- Contents :
- Introduction to TrailMapper
- Quick Tutorial
- Getting a TrailMapper account
- The TrailMapper main display screen
- The information balloon
- The TrailMapper upload screen
- The "My Trails" list
- Uploading and editing tips
- Other help available, list of fields
- A little something about the Google Earth plugin
- The change log and wish list -- a list of changes and fixes, and possible new features.
- Introduction to TrailMapper :
- Quick Tutorial :
- Getting a TrailMapper account :
- TrailMapper main display screen : When you aren't logged in, your TrailMapper screen looks like Figure 1.
- Notes on logging in :
- The information balloon :
- The trail name and edit icon are shown first. If you are logged in, clicking on the edit icon brings up the edit screen with this trail loaded.
- Length: calculated length of trail or route. Units are in miles.
- Elev.: elevation of a point, or elevation gain/loss of a trail or route.
- Type: category of this entity -- trail, route, or waypoint.
- Region: this field shows what region the trail is in.
- Class: what class (sort of a difficulty index) this trail is.
- Author: original submitor of the data, with a link to his/her other posts and a means to contact the author.
- Last Editor: the most recent editor of this trail, with a link to his/her other posts and a means to contact the editor.
- No. Pts.: the number of coordinate points for the highlighted item. Trails and routes have tens, hundereds, even thousands of points. Waypoints have one.
- Download: You can download the track in either GPX or KML format.
- Description: User supplied description, encompassing details not covered by the above "trail data". Sometimes it is a complete description, other times there is only an overview.
- Notes: Other tidbits that didn't make it into the description, sometimes discussion why a certain user isn't included, other names that the highlighted item might be known by, etc.
- TrailMapper upload / edit screen :
The "My Trails" list :
This is a list of the trails, routes and waypoints that you have submitted or have saved as drafts. The Google Earth plugin is here so that you may review what a certain item is.
Adjacent to the Google Earth plugin is a short list of statistics, detailing how many points, routes and trails are in your list of uploads.
The top row across the table is the column names. Most of the column names can be clicked on, which sorts the list by that column. The exceptions are 'Description' and 'Delete'.
In order from left to right, the columns are:
Name - Given name of the trail, route or waypoint. Might
be blank, if no name has been supplied. Clicking a trail name displays it in the
Description - Contains an excerpt from the description field.
Type - This column indicates whether the item is a trail, route or point.
Last Modified - Shows the date that the entry was last changed, EST.
Last Editor - The TrailMapper account name of the last editor of this entry.
Status - Either "Submitted" or "Draft". Entries with status of "Draft" are viewable to the author only, either here or in the edit screen, not the general public.
Public - Either "Y" or "N", indicating whether the public may view the trail, regardless of its 'Status' (described above). This is controlled by the site administrator.
Upon submission, an entry may show "N" in this column, indicating that the TrailMapper site administrator wishes all new submissions to be vetted before being made public.
Additionally, an entry that was "Y" (publicly viewable) might suddenly show as "N" (hidden from the public), indicating that the site administrator identified a problem with the entry. (This should leave no doubt that the admin would be in touch with you quite soon. Oooo, you're in trouble...)
Delete - Here you may delete an entry, provided it has not been edited by anyone other than yourself (Once edited, an entry isn't just yours anymore, so you can't just up and delete it.)
To delete, put a checkmark in the box, and then click the "X". This two step process is designed to keep you from making an accidental deletion.The edit column - Clicking "Edit" brings up the edit screen for that entry. (The edit screen is virtually the same as the upload screen.)
Browsing, Upload and Edit Tips:
The DO's and DON'Ts
- DO use TrailMapper!
- DO contribute. Don't be afraid to chip in with trail data.
- DO be creative. There's more than one way to look at TrailMapper. Hmm, have HREF to photos in the description? Hmm.
- DO be complete. Fill in as much as you know.
- DO give feedback about TrailMapper.
- DON'T be a wanker. Respect others' efforts. When you edit trail data, genuinely contribute.
- DON'T post stuff you shouldn't. A trail through your neighbor's living room or garden is pretty uncool.
- DON'T use profanity. Keep it clean, yeah?
- DON'T get into edit wars. Contact the other editor and see about compromise.
