This article is only valid for versions of Memory Map prior to v6 – as the support for PDAs was removed in that version. This post is archived for legacy support purposes only and will not be updated in future.
This part of the parallel user’s guide covers the use of MM on a PDA device with an associated GPS card or device. The best way of experiencing digital Ordnance Survey mapping on the hills. This is a huge topic, but rather than cut it up into multiple pieces I’ve tried to get it out in one piece – so apologies for the size of the post, but hopefully you’ll find everything you need here, in one place. Email me if you think I’ve missed something.
Working with the PDA Version
So far we’ve been desk-bound with MM – tied to our desktop or laptop PC, stuck in the house. But MM also includes a PDA version – for Windows Mobile OS, which allows us to take both the maps we see on the PC and the routes and tracks we’ve created out into the hills.
The PDA, handheld computer, iPAQ or whatever you want to call it, needs to have a GPS installed or connected to it in some way, otherwise all you have is a paper map on a screen – it’s not a lot of use without the GPS telling you where you are on that map.
MM supports pretty much any Windows Mobile (PocketPC) PDA you can connect to your desktop PC through ActiveSync or Windows Mobile Device Centre as it’s called under Vista and Windows 7. I’ve personally only attached an iPAQ hx4700 an iPAQ 214 and an HTC HD2 mobile. I’ve used several versions of Windows (XP, Vista and Win7) and several versions of PocketPC (v5, v6 and v6.5) and all the combinations seem to work fine.
There is no officially supported PDA list from MM, but there is a statement somewhere to the effect that they support any Pocket PC device running Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003, Windows Mobile 5, Windows Mobile 6 and Windows Mobile 6.1.
If you browse the MM Support forum you will find what devices people are using successfully (and unsuccessfully) and this will help you narrow down what device to buy or try.
One important consideration is the lack of support for Windows Mobile 7 (now called Windows Phone 7). There may come a point in the near future when you can’t buy WM6 devices any more – and MM are unlikely to support WM7 any time soon – their focus at the moment is very much on the iPhone (something I may cover in another instalment – but at this point I don’t have the iPhone software). So I’m currently trying to decide whether to future proof myself by buying a “spare” WM6 device for the time when mine dies or fails.
The PDA version of the MM program is free – it comes with the PC version, whereas the iPhone version is a paid-for app – currently £20. This allows you to use all the maps you currently have for the desktop product, on the iPhone app. There is also a free iPhone app, but that doesn’t allow you to use your existing maps and you will need to buy any maps you want to use, from the on-line map store. A lot of development effort has gone into the iPhone version and this looks like their preferred mobile platform moving forward.
Unfortunately, the iPhone is a lot less flexible, reliable and rugged platform than a PDA and I for one would never feel comfortable relying on an iPhone for my navigation on the hills. The battery life alone precludes it from use as an all-day, always on navigation device.
My PDA, currently provides about 18 hours of continual use, plus I have a spare battery that provides another 10 hours. The iPhone will provide nothing like that.
Anyway, enough of the iPhone/PDA discussion, that’s for another time perhaps. The PDA version is what we’re talking about in this section.
Using the PDA as a GPS
This is my current PDA running MM. It’s an HP iPAQ 214 Enterprise Handheld. It runs Windows Mobile 6 and as the device doesn’t come with a GPS chip, I’ve had to add a GPS card, which sits in the Compact Flash slot in the PDA. I also have an SD card in the device, which holds all my maps, routes and tracklogs.
All told this cost me about £300 – three years ago, which compares favourably to a high end map-displaying GPS, but as I already have all the maps, there’s no extra cost involved there.
This particular PDA has a high-resolution screen that displays the maps in brilliant detail and I have a waterproof case to slide it into that still provides access to the screen and function buttons.
There are much cheaper devices on the market now, many with built in GPS chips, so shop around and see what you find.
For a good waterproof case – see this site: Aquapac – and the best size for a PDA on here, is the “Medium Whanganui”.
Mobile Device Menu Options
I’ll quickly run through how MM runs on the PDA and how we interact with it from the desktop PC.
First ensure that the PDA is connected to the PC and you can sync between the two using whatever sync software is appropriate to your version of Windows. Either Activesync or WMDevice Centre.
Use the Mobile Device > menu from the MM menu bar to access all the functions we need to interact with the PDA. You can install the PDA version from here – and it’s always a good idea to do it this way to ensure you have the same version on both the PC and PDA – otherwise routes and tracks may not work on both.
