Updated January 2021
I’ve been a Memory Map user since 2005 and over the years I’ve helped quite a few people get to grips with the idiosyncrasies of the program, because although it’s a Windows application, it doesn’t behave like one in several important ways. That sporadic assistance eventually morphed into the following pages – a parallel user guide if you like. This guide concentrates on the Windows app and there is a section for the Android mobile device. MM also runs on Mac computers and iOS devices, but these are not covered in this guide, sorry.
If anyone has any suggestions to improve this then please let me know, if I have made any obvious errors then tell me and if you’d like to contribute then either leave a comment or email me.
This guide covers the following main topics.
Memory Map (called MM from now on) software is free to download. In what appears to be a change from previous releases, the latest (v6) version is international. The previous versions of MM had a European Edition to support Ordnance Survey (OS) maps, but this latest version is just “Memory Map”. For those outside of the UK; Ordnance Survey maps are the ones typically used by hikers and walkers in this country.
The previous versions of this guide referred to both v5 and v6 software, but as you can no longer download the v5 software and all new updates will only be available in v6, we will concentrate on the functionality provided by this version of the product.
A couple of useful links to MM resources are provided for reference:
MM Ordnance Survey Maps: www.memory-map.com/maps/uk-os-topo-maps/
MM v6 Download: www.memory-map.com/downloads/
The MM software itself is provided free, but it’s absolutely no use whatsoever without some maps. The maps are what you purchase and there are many different types of maps and different options when it comes to purchasing them. For the purposes of this guide we are only intested in the Ordnance Survey maps, and more specifically the 1:25k and 1:50k UK maps.
You used to be able to buy OS maps for MM from third party suppliers like Amazon and Go Outdoors, even on eBay. This is no longer the case and maps can only be purchased directly from MM themselves. If you do stumble across cheap map offers online, then my advice would be to ignore them, there’s a good chance they will no longer work with v6 and they may even be bootleg copies.
The price of OS maps has reduced so much over the past few years that it hardly makes any sense to purchase from dubious sources, just to save a couple of quid. The days of having to spend (quite literally) thousands of pounds to buy 1:25k scale mapping for the whole of the UK are long-gone thankfully. The price is now as little as £40, depending on how you want to buy – see more information below.
Information for v5 users only: There are two types of MM maps – QCT maps and QC3 maps. Both types work with MM v5 and both types will work with MM v6, but you will need to purchase an additional license to use the QCT maps with the new version. I cover the differences a little later in this guide. All maps purchased direct from MM will be the QC3 type.
The ‘problem’ with maps is that they are constantly changing – Ordnance Survey produce new maps each year and although changes will generally be minor, these will add up over time and pretty soon you find your maps are out of date. In the past this was a huge problem, especially when combined with the historically high cost of maps. Who could afford to buy a new set of maps every year or two, even with the ‘upgrade’ discount MM provide for existing users.
This problem is now a thing of the past. MM have introduced a new licensing model for OS maps and we can now buy a 365-day subscription for OS maps and renew this each year. The cost of this is very competitive and the model mimics the way we buy many goods and services nowadays. At the time of writing (January 2021) the cost of subscribing to full UK mapping at both 1:25k and 1:50k was £34 per year. Link here: w2.memory-map.com/
The traditional outright purchase method is still available if you prefer to actually own your maps.
High Definition Maps
Around 2012 or 2013, MM began offering what they called ‘High Definition’ 1:25k and 1:50k OS maps. These were produced at a higher resolution than their traditional OS maps and provided a much crisper look on screen and also allowed for an extra zoom level. See an example of both resolutions below.
I purchased a set of 1:25k and 1:50k HD maps for the whole UK in 2014. They cost around £350 I think and they’ve lasted me until now – I still use them today, despite knowing that I’m missing out on many updates from the OS.
When I finally decided to update, earlier this year, I found that MM had stopped producing these HD maps and the thought of going back to the standard (what I couldn’t help thinking of as low resolution) maps was just not acceptable. I emailed MM and asked them about the decision. They told me it was because users found the associated files too large to be used on mobile devices! Thankfully this decision has been reversed and the very welcome volte-face sees new versions of the OS 2021 HD maps available to buy or subscribe to.
The Digital Map Store (DMS)
Maps are purchased either through the MM website, or through the application interface via their Digital Map Store.
Irrespective of which route you use to buy the maps, they are now only available through a download mechanism. This is a major change for MM as you’ve always been able to buy physical media in the past, either on CD, DVD or USB. The increase in home internet bandwidth and the advent of 5G wireless communications means that downloading maps is much easier for most people. Even downloading the 13Gb UK 1:25k scale HD maps will not be a problem for most users. Maps don’t need to be downloaded all in one go either, as you can easily select specific areas, rather than the complete UK map.
