I love maps. Besides being useful in many many situations, they are also beautiful just to look at them. Maps can display and classify our rather chaotic world, I guess that’s what I like the most about maps. Also, being an IT professional, it is also a lot of fun to mess around with interactive maps and geographic data in general. I will try to use a lot of maps in my upcoming blog posts.
Maps for traveling
Everybody who travels knows that maps are important to navigate through places one does not know. Thanks to smartphones and Google, everybody carries a quite accurate map always and everywhere – provided there is a decent data connection available. And that’s where it gets tricky when traveling abroad. Fast data connections might be available, but due to possibly incredibly high roaming fees, it is not always a good idea to use Google Maps. I’m quite aware that Google recently introduced offline maps, but I think that there is an even cooler solution to this: OsmAnd
Before I get more into OsmAnd, just a few words about the OpenStreetMap project. The data set underlying most maps we use day by day is owned by some kind of organization, which restricts the way how we use and share the map data. The OpenStreetMap aims to create a global map where the data is public domain, meaning it is owned by the public. Everybody can use the data for free, for private and commercial purposes, and even edit map data. This approach is very similar to the Wikipedia project. So, why am I talking about OpenStreetMap?
OsmAnd is an App for Android and Apple smartphones where the primary function is displaying OpenStreetMap maps on a smartphone or tablet, similar to Google Maps. The best feature though is the fact, that you can download OpenStreetMap data from each individual country in the world, including Guatemala.
It also has many other useful features, such as navigation functionality, and track recording. Track recording is not only useful for assessing the effort of a hike for example, I also use it to geotag the pictures that I’ve taken. There is also a contour and hillshade plugin available, which helps displaying topographic features. You can even download Wikipedia excerpts in order to get information of certain places.
The basic version of OsmAnd is available free of charge, but there is a limitation of how many offline maps you can have. If you want to use OsmAnd without these limitations, a small, but reasonable fee applies. You can always try out the free version and decide whether you like it or not. Let me know what you think!