View Maps from TOPO! on Your IPhone or IPod Touch

This work around will enable you to view clipped maps from TOPO! on your IPhone or IPod Touch utilizing the built in Safari web browser. It’s a very simple process – yet does have some limitations, namely that you must be online to view the map as both the IPhone and the ITouch have “spotty” web caching when trying to view a webpage off network. In the near future I’ll be posting a more complex solution that will require you to “jailbreak” your device giving you read/write access to the file structure, but in turn will allow you to load TOPO! created maps on to the hard drive. Should this sound a bit sketchy – you can always wait until early 2008 when Apple will release the installer application to third-party developers to add new applications.

The Work Around:

Step One: Create an account with a web based file service. There are a variety of free sites now promoting the feature to post PDFs and other files and images for you to later access from your mobile device – the least of which is Google. My personal favorite due to its simplicity is Readdle.com. Readdle provides you up to 100mb of free online file storage and supports a variety of formats including PDF. Plus if you’re into books – they have a free library of public domain classics like Shakespeare and Conan Doyle.

Step Two: Launch TOPO! and navigate to the map you wish to view on your IPhone/Itouch. In my example I clipped all of Rocky Mountain National Park in the most detailed TOPO! layer.

Step Three: Should you wish to clip a large map – as in my example all of Rocky Mountain National Park, navigate to the TOPO Preferences and change your print preferences to the page size you desire. I created a custom page size of 20” by 20” for my map, which is the largest custom size you can clip for PDF. Note – the larger the map the bigger the file. I haven’t crashed Safari with a large map yet – but it takes a while to load if the WiFi network you’re on is slow.

Step Four: Use the print/ selection tool and define your selection area. With a large map, you might find it beneficial to zoom out to level 3 or 4 to start. By defining the boundaries here and then zooming in to level 5 to clip you gain better perspective then trying to scroll around at the detail level . If you follow this tip be sure to zoom into the final level you wish to clip from – for if you save the map while on Level 3 for example you will end up with that map image, not the detail from level 5.

(The images below show defining the map area on level 3 and then exporting on level 5)

Step Five: Save the map to disk. Using the Macintosh you can save the map directly as a PDF which is my preferred image. On a PC save the map as a high resolution JPEG or GIFF. If you have a PDF file converter I’d recommend the extra step of converting the graphic file to PDF, but you can post JPEGs and GIFs to Readdle too.

Step Six: Login in to your newly created Readdle account and upload your clipped map image.

Step Seven: Start your IPhone/ ITouch, obtain WiFi access, and launch Safari. Then simply navigate to Readdle.com and you’ll find a very simple, optimized browser window. Here you should be able to find your uploaded map. Simply open and enjoy!

Parting Thoughts:

· I’ve had periods of time when Safari has cached my uploaded TOPO! map, allowing me to access it while not on a WiFi network. I’m not certain what the parameters are yet – or how to force it to cache – but I’d recommend experimenting with map size. Obviously keeping the map visible when not online is preferred.

· I’ll be posting a more detailed workaround that will allow you to load maps on to your IPhone or IPod Touch in the next week. This will require you to “Jailbreak” your device.

· Experiment with loading different types of maps. Remember that TOPO! covers metro areas too! I created a file in TOPO! highlighting my favorite watering holes, then uploaded that to my ITouch. As more and more coffee shops and bars have free WiFi it came in handy to quickly check the location of the next stop in an evening’s pub crawl.


ElphabaNorthWest said...

It looks like there are now a few integrated topo apps for the iphone. One that looks promising...


It is not cheap, but seems to have the seemless functionality of a real hiker gps.

cynic said...

Here's a link to another one:


full disclosure: I wrote this app.

Hope you find it useful.