Moving to completely digital delivery no doubt reduces the overheads of MM too and helps to keep the cost of the maps down.
OK, enough talking, let’s get started with MM. You can download the application for Windows 10, macOS, Android devices or iOS (iPhone/iPad) devices from this location. If you are using Windows 7 or 8 then download the Windows 10 version, it will still work.
For Windows 10, once the downloaded has completed, run the installer and follow the wizard. For macOS do whatever you need to do to install (I’m not a Mac user!) and installation on mobile devices is handled by the App Store or Play Store, depending on your device type.
For Windows users, the default installation puts the application files in the default ‘Program Files’ folder, typically on your C: Drive. Don’t worry about disk space at this point; the program is quite small. It’s the maps that take up all the room and you can store them wherever you like.
If you still have maps on physical media then you’re going to want to copy the files from the DVD or USB stick into a folder on the hard drive of your computer. NOTE: We cover the process of adding maps to mobile devices in a later section.
The selection of the folder location is important. Make sure you locate it on a drive with plenty of free space and if you have one, install them on an SSD drive. A Solid State Drive provides much better read/write performance and you will notice a difference in the load time of your maps as you scroll around the screen.
When you download maps from MM’s Digital Map Store they will get saved, by default, into a folder on the C: Drive. Often this isn’t the drive with the most space, or the fastest read times. Make sure to change the location to the same folder as your other maps. You do this by going into Map > Digital Map Store > Online Maps… and clicking the [DMS Folder…] button and selecting the desired location.
From what I can tell, just changing the folder location does not automatically move any maps you have already downloaded, from the old location to the new location. if you want to ‘tidy up’ you will need to move them manually, or download them again. Even if you don’t move them, you will still be able to see maps stored in both locations, as MM will have updated the Map List to reflect both locations.
In order to download OS Maps you will need a map license (we’ll come onto that shortly), but in the meantime you can download a free basemap to get an idea of how the app works. Go to Map > Digital Map Store > Online Maps… and click on one of the maps with a blue heart next to it, for example ‘OS Route Planner’ and then click the [Continue…] button. The basemap will download into the location you specified earlier. You can go to Map > Map List… at any time to see what maps you have available.
When the Map List is open, you can click the [Refresh Map List] button to see what folders MM is checking for Maps. You can add or remove folders as needed to ensure you’re including / excluding the desired folders.
When you have all the folders in the list click the [OK] button; you will be returned to the first dialog box and this will now be populated with the maps from your hard drive. You can double click one of these maps to open the map in the MM app. We will come back to maps shortly – in the meantime, lets look at MM file types.
MM File Types
There are four main MM file types, two map types and two supporting file types. The map files can be very big, much bigger than the other file types. Individual map sections can be as small as 5-10Mb but the whole of the UK will take up considerably more, potentially 10-20 Gb of space!
.QCT files are the older format maps. New users probably aren’t going to encounter these. They typically come in smaller sections, such as National Parks or regions. An average Explorer size sheet of mapping (such as the Lake District’s OL4) will take up 30-50Mb.
.QC3 files are the new format maps. These are protected by a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) so they are tied to your MM account and to the 5 devices which you have associated with your account. See below for more on License Management.
.QED files are the files holding the elevation data for the maps. Elevation data is the data that provides you with the height at any point on the map. When you load a map into the program you will see the height given against the mouse cursor as it moves around the screen. This is the data that allows for the 3D visualisation of our maps and for calculating the height gain of a route.
.MMI files are the database files that hold the names and references of searchable information on the map. MMI data is used when you search (CTRL+F) for a hill name or a town name etc.
There are two more important file type; both of these are data files – the ones you create or share:
.MMO files are Memory Map’s proprietary data files, or Overlays as MM calls them. These can only be used in MM and aren’t even backwardly compatible to older versions of MM, so be careful not to save a v5 MMO file in v6, otherwise you will not be able to open it in v5 anymore. In v5, MMO were the default file types for MM, but in v6 we now default to GPX files……
.GPX files are much more ‘transportable’ data files and the file format is ‘open’ and used by many different digital mapping programs. If you’re technically minded, they look a lot like XML files and can be edited manually, unlike MMO files.
The size of the data files depends on what you’re storing in them (how many routes, tracks and marks), but a 3Mb file is very big and will take a long time to load, even on a high spec PC.
Some MM app features and nearly all maps will need to be activated before they can be used. Activation of these licenses is done online and is a lot simpler than it used to be, so this section has had quite an overhaul in the latest update. In order to activate any MM feature or product you will need to create an account on the MM website and all your features and products will then be managed through this account.
