others too that will not work with this release. Check before you invest your time and money.

I installed Mountain Lion this morning, and had to erase my hard disk and restore my latest backup (time machine) to be able to use Freehand. I'm a bit disappointed in Apple. I'm sure it Steve Jobs were still alive...
Ron, don't blame Apple completely - Adobe is partly responsible. When they bought Macromedia they phased out support for FreeHand, to migrate users over to Illustrator. I have only used Illustrator for maps a few times so I don't know if it's as good as FreeHand, but I'm expecting that I'll have to keep my old Power PC Mac just for FreeHand use, just as I have a first-generation iMac to run Raceberry JaM race scoring software on OS 9. Confused
Freehand is a vector drawing program. From what I can see on the web, Gimp manipulates jpg types of graphics and doesn't offer the tools needed to produce maps from scratch.

This is a bit off-topic, but the only reason I considered updating to Mountain Lion was to enable Apple TV. Then after purchasing the upgrade, I learned that it wouldn't work for older MacBook Pros (2011 and earlier). But, I bought the update so I installed anyway. Shame on me for trusting Apple and not thoroughly investigating. Shame on Apple for advertising this release with AirPlay as a feature and not highlighting the caveats.

I still love Apple products, but not as intensely.

Have you explored any new (supported) vector drawing programs for your Mac in preparation for when Freehand becomes un-usable? You know the day is coming.

I'm thinking that I'll start practicing with OpenOffice to acquire some skill (speed) with using their drawing tools. I've looked at them and they certainly aren't as elegant as Freehand, but then, it's free.

I've been on vacation with the family the past few days without (intentionally) a connected device.

I started looking into OpenOffice as an easy-to-use and free app that people could use to draw maps electronically for the first time. There's no doubt there are other drawing programs that have nicer drawing features, but three features of OpenOffice that are tough to beat include:
1) Price (free)
2) Learning curve (with the exception of the curve tool)
3) Stability (open source code which no one owns but which is supported by many)

I have map templates and tutorials at

Keep in mind that the intended audience for the above tutorials is an electronic map beginner.

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