Platforms & software 2021

It is now over ten years since the CSIG volunteers started charting the inland waterways of Ireland.  The most frequent questions we are asked relate to hardware and software choices and how to install the charts.  So, here is our 2021 Guide explaining the options, the sequence in which the choices should be made, and some notes/advice from the Team’s experiences. 

To have access to the IWAI Charts, you need to register – see Member Login section.   

There are three main steps to be taken and choices to be made at each step, so here we go!

Step 1

The first thing to decide is what hardware platform you will be using for your charts and what device you will be using to receive GPS information. 

The three hardware choices are a Laptop (Windows or MacBook), a Tablet (iOS or Android), or a Smartphone (iOS or Android).  See Note1

GPS receivers do not come automatically with every hardware option.  Most Laptops do not have GPS; the most straightforward solution is a GPS USB dongle (example the G-Star IV model or similar) for about 30 euro, which will do the job nicely.  iOS Tablets (iPads) with SIM cards have GPS, so make sure your model has it.  Many Android Tablets do have GPS but check to make sure your particular Tablet has it.  Almost all providers of Smartphones (iOS and Android) have GPS built in.  See Note2

So, to summarise hardware choices

Windows Laptop, MacBook, Android Tablet, iPad, Android Phone, iPhone.  Need GPS receiver – built-in or a plug-in.  

Step 2

The second step is to decide on software – which navigation application you are going to use to display the Charts. Here again there are a number of choices.

Windows Laptops

For a Windows Laptop, you can choose Memory-Map, Cartograph Pro or OpenCPN.  See Note3

If using a GPS Receiver dongle is not an option (as described in Step 1), GPS can be installed on a Windows Laptop by creating a Virtual Port using the Franson GPSGate application or similar. 

MacBook

The choices for a Mac are Cartograph Pro or Guru Pro.  See Note3

Tablets and Smartphones

For iOS Tablets and Smartphones (iPads and iPhones) there is a choice of two applications, Guru Pro and Cartograph Pro. See Note3 and Note4

For Android Tablets and Smartphones there are a number of choices, but the main ones are Cartograph Pro and Locus Pro.  See Note 3 and Note5

In summary, software choices are: 

Windows Laptops – Memory-Map, OpenCPN, Cartograph Pro

MacBook – Guru Pro, Cartograph Pro

iPads and iPhones – Guru Pro, Cartograph Pro,

Android Tablets and Smartphones – Cartograph Pro, Locus Pro

Step 3 

Once you have set up the software on your preferred hardware and your registration has been approved, the next step is to go to the Member Login section on this website and download the Beta Charts.    

For Memory-Map you will be presented with four compressed ZIP files. When you download the four ZIP files to your Laptop, you need to unzip each of them by extracting into a second file. Make sure the location of your extracted files does not contain any of the original ZIP file.  You then point your Memory-Map application at this file.  As you build up personal information on your travels, (marks, tracks, videos, etc.) it will be stored in an Overlay File .mmo and you will have your Maps in the .oct files. 

OpenCPN, Cartograph, Guru and Locus, all store the maps in MBTiles format. 

Process:  Your first choice in the download process is Memory-Map or MBTiles, the next choice you make is Full or Lite, then you are asked to select which maps/charts you want – all together, Shannon, Erne, Canals (See Note6) – then select download.  Once the download is complete, you are asked to select OpenCPN, Cartograph, Guru or Locus.

Memory Map stores unzipped maps as .qct files on your Laptop, all other options are stored as MBTiles. 

Finally

That is it, I know it sounds complicated, and it can look daunting, but once you break it down into the various steps, it is really quite easy.

Choose your hardware platform, choose your navigation application, choose the charts you want, download and point the application to the chart.

Should you need help, contact charts-info@iwai.ie.

Have a great autumn cruising.

© Les Saunders Sep 2021

Notes

[Note1: The big advantage using a Laptop is that Memory Map, Cartograph and OpenCPN are feature rich, giving a full chartplotter feel to the chart. Nice little options such as adding hot buttons to videos or locations or marks etc are available and a nice feature I like is the look ahead where a red line is plotted ahead of your travel with the tail where you are and the point where you will be in a time dictated by you. I use 5 minutes, so I can estimate exactly how long I am going to be when going somewhere. Also, you can position the locator anywhere on the screen so you can see almost the whole screenful of data ahead of you in Memory Map and Cartograph, and two thirds of the screen ahead of you with OpenCPN.]

[Note2:  The disadvantage when using Smartphones is the size of the screen, especially as the Charts contain vast amounts of data.]

[Note3:  Memory-Map is a Raster (pixelated/bitmap) style application which in effect means there is only one picture which gets bigger or smaller as you zoom in or out. The Charts are available in Memory-Map at four levels, BaseMap, 2-Meter, 1-Meter and 50cm resolution. You can switch easily between these by using the buttons on the top of the chart display.
Cartograph Pro, GuruPro, Locus and OpenCPN are Vector-like where you zoom in to get more detail at each level; the Charts using these applications have 19 levels.]

[Note4: There is very little to choose between Cartograph Pro and Guru Pro.  The main difference being the position of buttons on the display and the size of those buttons. Cartograph Pro has very tiny buttons so is more suitable for the tablets, whereas Guru has big buttons but they do intrude on the screen. You can purchase non-Pro versions but you are likely to be interrupted by Ads etc. My choice is Cartograph Pro for the iPad and Guru Pro for the iPhone.]

[Note5: Locus Pro is the most commonly used application and gives an excellent chartplotter feel.]

[Note6: You can choose all the charts as one Lite chart or if you want just an individual chart, select the Shannon, or the Erne, or the Canals.  At 1.7Gb I prefer to take the whole lot in one go and you then have everywhere on the one chart.]