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Archive Page 2 of 14



Add GPS Status Data To Any GPS-Enabled App

Application Name: GPS Monitor

Description: Shows basic GPS data in the status bar whenever any app enables GPS

Publisher’s website: Illyrium

Cost: Free basic version; paid Pro version adds additional features

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0.5  /  6-22-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.3

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


Many GPS apps for Android come with a GPS status screen that shows the number of GPS satellites currently in the sky, the number of satellites for which a signal has been found, and whether a GPS location fix has been locked in. However, many popular apps like Google Maps/Navigation/Earth have no such indicator; there’s only a GPS status bar indicator that shows you whether you have a fix or not. GPS Monitor adds an additional indicator to the status bar that shows the number of satellites that a signal is being received from, the number of satellites for which there’s a position “fix”, and whether a final position fix has been obtained.

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Running the program starts up a resident service on your Android phone; anytime you start up a program that enables your GPS, the service adds an icon to the status bar (above, at left). The number indicates the number of GPS satellites from which a signal is being received, while the “red eye” indicates that no position fix has been obtained.

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Once a GPS position lock has been obtained, the “red eye” turns in to the green symbol seen at upper left; the green number indicates the number of satellites for which a signal lock has been obtained.  You can change this number to all satellites in view using the program’s Settings section, but the default setting of satellites with a signal lock is probably the best option.

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Pull down the status bar, and you’ll get more information, including the total number of satellites for which a signal is being received (the first number), and the number of “signal lock” satellites (the second number).

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The second line in the status bar dropdown is an additional information field that can be specified in the Settings section; however, I couldn’t get this to work on my phone for any of the options (from the app reviews, I gather this is an anomaly). Another available option in Settings is to start/stop the GPS Monitor service, but even after disabling this option, it started up again on its own when I rebooted my phone. It uses about 6-7 MB of RAM, something to keep in mind if you have a low RAM phone or a lot of other services running.

Other issues: The paid Pro version currently only adds an audio tone to indicate when GPS has been enabled, and when a fix has been obtained. The developer indicates that he’ll be adding GPS diagnostics to the app, as well as a “keep alive” option that will keep the GPS running even when no app requires it. The latter is great for quick position fixes, but can really burn through your battery very quickly.

Final thoughts: Unless RAM is tight on your system, installing the free version is a no-brainer; having a satellite status/number icon for apps that don’t come with it is a huge help in figuring out whether your GPS is working correctly or not. For the paid Pro version, I would wait until the additional features are added (and also whether the additional information field is working on your system).




Day/Night World Map

Application Name: Daylight World Map

Description: Shows day/night regions in world map.

Publisher’s website: SPWebGames

Cost: Free (ad-supported

Version/date reviewed: v.2.31  /  6-15-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Daylight World Map is the Android version of the classic Geochron wall clock that shows day/night conditions on a scrolling world map, but without the multi-thousand-dollar price tag.

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Shaded areas indicate night (sun below horizon, while light areas indicate daylight; the yellow dot is the current location where the sun is directly overhead. Red dots are cities (which can be turned on/off), and the crosshairs show the current selected location.

The control icons on the left/right are a bit cryptic. On the left, top to bottom, they are:

  • Full-screen – Shows the map view full screen, without control icons or the ad.
  • Zoom in
  • Zoom out
  • Info – Toggles an info box for the currently selected location:

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  • Settings – Lets you select the map background, turn cities on/off, and turn the info box on/off:

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  • Exit – Exits the program.

The right controls:

  • Set location – Select this, and then choose either your phone location (at the top of the list), or the desired country:

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  • After selecting a country, you’re given an additional control to select the city:

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  • Date control – Lets you change the date for which the sunlight map is displayed (from the default, which is the current date).
  • Time control – Lets you change the time for the sunlight map (default is now). It’s in UTC (Greenwich time), so you’ll need to know the offset in hours between your current time zone and Greenwich time.
  • Time controls – The right/left arrow controls let you speed up/slow down/reverse time, and watch an animated view how the daylight zone changes. Tap on either of these buttons, and a “stop” button shows up below them to stop the animation. Tap on the “stop” button, and it changes to an “RT” button, “real-time”, that brings the display back to the current day and time.

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As a bonus, it installs an Android widget that displays a mini-map on any Android screen that has enough free space. Long-tap on the widget, and it starts up the full app.

