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Screenshot tour: GMapCatcher lets you use Google Maps offline

GMapCatcher

My girlfriend recently took me on a long road trip through rural Canada. We had a blast, but one of the trickiest parts was navigating. Canada is vast, and we had to keep flipping back and forth between differently-scaled maps. If only we had known about GMapCatcher before the trip, things could have been much simpler.

In a nutshell, GMapCatcher lets you select an area of land and a range of zoom levels and then download that entire area for offline browsing. Once you've completed the download, you can take your laptop with you and enjoy the functionality of Google Maps (or one of several other mapping services) on the road, with no GPS and no data connection. (A GPS is optional, but not a must.)

GMapCatcher is written in Python so it's cross-platform, and it has an easy-to-use Windows installer. I took it out for a spin, which you can see after the jump.

This is the options dialog. The most useful option here is the "Zoom," which configures the default zoom level. Sixteen is way too far; I don't think it should be the default, really.

Here, you can see how easy it is to select a different mapping service. I only tried Google Maps (as I'm sure most people would), but still, choice is a good thing. Note the absence of Bing maps.

Here's a glitch which happened far too often: When scrolling around the map before downloading it (in "online mode"), it would often blank out. Even clicking "For update" would not work -- it would just go all gray on me, and that would be that. It was very frustrating.

GMapCatcher also caches your list of recent locations, and uses Google Maps to resolve the location you enter.

This is what the download dialog looks like. The progress bar at the bottom took a long time to fill out at the level of detail I selected; it took nearly half an hour.

This is what the result looks like. Note that it's still quite far. To be useful for navigating on the road, I think you would have to drill down to zoom level three or two.


Bottom line: GMapCatcher is definitely an interesting option. I wouldn't use this if I were driving by myself, but when you've got someone helping you navigate, it can surely beat a road atlas.

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Tags: google, google maps, GoogleMaps, gps, navigation, python

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