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Turn Your Android Into A True Handheld GPS With OruxMaps – Part III: Managing Online And Offline Maps

Part I (OruxMaps interface) here; Part II (GPS Functionality) here.

OruxMaps has terrific map display functionality built into it. It can download and display map imagery in real-time from online sources like Google Maps and Bing Maps. But it also has the ability to use downloaded and saved map files to display map imagery even when no data connection is available, so you can use it in places where no WiFi or cellular coverage is available.


Figure 1: Here’s the start-up screen for OruxMaps. If you select Online Maps


Figure 2: The last online map service you used will be loaded in, at the last zoom level you used. Here, it’s Bing Maps at zoom level 19. If I want to select a different online map, I can press the Map Layers button on one of the button bars, hidden here, but which can be revealed by tapping in the appropriate location on-screen (see Part I of this review for more info). I can also use the Menu => Maps option to bring up the selection list …


Figure 3: There are roughly 30 different mapsets available by default in this list, some of which cover the whole earth while others have limited geographic coverage. If you pick a mapset with no coverage for your area, you’ll get a blank display. You can also add Web Mapping Service (WMS) servers to supply additional mapset options; more on this in a future post. If I select IFR-L …


Figure 4: … I get an aviation map for my area.


Figure 4: Online maps are just that: online. If you’re in an area with no data connectivity. i.e. offline, you can’t download new map data. However, OruxMaps will automatically save/cache map tile data in your Android unit’s memory, so that it doesn’t have to keep downloading the data over and over again. This cached data is also available when you’re offline as well. So one quick way to save map data for online use is to scroll the online map to your area of interest when you have a data connection, and zoom in to your desired detail level; every map tile downloaded for view will also be saved to the cache. This is a big plus if you’re on a limited wireless data plan – cache maps when you have a free WiFi connection, then use them later.

By default, OruxMaps sets a 256 MB minimum and 512 MB maximum cache threshold for saved map data. When you hit the maximum, it will tell you, and then process the cache to remove older map data until it hits the minimum cache threshold (the author cautions that this may take a while, and you should leave it undisturbed during the process.. You can adjust these threshold values up or down in the Settings => Maps online section.


Figure 5: In addition to online maps, direct and cached, OruxMaps lets you use custom created mapsets. These can be generated either from online map services, or from your own graphic map files. I’ll review some ways to create these and install them on your Android in upcoming posts. For now, I’ll just say that you can access these mapsets either from the Browse maps option on the starting screen (first pic above), or by clicking on the Offline maps button in the online map selection screen (third pic above).

If your last location fix was in a spot included on the selected map, you will go immediately to that spot; if not, you’ll be shown the middle point of that mapset. GPS tracking will normally be off in this mode; if you turn it on, and your chosen mapset doesn’t include your current position, you’ll be asked to choose a mapset that does include your current position, and you’ll be given a list of available maps that meet that criterion.

Maps are stored in the “mapfiles” subdirectory of the main OruxMaps directory on your SD card. Unfortunately, there’s no way inside the program to move/copy/delete mapsets in that program; you’ll have to either use a file manager like Astro File Manager or OI File Manager, or hook up your Android in USB Mass Storage mode to do this.


Figure 6: The map quality for custom mapsets can be very high; here’s a sample of a Forest Service topographic map, downloaded from the Forest Service raster data gateway. By default, these are displayed at 100% zoom, 1:1 pixel ratio, but you can overzoom in closer, or zoom out to view more area. For the latter, though, OruxMaps limits the number of map tiles loaded; however, as you move or scroll to new area, the corresponding map tiles are loaded automatically

According to the OruxMaps website manual (scroll to the bottom), you can also add a Web Map Service server to your list of online maps, which in theory could give you flexibility in adding additional online mapsets to OruxMaps from a wide variety of sources. However, I can’t get it to work on my phone, even though the OruxMaps forum reports success with other phones. If you can get it to work on your phone, please let me know in the comments section. Started working spontaneously for me after a short break; not sure what happened.

Tomorrow: how to generate custom mapset files from online map services.

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6 Responses to “Turn Your Android Into A True Handheld GPS With OruxMaps – Part III: Managing Online And Offline Maps”

  1. 1 Nrashi

    WMS services are not phone-dependant. You just need to place the correct file in the correct folder. They should work on any file. RTM, please.

  2. 2 leszekp

    I did read the manual, and copied the wms_services.xml into the proper folder; the WMS servers did not show up.

  3. 3 Rebecca

    hi, i’m struggling learning this but i’m not giving up. thanks so much for the tutorial. why can’t i find bing maps on the list of online maps list? is it under a different name? or do i have to load it in the list some how. i’m interested in using bing for their great bird’s eye view satellite photos.

  4. 4 leszekp

    Bing Maps are listed under Microsoft.

  5. 5 framistat

    Aviation maps are no longer available from the sources Oruxmaps was using.

  6. 6 TheFireDon

    Thanks for the tutorial, I used the info in the OziExplorer portion, but used ArcGIS which is way more expensive, but thought it was worth mentioning. In ArcGIS, build the map and export it twice, once as a geojpg, and once as a geotif. That writes the image usable by OruxMaps (.jpg) and the calibration file (.tfw). The link to have OruxMaps accept .TIF format was no longer working. For the datum and projection, you will need a little GIS savvy to look that information up in the layer properties in ArcGIS, but that will show you the information you need.

    I used Dropbox for the resulting Orux Compatible map and saved to my Galaxy Tab Android device. It opens and works great. Wish OruxMaps could directly read GeoPDF. Have not found an app to do that like availible for the iOS system in iPad, but this works until someone writes that.