Other issues: Crashed once on me, but otherwise worked fine.

Final thoughts: A nice implementation of a day/night world map. I wish the icons were a bit more intuitive, and easier to view onscreen. But once you learn how they work, it’s not too tough to remember what functions they represent.




Range Circles In A Google Maps View With CircleMap

Application Name: CircleMap

Description: Draws range circles in a Google Maps view

Publisher’s website: pscdroid

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1.4  /  6-14-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


CircleMap draws a set of concentric range circles on top of a Google Maps interface.

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The initial view shows a wide-area zoom, with constant distance circles centered on your current location. Use pinch-to-zoom to zoom in and out, or tap on the screen, and +/- zoom controls will appear at the bottom.

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As you zoom in, the distance spacing for circles changes to match the zoom; unfortunately, you have no control over the spacing. Your current location starts out in the center, but if you drag the map over, a distance measure (red line with distance in metric units) will show up, indicating the distance between your current location and the center point of the map.

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From the menu control, you can set a base location for measurement other than your current location by scrolling to the desired location and choosing “Set base point”. The “Current position” control puts your current GPS location at the center of the screen; if that’s not the current base point, choosing “Set base point” will make it so. Finally, “Change map” toggles between the standard Google Maps view and the satellite/hybrid view. The latter doesn’t work very well, as the range circles are drawn with such thin red lines that they’re difficult to see against some backgrounds.

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The pencil control in the lower-right-hand corner of the first three screenshots lets you draw freehand on the map, but the utility of this is marginal; it makes the range circles go away, and you can’t save your drawings. Tap on the double-arrow control to erase the drawing and go back to the range circles view.

Final thoughts: The only app of its kind that I could find on the market, and does a decent basic job. Would be a lot better if you had control over range circle spacing and units, and the thickness/color of the circle lines.




Survey-Relevant Data App For Android

Application Name: Survey Demo

Description: Data overlays useful to surveyors and map users.

Publisher’s website: Surveying.org

Cost: Free demo version; Standard ($4.95) and Pro ($9.95) versions add additional features.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  5-5-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


The Surveying.Org website offers a host of useful data layers for surveyors and cartographers, but all of the layers don’t work in the standard Android browser. The suite of Survey apps (Demo, Standard and Pro) offer these same data layers in stand-alone apps. Data layers viewed in a Google Maps interface, with standard Road/Aerial/Terrain views or the MyTopo USGS topographic maps view, include:

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UTM zone overlays (tap on the map for the info popup for all layers)

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State Plane Coordinate System boundaries

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Principal Meridian boundaries and locations for the Public Land Survey System

All of the above can be viewed with the free Demo version. The Standard version of Survey ($4.95) adds two more data layers, and an additional function:

  • National Geodetic Survey horizontal control benchmarks (with links to data sheets)
  • National Geodetic Survey vertical control points.
  • Measure distances and areas on the map.

The Pro version of Survey ($9.95) adds a few additional features:

  • Built-in inclinometer
  • Find the latitude/longitude for a point by tapping on it.
  • Recording of points and tracks, export in KML format.

Other issues: I guess I have a number of concerns with the app:

  • Data layers are fetched online as needed, but that means that if you’re offline, they’re not available – a big drawback
  • The GPS stays on if you switch to a different app, rather than exiting the main app; forget about this, and you can quickly drain down the battery.
  • The Standard version is a bit expensive ($4.95), but if you need that data handy, probably worth it. The current set of additional features with the Pro version doesn’t justify it’s $9.95 price, as you can duplicate the additional functionality with other apps, many of which are free. The author plans to add PLSS data and lat/long to State Plane Coordinate System coordinate conversion to a future version, which would make it more worthwhile, but still a bit expensive for what you get.

Final thoughts: All of the functionality of the Demo version can be gotten using the Surveying.org website in the standard Android browser, plus length and area measurement, but the interface is easier and faster in the app than the website. If you need a handy reference source in the field for nearby NGS benchmarks, the Standard version might be worth the high price, but if you can plan ahead, all the data is available for free at the Surveying.org website The Pro version is overpriced for what you currently get with it; until additional functionality is added, I’d pass on it for now.




Clinometer And Spirit Level For Android

Application Name: spirit level + clinometer free

Description: Bubble level and slope measurement tool

Publisher’s website: plaincode

Cost: Free; paid version with additional features may be coming in the future.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  5-4-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


spirit level + clinometer is an adaptation of an iPhone app, and it definitely looks like it – the graphics are very clean and distinctive.

