Monday, April 28, 2014

Creating GPS Tracks Tutorial - Drawing with Google Maps

In my constant hunt for GPS maps I have realized that most people don't know how to use GPS maps and map software. So I will be doing a couple of tutorials over the next while which will hopefully help those of you who would like to submit maps but don't know how.

For this first tutorial, I will show you one of the most basic methods of creating a track using Google Maps. The neat thing about this one is that you don't even have to have been on these trails to draw a track.

Let's define what a GPS track is. Simply put, a GPS track is a method used to track a route on a map. Most handheld GPS's have the ability to create a track, it takes coordinates at regular intervals and then connects those coordinates with a line. Think of it like connect the dots. We are going to create and connect the dots manually, using Google Maps. The downside of this method is that you need to be able to see the trail on Google Maps. If you can't this method can still be used but it will not be as accurate.

Here is my Google Map I use to mark trails and places I would like to visit

Getting Started

1. Your will need a Google account, if you have Gmail that will work, click on this link:

2. Once signed in you should have a screen that looks like this:

Along the left are the saved maps I have created, also a red button that says "Create Map". Underneath the button it says "Or create with classic My Maps", this is the option we are going to use as I am more familiar with the classic view.

3. You can now name your map if you so choose in the title field.

In the upper left hand side of the screen you now have three buttons that you do not normally have on a Google map as highlighted in red on the above picture. The first is the hand, that will allow you to easily navigate with your mouse and move the screen. The second is "Add Placemark" tool, this will allow you to drop a pin on the the map that can be seen at any zoom, very handy for marking areas you would like to ride. The third is the "Draw Line" button, which is the main tool we will be focusing on.

4. Now zoom into an area that you know has clearly visible trails. I am going to use the Ottopasso Trails South of Saskatoon on the Chief Whitecap Trail (the highway that takes you to the Dakota Dunes Casino).

5. When you have the "Draw Line" function selected and your move over the map you get a dialog box that says "Click to start drawing a line". You can now start to place your "dots" on the map.

6.I am using the south East practice track at Ottopasso to draw my track. Each click will leave a white box and will connect you to another line. To make intricate curved lines you will need to use multiple dots, use as many as needed, there is no need to conserve.

To end your line, click the last point (your mouse will turn to a "finger" when you are directly above the last point) or the first point which will create a circle. When completed and you click done it should look similar to this

7. Now that you have your tracks drawn in you can share the tracks you just created, make sure the map is marked "Public", if it is you can send a link to your map by using the "Collaborate" button and emailing it.

What I will usually do with my track at this point is to export it to Every Trail ( To do this, go back to your main Google "My Places" screen, click on the map you just created and you will see a link that says "KML" in the summary bar on the left (see picture below). This will export your track to a KML format, save that file somewhere you can find it and import it into EveryTrail. I will have a tutorial soon for importing into Every Trail.