Send Map: allows you to send the whole of the current map to the PDA – a new dialog will open that asks you where on the PDA you wish to store the map. These can be quite big (the dialog tells you how big the file is going to be), so ideally they should go to the SD card you’re certainly going to need. I have a 16gb SD card in the PDA and this has more than enough room for all my maps and lots of space besides.
Send Visible Map Portion: allows you to send just the map you can see on the PC screen to the PDA – may be useful if you want just the area surrounding a route or a Mark – perhaps if you’re geocaching and you want the immediate surrounding area, but not the whole map.
Send All Placenames / Visible Placenames: Allows you to send the information you use to “Find” places on the map – so you can send the placename index to the PDA
Import Data from device: Will import anything currently in the memory of the PDA – visible and hidden – into the PC version of MM. If you’ve been out on the hills recording a tracklog, this is the way of getting the data back into your PC.
Export Data to device: this is the option we use to send all the data currently in the PC version to the PDA. Again, it sends everything currently in memory – visible and hidden – and this can be a huge amount of data if you’ve got a large overlay in memory. Use this option with caution. Your PDA can handle a lot less information (it’s a much smaller processor and will have less RAM) than your PC can, so a large overlay file will cause serious slowdowns.
Also bear in mind that this command overwrites anything currently in memory on the PDA, so if you haven’t saved the PDA memory data to an overlay file, it will get deleted and replaced with what you’re sending from the PC
MM on the PDA
Related to the point above, data in MM on the PDA is stored in the same way as on the PC, in a temp data file that will survive application closure, PDA power off and a soft reset. It’s always best to save any data you want to keep though, at the end of walk, just in case. In previous versions of the PDA app, you had to close MM carefully or you’d corrupt the temp data file and this has resulted in me always saving before I close. To be safe I always close MM using the Menu > Exit option and not some OS specific method.
Now we have the program installed, we can load it, using the new MM icon in the Programs section of the PDA menu. We are presented with the following screen:
The Menu button is fairly obvious, and brings up the menu options.
The Green button minimises this menu bar and places 4 larger icons on the screen – which makes button selection much easier when the device is in a plastic case and you aren’t using a stylus. See more on this in a minute.
The Magnifying glass plus and minus icons will zoom the map in and out respectively
The blue and red square icon allows you to switch between different zoom levels on the same map – I’ve never found a good use for this.
The Padlock icon switches the GPS position lock off and on. When it’s locked, the current GPS position is always in the middle of the screen and the map automatically scrolls beneath it as you move. In the unlocked position the map views stays static and the GPS position moves independently, so it could well be off the screen in a few minutes of walking. No problem, just click the lock on and the screen jumps to the current GPS position again.
The Info Bar icon, when selected, provides position and altitude information at any point you click on the screen.
The Blue Circle icon will show the last GPS related message – probably “No Signal” or something similar
The Red Flag icon allows you to place a Mark on the screen. Click the icon then click the screen to place the Mark in that position. You need to click the icon each time you want to add a new mark.
Big Button Mode
Big Button Mode (my name, not the official MM name) is what I use almost exclusively when the PDA is in my hand on the hills. Mainly because it’s in a plastic case and button selection is quite fiddly without it, especially if I’m wearing gloves.
On this screen, the bottom left icon will restore the menu bar at the bottom and remove the other icons from the screen. The top left button produces a context menu for whatever object is selected at the moment. If nothing is selected, it brings up the Map selection menu (shown below), more on this later. The central top button locks the screen onto the GPS location and will keep the GPS centred on the screen. Without this locked, the screen stays in the last viewed position, even if the GPS and you are off somewhere else. As in this screenshot, if there is no GPS signal, the icon will be transparent. The top right button zooms in and the bottom right button zooms out.
From the top down:
Today Screen moves the application to background running and brings up the PDA Today Screen. The GPS will continue to work and a tracklog will continue to be recorded while in this mode.
Exit is the preferred method of closing the program.
Help gives access to various Help options such as Help text, About panel and licensing options.
Digital Map Shop allows to you connect to the on-line map store and view on-line maps available for the current area and also activate maps you may have downloaded from the store previously.
Find Place works the same as the PC version, provided there’s an appropriate MMI file loaded for this map.
