Wildflower Productions Topo!
By Jeff Porcaro
Planning your next backcountry trip? To review the Wildflower Productions Topo! Software, we decided to use the software to plan one of our field test trips into the Wasatch Range near Salt Lake City, Utah. Our goal was to use Topo! to make a map of the trip.
First, we had to install Topo! The installation for this product is simple and straightforward. Just pop the CD into the computer, run the setup program, and you're off. We found the program to be very simple to use. Within minutes we were looking at the maps for our trip target, the Lone Peak Wilderness Area. The menus and toolbar include all of the features we needed to plan the trip (and to or reflect on that last trip we took.)
One feature that caught our attention, and was a favorite among all of the testers, is the seamless maps. Topo! supports five different scales of maps, from 1:500,000 to 1:12,000. Within the covered area there are no seams. This means that you can choose an area on the map that is on the border between two standard printed topographical maps and have it appear as if it is only on one map.
We liked the easy to use routing tool and profiling capability, which allowed use to trace our route of travel and determine distances and elevations. Topo! includes UTM and Latitude/Longitude coordinate display. We liked the ability to show the navigational grid ticks on the screen and printed maps for use with a GPS.
We found all of the places we planned to visit with the search feature. You can also go to an area using coordinates from your GPS. Topo! does not have built-in support for downloading and uploading your waypoints from a GPS, but you can add this capability with their Topo!GPS product at an additional cost. We used the Topo!GPS and found it easy to download waypoints from our GPS receiver (Lowrance GlobalMap 100). Topo!'s waypoint feature places coordinate labels and waypoint names where you click.
One of the best features that make Topo! a must-have is its annotation capabilities. Our testers loved the ability to change the font, font size, and font color when putting labels on the map. This is very useful to distinguish the information you add from that already on the map. A good use of this feature is to give instructions on how to get to a trailhead or camp.
Printing from Topo! is simple. When you select an area for printing it is outlined with a red border. You can easily move this area around before printing. By default the area reflects the size of a single printed page. One thing that confused us, at first, is Topo! prints at ‡ scale of the displayed view by default. For example if I wanted a map printed to 1:24,000 scale I would have the map displayed at 1:12,000 and use the suggested printing scale. We found when we tried to use a custom scale to print the map to 100% of the displayed scale, the map didn't print clearly. After overcoming this we were able to use our GPS floater to accurately obtain a position on the printed map.
Topo! has a suggested retail price of $49.00. For current coverage and product updates visit Wildflower on the web at www.topo.com.
Summary: Topo! is a great product. It scored high marks with our testers. The biggest drawback is the limited area covered. Topo! chose to cover the more popular areas in the US and combine them into a regional CD set. We found the coverage of the populated Salt Lake City area to be very good, but coverage of the more remote, yet popular Southern Utah destinations is not yet available. If Topo! covers the area you plan to hike, and you need to have high quality printed maps, Topo! is for you. The annotation capabilities and seamless maps make this worthy addition to your gear shopping list.
- MicrosoftĆ WindowsĆ 3.1, 95/98 or NT
- 4 MB RAM
- 2x CDROM
Jeff Porcaro is a Contributing Editor at GearReview.com, and co-founder. He specializes in stoves, GPS navigation, mountaineering, and trips to Utah's remote backcountry.
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