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When the phone is at an angle of less than roughly 55 degree or so, the app defaults to the bubble level mode, displaying both angles of displacement (pitch and yaw).

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You can switch the bubble level between colors using the S/C control in the menu, but choices are limited to red/green/blue/grayscale. The “lock” icon at lower left lets you lock a reading; tap it once and wait a second or two for a tone to indicate lock, or just double-tap it to lock the reading immediately. When locked, the icon will change to a yellow padlock – tap it again to unlock the level.

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From the menu, you can also change the units to single degree precision, tenths of a degree, or percent slope.

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If either phone angle of rotation is greater than about 55 degrees, the display switches over to a clinometer view, showing angle and percent slope on the dial. You can also set the central number to be either degrees or percent as well. The graphics are very clean and readable in this mode, and the vernier scales (on either side of the central number) spin as you rotate the phone, a nice touch even if they don’t actually add any functionality.

In this mode, the arrow icon at lower left rotates the background scale, so that you can set the top number to be 0 degrees / 0 percent slope , or 90 degrees / infinite slope.

Other issues: Biggest drawback is the lack of a calibration/zero setting function; without it, absolutely accuracy is limited. I also wish there was an option to keep the app in bubble level mode permanently

Final thoughts: Looks cool, easy to read the numbers, and generally works well. But until a calibration/zero setting function is added,  you might be better off with one of the other bubble level apps on the market, and the clinometer function in either Ulysse Gizmo, Rocklogger or eGeo Compass.




Google Earth For Android

Application Name: Google Earth

Description: 3D landscape views of local terrain with an aerial imagery overlay; GPS-enabled.

Publisher’s website: Google Earth For Mobile

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0.1  /  5-4-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Note: This review only looks at Google Earth on an Android phone; additional functionality is available on some Android tablets, including 3D buildings.

Google Earth for Android is a stripped-down version of its desktop cousin, which lets you view the Earth in a three-dimensional view, with satellite imagery draped over terrain. It’s pretty amazing that it works at all on small, limited devices like Android smartphones, much less preserving as much of the functionality as it does. Unfortunately, it’s still missing some useful functions found in the desktop version, which limits its overall utility.

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The first time you start up the app, and choose My Location from the menu, the app will zoom in to an overhead view of your current location, marked with a blue-ball icon; location is determined either by GPS, nearby WiFi network, or cell tower triangulation.

Unlike the desktop version, there are no onscreen controls to change your point of view; it’s all done by touchscreen, and isn’t exactly intuitive.

  • Tap and drag with one finger to move the map in one direction (pan).
  • Use two-finger pinch to zoom in/out
  • Double-tap to zoom in on a point
  • Twist two fingers on the screen to rotate the view
  • Drag two fingers simultaneously on the screen to tilt the view for the full 3D effect.

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To restore the view to overhead, north at top, tap on the compass rose in the upper right corner.

Google Earth caches data so that you can still use it if you go offline temporarily. You can set the cache size in the Settings section to Small/Medium/Large, but there’s no clue as to how much space each of these options uses. And if you’re on a limited data plan, watch out, especially if you’re using the app in a car – you can easily download many megabytes of data in a short period of time.

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Tapping on the eyeball icon at lower left toggles you between the default panning view and “Look around” mode (indicated by the green marker). In the latter, the view is controlled by moving the phone, using the compass and accelerometer to determine which direction you’re pointing the phone. Very cool to look at, but on a phone, the screen is too small to let you make out significant details, and trying to use zoom functionality for a closer look can be an exercise in frustration – it’s difficult to zoom in on exactly the point you’re interested in.

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There’s a limited subset of data layers available, most of which are more easily usable in the Android Google Maps app (Panoramio being the one notable exception).

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You sometimes need to zoom in quite close on an area to see all the data points in the layer; not surprising, since in an urban area they’d completely cover the aerial imagery. However, none of the data points are labeled on the map; you have to tap on one to bring up an info page for it.

There are several incredibly useful functions on the desktop version that are still missing in the Android app:

  • No measurement tools for distance or area.
  • Fewer data layers.
  • Worst of all, you can’t add your own data to the map in KML/KMZ format, at all. Odd, since you can do so in the Google Maps app (subject of an upcoming post here).

