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Archive for the 'web data' Category

AutoCad For Your Android

Application Name: AutoCad WS

Description: Viewer/editor of AutoCad files stored at the AutoCad WS website.

Publisher’s website: AutoCad WS

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  4-20-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)

AutoDesk’s AutoCad WS site is a free cloud-based site for storing and editing AutoCad files (DXF and DWG formats); see this post on the Free Geography Tools site for more info. The AutoCad WS Android app lets you access these files, files sent as email attachments, or files in online services like DropBox, then view/edit/annotate them, and have the changes synced to your AutoCad WS account.


You will need to have an AutoCad WS account to use the app; you can create one from the app, but it’s probably easier to create one from the website. Log in to the account, and you’ll get a list of available files for viewing/editing; tap on any one to open it.


Files will open at the last zoom level they were used at; uses standard pinch to zoom commands, so if your phone doesn’t support that, this app will be pretty useless. The command bar at the bottom can be scrolled left/right; included are commands for:

  • Adding features (circles, lines, rectangles, text, etc.) and measuring distances
  • A markup tool for annotating drawings
  • A color selector for features and objects
  • Undo/redo buttons
  • A universal select tool; choosing a shape brings up Move/Scale/Rotate/Erase/Copy options
  • A layout selector (Model/Layouts)
  • Normal/grayscale views
  • A “share” option that lets others view and edit the file


With most options, tapping on the option button brings up suboptions, as with the Add features button above …

acd_4 … and the Markup option above.

Changes can be synced to the cloud version of the file if you have an online connection, using the Sync button on the file list page.

Other issues: On a smartphone with a decent-sized screen (4”), this app works OK for viewing files and marking them up. But trying to add and edit features on such a small screen is an exercise in futility, both because of the size of the screen and the inaccuracy in using your finger to create features. The app does work on tablets, and I’m guessing editing would actually be possible on one of these, especially if you have a stylus. The browser version has the ability to view CAD files georeferenced against a Google Maps background, and I wish that were an option on this version; also wish it supported feature addition via GPS. Finally, don’t expect the full feature set of AutoCad on a free Android app, or even the free browser-based editor; you can do basic operations, but nothing fancy.

Final thoughts: Great for viewing and annotating AutoCad files in the field with a smartphone, but the screen is really too small for editing. If you’ve got a tablet, though, editing is likely to be more practical. If they added native geospatial capabilities to the app, it would be a killer app for everyone; as is, it’s really only for AutoCad users, but is perfect for them.

Locational Soil And Vegetation Data In Android With SoilWeb

Application Name: SoilWeb

Description: Pulls up NRCS-NCSS soil, geology and vegetation data for a location.

Publisher’s website: SoilWeb

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1  /  9-21-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.1


Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

If someone asked me to demonstrate apps that showed the true potential of Android-based portable geography tools, SoilWeb would be one of my top examples. SoilWeb queries US government soil survey data based on a GPS-derived location, then displays it on your Android’s screen. The intro screen gives basic instructions, as well as an example of the kind of data it will retrieve (Figure 1):


Tap on “Get My Location” to start up the GPS, and determine the coordinates for which data will be retrieved. Since the app only allows 30 seconds for position acquisition, it’s probably a good idea to run some other GPS app beforehand to “warm up” the system. Ironically, my house is in one of the few areas in the country with no data coverage; the app will tell me that, as well as bringing up a link to a US data coverage map (Figure 2):


However, I was in an area of New Mexico last week that does have data, and was able to fully exercise the app. After getting my location, the app retrieved two soil columns for the area I was in (Figure 3):


Tapping on the link at the top of the column brings up a description of it (Figure 4):


Tapping on the soil column itself brings up tabular data for both the soil, and vegetation types typical for that soil type and the climate of the area (Figure 5):


Awesome stuff, and I hope to see more apps like this in the future. I hope to try and bang out a few myself, but am unlikely to make one as good as this one. Kudos to Dylan Beaudette of the California Soil Resource Lab for putting this app together, and making it freely available.