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Turn Your Android Into A True Handheld GPS With OruxMaps – Part II: GPS Functionality

Continuing on from Part I yesterday …

GPS Functionality


Figure 1: One feature I was excited to see OruxMaps had was integrated support for an external Bluetooth GPS unit; as I’ve posted about before, this has significant advantages for extending battery life and improving position accuracy. Unfortunately, I was unable to get it to work with my Bluetooth GPS unit; YMMV. The program really needs a special screen to help establish and confirm a good connection with the Bluetooth GPS. Fortunately, the excellent Bluetooth GPS app works fine with OruxMaps, so you can still use your external Bluetooth GPS unit even if OruxMaps built-in Bluetooth functionality doesn’t work. Hopefully, this will be addressed in future versions.


Figure 2: Online maps can sometimes have positions that are offset from their true positions, by anywhere from tens to hundreds of meters. OruxMaps has a killer built-in calibration function, accessible from the Tweaks menu, that lets you correct for such an offset, improving the accuracy of your position as displayed on the map. You’ll have to reset this every time you start up the app, as it appears to only be good for your current session.


Figure 3: To create a waypoint, just tap on the Create waypoint button on a button bar (the pushpin with a “+” next to it). You have the following options for input variables:

  • Waypoint name
  • Waypoint dropdown: lets you choose the waypoint icon from a preset list. No option yet for your own custom icons; I hope this comes eventually.
  • Description
  • Coordinates; default is your current position, but you can enter custom coordinates here (WGS84 datum only)
  • Projection: create a waypoint displaced from your current position by a certain distance and direction
  • Geocoding: supposedly does an online lookup of your current location, and then enters a corresponding geographic name. I couldn’t get this to work.
  • Extensions: lets you associate an already existing photo or video with the waypoint; you can also record an audio note, or enter additional text.


Figure 4: Saved waypoints are accessible from the map view with Menu => Waypoints. Waypoints displayed in the list can be loaded into the map view with the Menu  => To map option.


Figure 5: You can filter waypoints by type, distance from your current location (in km or mi., depending on the set unit system), date, or associated tracks. Only the filtered waypoints will then be loaded using the To map option. I do wish there was an option to select a single waypoint, or multiple waypoints, by checking them off on a list.


Figure 6: To log a track, tap the Record track button (the icon with multiple green flags and a red record button); to stop recording the track, tap the button again, and it will automatically be saved in the track database with the date and time as the name. You can set the track color and thickness in the Settings section.


Figure 7: You can access the tracks database list with the Menu => Tracks option, which shows when they were created, and their length. As with waypoints, you can filter this list to only display tracks within a certain date range or type. Unlike waypoints, though, you can choose a single track to load. In fact, you have to – one of OruxMap’s biggest drawbacks is that it can display only one track at a time. And if you’re recording a track, you can’t view a previously-saved track at the same time. Hopefully, this will be fixed in the future, so that you can display multiple tracks at the same time (and have them appear in different colors). On the plus side, if you load a track into a map, you can calculate the area enclosed by the track using the Menu => Tools option.


Figure 8: One very cool feature for tracks is the ability to display statistics for that track …


Figure 9: And plot parameters like altitude, speed and slope against either distance or time. If you have a compatible Bluetooth heartbeat monitor, it can plot that as well. Use the coupon code ORUXMAPS to save $5, and get the app’s author some affiliate revenue.


Figure 10: Tracks and waypoints can be imported in either the GPX or KML formats. OruxMaps will use the OI File Manager if installed to select the import file, so it doesn’t have to be in a program-specific directory. This makes Dropbox a very convenient way to import data; just drop the files into your computer’s Dropbox folder, download them to your Android unit using the Dropbox app, then use the OI File Manager to navigate to the “dropbox” folder to select them for import. Similarly, lists of waypoints/tracks, or individual tracks, can be exported into either GPX or KML format; in this case, though, the default folder will always be the “tracklogs” subfolder of the main “oruxmaps” folder, and the filename will be automatically generated.

These are just some of the features; a look through all the menus (plus a look on the website’s help manual page) will reveal many more. The app is also actively being developed, and more features are added/modified all the time.

Tomorrow, a more detailed look at using online and offline maps with OruxMaps.

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