GPS gives access to the GPS menu – see below
Overlay gives access to the Overlay menu – see below
Settings gives access to the Settings menu – see below
Map gives access to the Map menu – see below
Setup opens the GPS setup screen where you can change the specific settings to get your GPS card to work (below left).
Satellites opens a small window showing the current status of the satellite locks the GPS has got (or not got) (below middle).
Position opens a small window showing information about your current position – note this is obtained from the GPS satellites and not the map, so altitude may be slightly out (below right).
Import and Export allow you bring in marks, routes or tracks from the GPS – if available.
Mark Position will drop a “Man overboard” marker onto the map in your current location; these will be displayed on the map as Marks.
List opens a new page and allows you to browse the routes, tracks, marks, etc. you have available in memory at the moment. Selecting one will allow you to view it, delete it and so on.
Create opens a new menu where you can create a new route, track, mark, etc. This is rarely used by me – if I’m creating routes on the PDA then things have gone seriously wrong and I’m plotting a route off the hills.
Open allows you to open an MMO file stored on the device or SD card. It appends this to whatever you currently have in memory – rather than overwriting it.
Save As is the method for saving what’s in memory to a MMO file, great for backing up a tracklog after a walk.
Show, Hide and Delete all function as per the PC version, allowing you to show, hide and delete various items in memory.
The Settings menu option opens up a multi-panel screen as per top left above. The first panel allows you to change various elements of the Map screen. The Units page works in the same way as the PC version allowing you to switch between Metric and Statute. The Buttons panel is probably the most interesting. This allows you to allocate various functions of MM to the hard buttons on the front of your PDA. You could allocate Zoom in, or Zoom out for example. You have the option of single click or Press and Hold too, so each button could have two functions. The Hotspots button is a mystery to me and I’ve never used it.
When you click the Map option off the front menu, you are presented with a list of Maps you have either in the PDA memory, or in your SD card memory. You can select a map in this list and load it onto the screen using the [OK] button.
An easier way to select maps is shown below.
As with the PC version, each object in MM has a context menu – I will only discuss the ones we’ve not already looked at in the PC version. The context menu in the PDA version is activated either by pressing and holding the stylus on an object until the menu appears, or by clicking the object and using the Big Button option shown below.
Trying to use a stylus while out on the hills is almost impossible – especially if you’ve got the PDA in a waterproof case. I lost so many of them in the early days of using a PDA I soon gave up. MM seemed to feel the pain and added the Big Buttons, so now you don’t need a stylus.
Press on the map and then press Big Button and you get the map context menu, this works the same as the PC version and lets you select one of the maps available for the current position.
You can also scale in and scale out – one may be greyed out if you are already at the maximum end of one of those scales.
Map Info provides some basic information about the map currently loaded.
The Route context menu only really has one option we’ve not already discussed; the Follow Route option.
This provides a wealth of information to a walker as he travels along the route. Provided you’re sticking quite close to the route you plotted and loaded onto the GPS, this will be very useful information. Once you start to move away from the plotted route, it becomes less useful.
Selecting Follow Route brings up the screen shown on the left below. The size of the two panels can be adjusted using the pull tab in the bottom right hand corner of each panel.
The first panel displays a selection of data – in this case, how far we’ve got to walk until the end of the route – this is fairly accurate and uses the current position to calculate how far you’ve got left to walk.
The other panel shows the direction you need to walk to reach the next waypoint in the route. The arrow will not appear until you start walking. Because most GPS devices don’t have an electronic compass built in, they need to use your directional data to determine the position of the next waypoint. The arrow automatically adjusts itself as you walk. This is great for those times you’re in dense fog and are navigating by GPS alone.
You can choose the data to be shown in the first panel (above right). I tend to use “Distance to End”, but there are plenty of other data points we can add to the panel too. You will find the right set of data for yourself.
The Track context menu has no new options we need to discuss really.
Each time you start MM on the PDA, provided there’s a GPS attached and it has a signal, the program will start to record a Track, or more accurately a Tracklog. That is the recording of a walk you’ve done, rather than one you’ve created on the PC or PDA.
If you want to ensure an accurate Tracklog then make sure you either don’t start MM until you’re ready to start walking, or you go into the menu system and delete the current track, so MM will automatically start to record a new one.
By default (I think), tracks are recorded as solid red lines on the screen, like a slug trail left behind as you wander across the landscape.
