Customize Gps Maps

Creating and loading custom maps is an option for most GPS devices.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are in wide use by modern commuters and travelers. Drivers use these devices to receive turn-by-turn directions to specific locations, access real-time traffic information and route updates and view accurate maps of unfamiliar territory. Sometimes, circumstances call for a custom-made map. When you find yourself in a place that has been inadequately mapped, or when you want a more detailed layout for your purposes, you can create your own guide with the help of custom software.


1. Use vector data and not scanned map images.

Collect your mapping data from aerial photos and existing maps, making sure to name and label your custom “waypoints,” the paths and landmarks that you want to remember and use in your travels. USAPhotoMaps is a popular software for acquiring map data, as is Terra Server. Scanned raster maps will not suffice, as they would not be readable or interactive on your GPS. You will need to convert your data to GIS file types (shapefiles), or digital line graphics (DLG) from the U.S. Geological Survey. This can be done with many types of conversion software available for free online. You should save your map files in .GPX format to make them readable by conversion programs.

2. Find the right software for your device.

Locate the appropriate software for your particular device. Whether you use a Garmin GPS, a Magellan device or some other major brand, there is a specific type of software available commercially to help you load the vector files onto your GPS. Magellan makes use of MobileMapper Office for data collection and professional mapping. Garmin uses a software called MapSource, which is a trip and waypoint manager.

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3. Load your map and test it.

Test your new map on your PC with your preferred software program after converting it into usable data. In the case of MapSource, you will have an .MPS file, which can be used for further conversion and loading by Garmin devices. For map testing, MapSource will have you select various map segments so that it can check for the proper route data. The software does this automatically and alerts you to problems with your custom routes and waypoints. After you make corrections, your map should be functional and can be uploaded to your GPS device.

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