Creating an Account
If you’ve been using MM for a while then you’ll already have an account, so this section is really for new users, or for people who are only now accessing the new maps and trying to figure out what the new process looks like.
Your account will be used to manage all your maps across all of your devices (up to 5 of them). It is associated with an email address, and when you create a new account an email will be sent to validate it, so make sure you have access to the email account. This email will also be used to recover your account name or password if you forget them.
The easiest way to create an account (or to access an existing account) is through the Windows MM app. Open the DMS and click the [Sign-in] button. This opens another dialog box and in this you can either create a new account, or login to an existing one.
If you need to create an account, click the [Create Account] button and you will be sent to the MM website, where you can go through the account creation process.
Or, if you already have an account, you can login using the UserID and Password fields lower down the panel.
Naming your Devices
Adding a Premium Map
Using the basemaps is all very well, but they are next to useless for our purposes, so we will need to purchase an OS map to do anything useful. When you purchase a premium map like an OS map, you will be sent a serial number for that map, that will allow you to activate it on your account and download it onto your devices.
Your serial number will look something like 123.456.789.012.
In the MM app, click Web > Memory Map Home Page and click the [Sign-in] button when the website appears. Enter your credentials and you will be taken to your account page (screenshot left below).
From your account page, click the [Register/Redeem] button and this will take you to a page where you can copy the serial number you were provided with your map purchase (screenshot right above). You can repeat this process if you have more than one map to register. If you purchased the map direct from the DMS you will not need to enter a serial number, the map will automatically be registered.
When you’re done, click the [My Online Maps] button to see all the maps available to you to download.
You may only have a single map in your download list – I have a few as I’ve purchased various different maps over the years and I can see them all in my list.
A ‘download’ link is available beside each map and if you click this it will open the app and begin to download the map, if you haven’t already downloaded it.
The ‘info’ and ‘buy’ links will take you to the resource page for that map, or the shop page, providing the map is still available to buy.
You can also see all your maps directly in all versions of the MM app (Windows, Mac and mobile). Go to Map > Digital Map Store > Online Maps.. and when the DMS dialog box pops open, click the My Online Maps radio button below the [Sign-in] button. This will display all the maps you own, at the cursor position. In order to see all maps, everywhere click the Maps Everywhere radio button.
The list will include all DMS maps, as well as all other maps, such as the old OS maps which will appear under the Old Editions section, which you may have to expand to see.
As you can see, a lot of my maps are from many years ago!
In most cases, you will not need to Activate a resource, they will probably be automatically activated the first time you use them. In some cases however, this may be something you need to do, for example if you are using the old QCT map format, you may need to buy and activate a Classic Map license to use it.
Other resources include Printing, GPS Features and Importing 3rd Party Maps. Goto Help > License Management.. to access the panel.
The screenshot on the left below shows a new account with no resources activated. If you click on a resource (e.g. OS 1:25k Explorer GB 2020) and click the [Activate] button which now becomes active, you will be able to assign licenses in your account to the resources that need activation.
The screenshot on the right below, shows the licenses available in this account (of which there are none) and the number needed to activate the selected map. MM offers a 10 day trial license to new users, so I could click the [Activate Demo] button to test the system out before purchasing.
Migrating & Recovering Licenses
Migrating and recovering licenses is only getting a mention in this updated guide because it featured heavily in the previous version and I just wanted people to be aware that the function still exists. However, due to the way licensing now works and the fact that you can use MM on up to 5 devices at a time, the need to migrate or recover licenses has been almost completely removed. The interface to manage this process is also much improved, so that if you do ever need to go down this road, it should be a bit easier to navigate.
You need to manage this process through the website, so login to your account by going to Web > Memory Map Home Page and clicking the [Sign-in] button when the website appears. Enter your credentials and you will be taken to your account page. Click the [Activity] button and then the ‘Devices’ tab. You will probably see a screen something like the one on the left below. This user has a single device registered and room for 4 more without any issues.
However, if you’ve been using MM for a while, like I have, then there’s a small chance you may bump into the situation where you have no more activation resources and need to migrate activations from one device to another.
A small part of my device history is shown in the screenshot on the right above. You can see I have old devices that have been migrated and several active devices which are still in use. If you click the name of a device you will be presented with the device history and a list of all the resources that have been activated on that device over time (see the screenshot on the left below). If you scroll down to the bottom of this page you should find a ‘Migrate’ field and its button. You can migrate all the activations from this device, to another device that you can select from the drop down list (see the screenshot on the right below). This is where you will reap the rewards of naming your device descriptively when you first installed MM on it!