Uploading and Editing
- Stick to GPX and KML formats. Trouble awaits you if you don't.
- If possible, reduce the number of points in the tracks you upload to the minimum required to define the track. This helps TrailMapper speed in searching and loading.
- If possible, trim your tracks. If your GPS data shows you going to and from your house, maybe you want to edit it before uploading.
- Really try to fill in as many fields as you can. Your best guess is better than no guess at all.
- After submitting a trail or saving a draft, click "NEW UPLOAD" before attempting to start a new upload -- otherwise, you overwrite the previous entry.
- If you upload a track that you downloaded from TrailMapper, turn compression OFF.
- Make use of the 'Notes' field: great for "also known as" names, reasons for disallowing certain user groups, etc.
- Experiment. Hold the mouse pointer over various text items. Help crops up all over!
- If you find that the display is a little sluggish, reduce the size of your browser, or reduce the number of returned trails by narrowing your search.
- Zoom in. Sometimes there'll be two or more trails in the same spot. Be sure you get the one you are after.
- Think how TrailMapper could be improved and give me a shout:
More help and references:
- List of Fields - This is a (supposedly) comprehensive list of fields found in TrailMapper, with descriptions or definitions for each field.
- Google Earth Plugin - Information about the plugin, other cool applications for the plugin.
- KML Documentation - There's way more under the hood than there first appears.
- Google Earth plugin :
- Windows XP, 2000, Vista
- Google Chrome 1.0+
- Internet Explorer 6+
- Firefox 2.0+
- Flock 1.0+
- Mac OS X 10.4+
- Google Chrome 1.0+
- Safari 3.1+
- Firefox 3.0+
- Glossary of terms :
TrailMapper is a web based mapping program, utilizing the Google Earth plugin. Track data (routes, trails, waypoints) is displayed on a 3-D map in a web browser. Getting the plugin is very easy: go to the TrailMapper webpage, and if it isn't installed, you are prompted to download the plugin.
If you haven't done so already, go to the main display page, and search for some trails. Experiment. The resulting trails, routes and waypoints each have data associated with them. Clicking on a mapped trail shows you things like elevation gain, the name, length and other details.
Where does all that great data come from? Folks like you. Once you have a TM account, you can upload trail data, provided you have track and waypoint information that you've created or collected with a GPS.
Even if you don't collect trail data with a GPS, you can still be a vital part of the TrailMapper scene. With your TM account, you are able to edit any data that comes up in a search, so you can help clarify trail descriptions, fill in missing information, etc.
Many items within TM feature contextual help. Click on field names and titles to reveal help and tips for that item.
Speed!!! The more you use TrailMapper, the faster it goes. Map data is cached to your hard drive, so that the next time you view that same geographic area, it loads much faster. View more area, and more data is cached. Keep in mind that since it is a web application, the faster your internet connection, the better.
Written by a TrailMapper user, this one-page tutorial is well presented. It covers the basic user functions and then some advanced stuff, all on one printable page.
Setting up an account is quite easy. Fill out a simple form and click a confirmation link that is sent to you by email and that's it.
Your privacy is respected: your email address is used internally. Other TM users may contact you through the TM mail system, but they will not have access to your email address, or your real name. They use the TM mail system to compose and send a message to your TM account, and TrailMapper forwards it to your email account you provided. So, no dangers of your email address getting thrown to the wolves.
The display consists of four areas, besides the Google Earth plugin itself.
1: In some ways, the least important bit of data. It states the coarse area served by this TrailMapper site. It won't change, but it varys from one TM site to the next.
2: The search area (shown in expanded view in Figure 2)is where you go to find stuff. "Keyword Search" allows you to search for trails by name or geographic feature or phrase that is likely to be associated with the trail. This searches names, descriptions, and notes in the database. Entering more search terms results in a narrower search. Getting too many results? Refine your search by adding more terms. Too few results? Strike some search terms.
Putting a checkmark in the "Search Viewable Area" box causes the search to be limited to roughly the current view. Any trail having at least one coordinate within the view will be shown, so when TM reloads to show the results of your search, the viewable area will be larger.