Other issues: App does crash on a regular basis, but does so fairly gracefully; you will get an error message with a force-close option.

Final thoughts: Don’t get me wrong, Google Earth is a cool free app, fun to play with, and a great demo to show off your phone’s capabilities. But I don’t find the 3D terrain view compelling enough under normal use to make me switch over from the Google Maps app, which has far more features and options. If the option to view your own KML/KMZ data is added to the app, then it will become far more useful.




Export Point Locations In AutoCAD DXF Format

Application Name: Droid 2 CAD

Description: Capture points, export them as AutoCAD DXF points, KML files

Publisher’s website: QubeCAD

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0  /  4-25-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Droid 2 CAD captures point locations, and lets you export them to an AutoCAD DXF file, KML file, or CSV file.

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Bare-bone startup interface; icons at upper right are for recording points (left) and exporting points (right).

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Tapping the record points icon brings up the point data screen, and also fires up the GPS. You can enter title/description data here.

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To enter your current location/altitude, press the Get Location button, and the data will automatically be entered. There is no way to cancel a point entry; if you hit the back key without entering a location, a point will be created with no location information.

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Points are listed as created, but there’s no way to edit/delete points after they’re created, except to delete all points.

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From the menu, the Map View option plots the points in a Google Maps view.

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You have the option to export all points in KML (Google Earth format), DXF formats and CSV. For the latter three, only the first point position is recorded; positions of subsequent points are recorded relative to the first point (i.e. displacement in meters or feet). I’m guessing this is useful for CAD applications, but I wish there was an option for absolute positions for all the points as well.

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File export isn’t done to a local directory, but is instead sent to any number of options, including Dropbox (if installed on your Android) and Email. I prefer this approach to local saving, since then you don’t have to figure out how to get the files off your Android.

Other issues: Always use the menu’s Quit option to exit, otherwise the GPS may not be turned off, which can drain your battery.

Final thoughts: Potentially useful for CAD users, but for general location recording, and export in KML/GPX format, there are many better options.




Geotagged Audio Stories And Tours With Broadcastr

Application Name: Broadcastr

Description: Geotagged audio file creator

Publisher’s website: Broadcastr

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  4-25-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Broadcastr is a social website that lets you create, share and view audio files tagged to geographic locations; it’s free to browse, but free registration is required to create your own audio files. The iPhone app has been out for a while, and an Android app has just come out.

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The website lets you search by keyword, by categories, or by featured sources (UNICEF here).

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Search results are plotted in a Google Maps interface; clicking on a blue icon brings up the story in an in-browser player.

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In the Android app, the GPS will fire up to get your current location, and then the view will zoom out until the closest available geotagged audio story appears, also marked with a blue dot.

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Tap on the blue dot, and a pop-up will show you the title of this audio note.

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Another tap will bring up even more info; tapping on the Play icon will play the associated audio file.

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Zoom out in the Google Maps view to see more distant audio files.

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The Menu button brings up more options, like a list view of all audio files currently visible in the map view …

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… and the option to record your own note/story, pin it to a geolocation, and have it viewable at the Broadcastr site.

Other issues: Not sure how practical creating audio stories will be on Android, as they’re likely to include distracting noise and ambient sounds. Viewing local notes is easy now, as there aren’t a huge number yet, but I wonder how that will scale as the number of available stories for an area increases.

Final thoughts: Great app for creating audio tours, and personal stories about locations; I hope to use it to create interpretive tours for a number of local trails.




Geographic Data Recording On Android With Memento

Application Name: Memento

Description: Database app with custom form design, GPS geolocation input

Publisher’s website: Memento

Cost: Free ad-supported version; $9.95 Pro version removes ads, removes limits on number of databases that can be synced with Google Docs

Version/date reviewed: v.1.8.3  /  4-24-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

mem_qr

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


Memento is generally regarded as the best consumer-level database app for Android. You can select from 11 standard data templates (Tasks, CDs, DVDs, Purchases, etc.), browse an online catalog where others have shared their templates, or create your own Custom data template, choosing from 19 different data types:

  • Text
  • Integer
  • Real number
  • Boolean
  • Calculation
  • Date
  • Time
  • Date/Time
  • Contact
  • Image
  • String values
  • Multiselect values
  • Audio
  • Currency
  • Rating
  • Hyperlink
  • Barcode
  • Link to entry
  • Link to file
  • Password
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Google Maps coordinates

Of particular interest here is the last one; you can save geographic coordinate data using a Google Maps interface in conjunction with GPS.

