Software Review: GPSed


My last article here, dating of some weeks ago, was about Mobiscope from Shape Services. Curiously, some days after publishing that article, I was advised that the company has released an update for another of their best sellers, GPSed.

So I wrote to them and asked for a reviewer's license in order to try to figure out what they are talking about with GPSed, and what's all the fun with it.

The above pictures are from the developers' website. My findings, together with my own screenshots and a short video just after the break.

 

So what is it for?

Shape Services tags this software with the tagline "Mapping Impressions". This is actually the idea. It is not (at least not at this point) a software for planning tracks, but for registering our trips and tracks on the map together with comments and pictures. It will let us do that very well. Some very handy additional functionality is the SOS message setting, which will let us send SMS and email to a predefined number and/or email address in case we run into danger. The SMS and mail will contain our exact position, and a link to see us in the map, allowing rescue teams to get exactly to where we are.

But mapping is not enough if we cannot share it. Both the software and the gpsed.com website give us the ability to automatically share our impressions and maps with our friends in most social websites, like Twitter, Facebook, and others.

So let's begin digging into it.

The Experience

After the initial splash screen, this is the main software screen in which we land:

The upper part of the screen will show us the GPS status, the number of identified satellites, and the time. The middle of the screen will give us our speed and course (direction), and the bottom will specify the time we have been tracking and the distance we have made since the beginning of the tracking.

GPS status will change between "Not connected" (Red), "Seeking Satellites" (Orange) and "OK to Track" (Green).

The main screen is our entry point to all other functions of the software, and that is done through the main Menu. From this menu we can start a track (or end it in case we are already recording), send an SOS message, choose a previously recorded track to see, change the map type in which we will see the track, lock the device for unattended mode (screen off to save battery), change settings, and get support.

There are 4 different supported map types: the first and most basic one is Grid, meaning "no map", only a square grid. Second is the Roads Map, the standard Google map showing the names of the streets and roads around us. Third is the Satellite map, which puts our track in the satellite view of the region, and last is the Terrain map, a geological map that shows the area around us in terms of heights (mountains and valleys).

The view menu permits us to change our view between the Main Screen, the Track Preview (the maps), and the Track Details (track data).

I don't fully like the expression track preview, since it gives an idea of previewing the track before we do it. It is not that. What it actually does is to give us a preview of how the track will appear in the internet website by showing it on the map. So I would probably call it Track View or Map View.

These are the possible settings. I will not go in details on each one of them, the names are quite self-explanatory.

In the above picture we see the details of a track I have done to test the software. Actually I drove my car for 10 minutes from my home to the beginning of the center of my city, Netanya. Distance is around 6Km, and I think that I've found a mistake on the height measures of my GPS, since Netanya is a seashore town and I believe that the cliffs in front of the shore don't go over 50 to 75 meters. So 132.5m as shown in the software seems to be over the real height. Well, we all know that GPSs do have problems with height exactitude, don't we?

This is my drive on the satellite map. The software shows it beautifully. My only complaint is to Google: it is time to update the satellite views and maps for Israel. Look at my starting point at the South: that is my home. No, I am not a homeless hermit living at the dunes by the Netanya sea. A full neighborhood has been already built in this area. There are already nearly 8 populated buildings, and some 30 more being built.

The menu here will let us change the map type.

We are now in the Road Map..... same thing, do you see "Ir Yamim (in planning)"? Well, I already live in this planning for 13 months, and believe me I haven't invaded it before it was ready .

This is the Terrain map. It gives us the ability to get an idea of geological conditions around.

One point that would improve the map views, and specially this last one, would be to give us the ability to zoom and move on the map.

Sharing it

We can give people we like the ability to follow our tracks in the internet. This can be through sending them a direct link to our page on GPSed.com, or by automatically updting our status in the various social networks from the software.

This is how someone would see that same track above in the Internet via the GPSed website:

They can move, zoom, change map type and even move into a Google Earth map. They can see the details of the Waypoints we have marked (yes, we can mark waypoints with comments), and they can see the photos we upload.

Regarding photos, I have a comment: we can only upload photos via the website. Well, my phone has a camera, and this camera has an API. Other software can control it. If PockeTwit, for example, can take a snapshot and upload it automatically to Twitter, there isn't really a reason why GPSed won't do that. So this is in my list of improvements to make.

Here is the page where we can manage our tracks:

Here we can add information, upload photos, etc.

מסקנות

Shape Services has done a great job with GPSed. It is simple, it is useful, and most of all, it is fun. There are some things to improve in the next version (my list is below), but for now I can say I really enjoy this software. From now on, every time I go in a motorcycle ride with my friends of the Burgman Club Israel, I will have this software on and twitting.

One important thing we should note: there are some differences between the Basic Version, distributed for free, and the Pro version which costs $9.99:

Key Features: Basic version Pro version
Live and offline GPS tracking + +
Adjustable Live tracking modes + +
Public/Private tracks + +
Live sharing to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and others from mobile + +
Lifetime support via e-mail + +
Unattended mode (save the battery life). This mode is specific to Pocket PCs. The screen, backlight, and the audio are all turned off, but the programs on the device are running. + +
"SOS button" for instant position alerts over SMS or email.
Note: your device must have GSM module
  +
Live tracking with smallest time intervals (up to 3 seconds)   +
Google Maps as a Track Preview mode background during track recording   +
Recordered track preview with Google Maps (List of Tracks->Menu->Track Preview)   +

For many people the Basic version will be enough, but I surely believe that functionality like SOS and the shorter interval are worth the money.

My suggestions for the next version:

Based on my previous remarks, here is the list of suggestions for the next version:

  1. Enable camera operation from the Waypoint screen so we can mark a waypoint, comment on it and upload a picture. This will be a breathtaking feature.
  2. Enable zoom and map-dragging in the preview maps.
  3. New functionality: track planning. Show me the map of the area I choose and let me draw my track manually. Later, when tracking begins, display my plan on the map in parallel to the live track, so I can see the actual track comparing to the planning and fix my directions if necessary.

Last but not least, I have prepared a 5 minute video on the operation of the software, that will give you a better feeling of the software in motion.

I hope you have enjoyed the track. See you in the next article.