Continuing yesterday’s review of TrekBuddy …
By tapping in the lower-right-hand corner of TrekBuddy’s map screen, you can flip through the compass screen, the computer mode screen (CMS), and back to the map screen. The compass screen is pretty rudimentary; just a needle display (no digital bearing), and it’s magnetic directions only (Figure 1):
If you’ve just installed the program, and now flip on to the CMS page, you’ll find it blank. Turns out that you have to download and install CMS themes by copying them into the TrekBuddy/ui-profiles directory, either from the CMS wiki page or the TrekBuddy forum. CMS themes are written in XML, and on the plus side it looks like you can create some very interesting themes, including scripting. On the downside, CMS theme creation isn’t for the newbie, even using GUI editors like CMS Creator and CMS Designer. What’s more, CMS themes appear to have rigid size specifications i.e. they’re written for particular screen pixel dimensions; so, you have to find or design a theme that’s close to your screen’s pixel size. Otherwise, instead of a CMS display that fills your screen (Figure 2):
You’ll get one that only partially fills it, with text so small that it can be unreadable (Figure 3):
Tracks And Waypoints:
The navigation screen (tap in the upper left corner of the map) lets you manage waypoints and tracks. Four submenus:
- Waypoints – Waypoints need to be in the standard GPX format, copied into the TrekBuddy/wpts directory. But you can have multiple waypoints in a single GPX file, and select one of them to use for display or navigation. Once selected, you can “GoTo” it (jump to the map area where it’s located), “NavigateTo” it (though TrekBuddy’s navigation capabilities are limited), or use it in creating a route. You can a Field Note to it, useful for geocaching. On high-resolution Android screens, the waypoint text and icon can be so small as to be unfindable/unreadable; what’s more, only a waypoint that you’re navigating to will show up on-screen (Figure 4):
- Tracks – Similar handling to waypoints; they’ll need to be in GPX format in the tracks-gpx directory, and you can only display one track at a time. You can navigate or route along a track. Annoyingly, all the individual track points are displayed (Figure 5):
- Record Current – Lets you record your current waypoint position, with your desired name and comment; time and altitude tags are added automatically. You can add a waypoint to an existing GPX file, or put it into a new GPX file on its own. Simple and easy to use – one of TrekBuddy’s best features.
- Add Custom – For creating a waypoint by entering coordinates; otherwise, works the same as “Record Current”.
The process of recording tracks is clumsy and inflexible. In the “Location” menu (under Settings), you only have the options of never recording tracks, asking when you start up the GPS and then tracking all the time, or always tracking as soon as the GPS is on. You can’t stop a track, then start up a new one in the running program; the only way to stop a track and start a new one is to exit the program. You have the option of saving tracks in either GPX or NMEA format; tracks are auto-named with the date/time, and stored in either the tracks-gpx or tracks-nmea directory.
- Occasional Java exception error pops up – this doesn’t seem to affect program operation, and goes away after you tap on the “OK” button.
- One program crash under odd circumstances; program died, but GPS tracking kept on going.
- Several times, the touch screen locked up completely; any attempts to do anything on-screen brings up a “Keyboard locked” message. Once, random button pushing got rid of the problem; the second time, I had to power-down my Android unit and turn it back on again to get rid of the problem.
There are a number of features I really like about TrekBuddy. The waypoint recording functions are pretty good, and the Bluetooth GPS option is a killer feature, one I hope more Android apps will adopt. And it does a decent job of map display and GPS tracking. I just wish there weren’t so many oddball quirks and inaccessible features that make using it a bit of a pain, at least in Android. It is a port of an app intended for use with OSes other Android, and I guess you can’t expect everything to port over smoothly. Worth checking out, especially for Bluetooth GPS, but I’m hoping to find a better map app, and/or that the Android bugs/quirks will get fixed.