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Here, I’ve created a simple database, with a text field and location field.

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Tapping the Location field brings up a Google Maps view, and fires up the GPS; your current location will be marked by the blue dot.

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Ideally, the default would be for your current location to be the desired location for recording. However, Memento requires you to select a location by tapping on the map view; the selected location is marked with a pushpin icon. Accurate placement requires you to zoom in to the maximum zoom level, and even then it may take you some practice to get it right. You can also zoom out to a different location, and position the pushpin there.

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Clicking on OK enters that location in to the appropriate field; clicking on Create saves the record.

Databases can be exported in CSV format, although some data types like images cannot be exported to this format; you can also import data in CSV format to a data template, if you follow the directions to make sure the data fields in the CSV match the data fields in the template correctly.

Even more usefully, you can sync your database automatically to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Syncing is done manually, so that you can record data while offline, then sync it up later with Google Docs. Syncing works both ways, so you can add data in Google Docs, and have it synced to your Android unit. Once in Google Docs, you can analyze the data, manipulate it, and export it in a variety of formats (e.g. CSV, XLS). It’s usually best to do this on a copy of the data, as modifying the original spreadsheet may result in sync problems later on.

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One quirk of the geographic coordinate recording is that the latitude and longitude are combined into a single entry, separated by a colon, as seen above in a screen capture from Google Docs. However, it’s pretty easy to convert that into split Latitude/Longitude columns:

1. Make a copy of the synced spreadsheet to avoid sync issues later on.

2. In the copy, create a new C column, and label it Latitude.

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3. Use the Split command to split the data in the B column (Location) into two separate data fields. You need to specify the spreadsheet location you want to modify (B2 here), and the delimiter (a colon), so you would enter =Split(B2,”:”) into the C2 column. Hitting the Enter key will now split the B column data into two data entries, the first half going into the C column, the second going into a new D column:

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4. You can now copy and paste the C2 data into all the other rows in the C column, and have all that data split as well; the D column is the Longitude, so you can label it as such:

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If you export this modified spreadsheet as a CSV or XLS file, some mapping/GIS programs can open it directly. Otherwise, you can use a program like MapWindow to convert the CSV file into a GIS-friendly shapefile format, or a program like DNRGarmin to convert it to a GPS-friendly GPX format.

Other issues: The free version limits the number of databases you can sync with Google Docs, but I couldn’t find out anywhere what that limit was. The in-app help is terrific, maybe the best I’ve seen, and it’s available even when you’re offline.

Final thoughts: The free version is a no-brainer must-have; this is the best basic database app for Android, especially with the geographic capabilities and Google Docs sync. If you need to sync lots of databases to Google Docs, the Pro version is expensive (for an Android app), but may be worth it.




A Convenient Keyboard For Google Maps Navigation

Application Name: QuickGo

Description: Full-screen keyboard for easy destination entry to Google Maps Navigation

Publisher’s website: Joe Marshall

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.0.2  /  4-20-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


If you use Google Maps’ car navigation app regularly, one problem you might have is with entering names/addresses using the keyboard, especially when the car is moving. The keys can be small, and you likely have to switch between the letters keyboard and numbers keyboard. QuickGo offers a full-screen keyboard, with numbers and letters, that simplifies the job of entering a destination; once entered, it automatically starts up Google Maps Navigation to the entered destination.

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The app works in both portrait and landscape, but the keys are pretty squeezed together in portrait mode; I’d recommend landscape mode for easier data entry.

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Type in your destination or address; haptic feedback when you press the keys. Letters are all caps, so they’re easy to read. Hit the Search button to enter your query …

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… and the Google Maps Navigation app will fire up, and either bring up the navigation screen directly, or let you choose from options if it’s not sure which destination you meant. (P.S. The Himalayan Grill rocks!).

Other issues: If you use the Car Home screen that some phones have as a default when in car navigation mode, the author recommends adding QuickGo as one of the custom button options, for easy access. App did force-close on me once, but it’s brand-new, so I assume those issues will get fixed. Would be nice if it could be made to work with other navigation apps as well.

Final thoughts: It definitely does make text entry easier for addresses. If the voice entry option for Google Maps Navigation doesn’t work well for you, this is a excellent alternative.