As you walk, MM creates a red arrow, pointing In the direction of travel, and proportional to your speed to show you where you’re heading. This is the equivalent of a compass bearing. But as already mentioned, my GPS (as well as most others) don’t have a digital compass built in, so you need to walk to generate this directional aid.
If you have a good GPS lock then this tracklog will be a steady red line, accurately following your route. If on the other hand, your GPS loses signal, perhaps because of tree cover or you’re in a canyon (or a pub), then you may find the red line bounces around all over the place. This is the GPS trying to get a lock. You can reduce these spikes by following the hints mentioned earlier in the working with tracks section of this guide.
The final item in this section is a look at how to get the most out of your battery life.
Some of the obvious things to consider are switching off Wifi and Bluetooth connections (unless of course you’re using a Bluetooth GPS device). These drain battery and are unnecessary when you’re on the hills.
You must set your PDA to not switch off after a certain amount of time. By default the Windows Mobile OS will want to switch off after 5 minutes or so, if you’re on battery power. In order to keep recording your tracklog you need to disable this.
You do however want to dim the screen after a few minutes, or seconds. This depends heavily on how you actually intend to use the PDA on the hills. I use it almost exclusively as an occasional reference device. It’s always switched on, but it’s kept in my pack and I only pull it out when I’m unsure of my location, or I need to use it to navigate in fog. My screen dim time is 10 seconds, any more than this is just not needed for my use. I always carry a paper map for the route I’m walking – I don’t use a compass however and never have – so I rely on maps and when I really need it, out comes the PDA.
I also switch my screen off completely when the PDA is in my bag. This is not an option you can set on a timer and it’s fairly well hidden in the WM OS options. Dimming the screen is all well and good, but it still draws power, albeit at a much reduced rate. Switching the screen off completely saves loads of battery life.
I’ve gone one step further and allocated the Screen Off command to one of the hard buttons on the front of my PDA. That means I can click the button and the screen goes off (while still leaving the GPS and MM running). I can press and hold the same button and the screen comes back on. Using the press and hold option prevents something joggling in my pack and switching the screen on inadvertently.
- Select “Buttons” from the WM Settings menu.
- Choose a button to allocate the Screen Off command to and use the “Assign Program” drop down list to find and select [Screen Off]
- Choose a Hold Button to allocate the Screen On command to and use the “Assign Program” drop down list to find and select [Screen On]
One final tip: Always, always, always carry a spare battery. Once or twice I’ve forgotten to dim the screen, or something has conspired to drain the battery and without a spare you could be lost (literally). If you don’t use the spare battery very often, then make sure you test it intermittently to make sure it still has its full charge.
Working with other Mobile Devices
The PDA, as you can tell by the sheer volume of content above is my preferred mobile GPS device. However, there are more and more mobile GPS platforms coming on the market each year and MM has a place on some of these.
MM on the iPhone
As already mentioned, this appears to be fast becoming the preferred platform for development from the Memory Map organisation. They have two versions of the iPhone app – a free version and paid-for version.
The free version is not supported by iPhone Ads as most free apps are, but it is differs from the paid-for app in one key way – you can’t read any of your existing MM maps files into this version of the app. MM in their wisdom have decided that we will pay – one way or another.
The paid-for version of the app currently retails for £19.99 in the App Store and does allow you to read in existing maps (subject to your license agreement).
So, if you’ve invested heavily in MM previously then the paid-for app is the way to go. If however, you’re new to MM then the free app is probably the best route.
If and when I buy the app, I will add a review and user guide.
MM on Android
There is finally a Memory Map app for Android, but to say it is basic is something of an understatement and the licensing issues as all over the place.
There is however, an excellent, albeit unsupported, alternative. An app called MM Tracker was written a couple of years ago, published on the Google Play Store and worked with all the old QCT format Memory Map chart files. Unfortunately that is what led to a ‘take down’ order, initiated by Memory Map in defence of their copyright rights. On the upside however, this now has an unofficial support page on the XDA-Developers website, where it is re-compiled for new releases of Android and support for new handsets is pretty efficient: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=816407 – it works for QCT files only! The new Map Store files will not work; you will need to use the official MM Android app for these file types.
Thanks to BG (http://beardedgit.com ) for pointing out this product to me. I use this almost all the time now when I’m walking on the hills – I use it on my Galaxy Note II and it also worked on my old Galaxy S2.