The "Advanced Search" options are for detailed searches. Click "Advanced Search" to reveal the search options, shown in Figure 2. Each advanced search parameter is preceded by a "+" or "-". Selecting a "+" means your results WILL contain the parameter. Selecting a "-" means your search WILL NOT contain the parameter. This can be handy to find trails that do not permit a certain user, etc.
NavTool - toggles the navigation control. Displays on the right hand side of the window.
Stats - toggles the eye altitude (displays at lower right), pointer coordinates (displays lower center) and pointer elevation (displays to right of coordinates).
Scale - toggles the scale legend, displayed at lower left. Units are in miles.
Sun - toggles the sun layer and controls. The controls are displayed at top left. Hours can be spent playing with this cool feature alone.
Roads - toggles the road layer. Roads are highlighted in a semi-transparent white, and road names are shown as well. Bear in mind that the road data is part of Google Earth, and not under the control of this TrailMapper site.
Borders - toggles the border layer, rendered in yellow, showing political and geographical boundaries.
Lat/Lon - toggles display of longitude and latitude lines and numbers.
4: Refer to Figure 1. At the upper left corner of the TM display are a few buttons that change depending on whether you are currently logged in or not. In the figure shown, there is no current login, so the buttons are:
Get Account - link to the account creation screen.
Login - link to the login screen.
Help - link to bring up the help screen (what you are reading right now.)
If you are logged in:
When you are logged in to TM, the menu options at the top right of the TM screen change. They now read:
My Trails - lists your uploaded trails.
Upload - takes you to the upload screen.
Logout - ends your login session.
Help - link to bring up the help screen (what you are reading right now.)
This is the only difference between the "logged in" and "not logged in" displays. Everything else functions the same.
If the window does not appear, check behind your main browser window. Also, check that you are allowing pop-ups from this TrailMapper site (trailmapper.org, for example).
After logging in, the small window should show "Login Successful", and you may be prompted to reload your main TrailMapper display. Select reload to update the display.
You can either close the login window, or let it close automatically when you return to the TrailMapper window.
When you click a trail, route or waypoint, an information balloon pops up (Figure 5). It contains three major areas:
1: The seasonal use table. This shows what use is permitted or is generally acceptable during a given season. This is meant to be a 'at a glance' reference. Greater details to why a certain user is shown as "N" in the table may be found in the Notes or Description fields.
Underneath the seasonal use table is a special link: "Copy or send link". This has a few uses: you can click on it and it displays the highlighted trail all by itself; you can 'right-click' on it and copy the link for pasting into your own document, or you can send the link to an email recipient.
2: This area contains all the particulars:
3: The description and notes areas. These can contain any amount of text, tables, photos, links, etc.
This is the busiest screen in all of TrailMapper (packed with pickboxes, buttons and text inputs.) Even so, it consists of just three distinct areas. Before going on, keep in mind that this screen is also used as the "Edit" screen, with only minimal differences.
1: The most basic data is entered here. There are three required fields:
File, Type, Region
The other fields are left 'optional' so that if you don't know a parameter, you can leave it blank.
Your best guess is probably OK, though, so try to fill in as much as you can.
File - TrailMapper accepts GPX and KML file formats.
Type - Trail, route or point. If you select "point", the input form changes, omitting 'Class' and the seasonal use table.
Region - Rough geographic area that the trail, route or waypoint is in. If it spans regions, use your judgement.
Trail Name - What the trail is known by. Some trails aren't called anything, others are known by a few names.
If there are mutiple names, choose one for the Trail Name field, and put other names in the description or notes area.
Elev. Chng. - For a route or trail, this is the elevation change in traversing it from one end to the other.
For a waypoint, it is the elevation at that point.
Class - Classification of the trail. This can vary from one TrailMapper site to the next. Choose a Class from the pulldown list that best describes your trail or route. (Kind of meaningless for waypoints.)
2: Season / usage area.
The idea is that the given trail or route might be suitable for a certain user at a certain time of year, and not very suitable at another time of year. (See aside).
In many locales, it is inaccurate to call a certain trail fit for ATV's. A given trail might be suitable for ATV's in the winter, but not in the summer months, due to swampy conditions.
Similarly, it is inaccurate to say that a trail is a summer trail. It might serve foot traffic well year round, horseback riders during the summer, and all users during the winter.
Instead, what needs to be expressed is "what usage is OK at a certain time of year".Rather than have a lengthy paragraph describing who is permitted to use a trail when, TM uses a Trail-User/Season matrix.
Fill in the table as best you can, so that the table reflects the actual on-the-ground use of the trail.
Under the table you'll find the submission button(s) (Figure 7). Depending on whether you are editing or submitting a new upload, there may be one or more buttons. In "Upload" mode, three buttons are shown.
Submit - Saves your data and either makes it publicly available, or puts it on hold while it is reviewed by a moderator (depends on individual TrailMapper site).
Save Draft - Saves your data so that you may review it and edit it prior to final submission.
Clear - Resets all fields. Good for when you've really balled things up, not so good when you hit it by mistake.
3: The Description and Notes fields are where you let the juices flow. The better your description, the more useful (and perhaps interesting) your trail submission will be.
Both fields allow the use of XHTML markup. Don't know what that is? Fine, just enter text.
Description - The better your description, the more useful (and perhaps interesting) your trail submission will be. Try to identify start and end points and major intersections. You might make notes of why the seasonal use is the way it is. If it crosses private property, definitely mention that fact and encourage the user to be respectful.
Notes - The Notes field holds things that didn't seem to fit in the Description field. If the trail is known by several names, this can be a good spot for those.
The folks at Google seem to have one amazing product after another: their fabulous
search engine, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Earth, and (drumroll) the Google Earth plugin.
It is similar to the standalone Google Earth (GE) program that many people are
familiar with. You can scroll, zoom, pan, tilt, and rotate the view. You can add
the sun layer or roads or borders. The list goes on.
There are some obvious differences. For instance, it requires a web browser to 'nest'
in. It won't function outside of a compatible Java-enabled browser. Currently, the
browsers known to work are:
There are some obvious differences. For instance, it requires a web browser to 'nest' in. It won't function outside of a compatible Java-enabled browser. Currently, the browsers known to work are:
Another big difference is that the Google Earth menu bars are gone, replaced with TrailMapper bars.
Taking advantage of the fact that it is a internet application, Google Earth plugin automatically updates itself, so you don't ever have to worry about having an old, tired out version. You've always got the latest and greatest.
If you don't have the plugin installed, you are prompted to download it, which isn't too big a deal at about 5 megabytes.
Problems? It is worth noting that the GE plugin can have problems. In the event that it starts showing things that aren't really there or exhibiting other bizzare behavior, you can delete the cache.
Instructions on how to do this are at
Additional information about the plugin can be found at
Compression - In TrailMapper, care is taken to keep things loading fast. A big part of this is keeping the number of coordinates used to draw a track to only what is required to be useful. It is not necessary to preserve every single data point in order to describe all trails, so some coordinate points are discarded when a trail or route is uploaded. This results in fewer coordinate points, and this is called "compression".
Coordinates - When we refer to coordinates, we mean decimal latitude and longitude at minimum, and even better is to also have elevation data as part of the coordinate set. If you don't have elevation data in your GPS track, the trail will still show up fine, but elevation profiles (feature not yet supported) will not be displayed.
GPX - is a GPS data format, suitable for exchange between similar or dissimilar GPS units, and is also suitable for storage of GPS data, as it preserves time, elevation and other data in addition to coordinate data.
KML - is a map data format, native to Google Earth. KML can contain a wealth of information in addition to coordinate data, so while it is essential to Google Earth and the Google Earth plugin, it is not necessarily the best format to exchange data between GPS's.
Plugin - A plugin is an extra module that adds extra functionality to your web browser. The Google Earth plugin allows you to have Google Earth functions inside a browser window.
Route - In TrailMapper, a route frequently makes use of a number of trails or trail segments. For example, a mountain bike ride (thought of as a route) can consist of quite a few different trails, put together in some fun way.
Trail - In TrailMapper, a trail is a unique and defined path, if you will. It connects one geographic point with another geographic point, and is frequently known by some name.
Waypoint - A waypoint is a reference point, made of a single set of coordinates. In TrailMapper, a waypoint can be used to identify a feature, intersection, point of interest, or whatever the user can find to do with a waypoint.