TOPO! - California


Page Type Gear Review
Object Title TOPO! - California
Manufacturer National Geographic
Page By mpbro
Page Type Jan 25, 2002 / Jan 25, 2002
Object ID 120
Hits 4588
Own a complete set of full-color USGS topo maps for California on convenient CD-ROMs; set includes 10 CDs covering the entire state!

  • TOPO!'s traveling tool allows you to zoom in, zoom out and scroll the map in any direction.

  • TOPO! determines the exact latitude/longitude and elevation of any point on the map.

  • Enhanced 3-D digital shading emphasizes changes in elevation, making the maps easier to read and use.

  • Add routes, symbols and text to customize your map; attach note boxes to the objects you place on the map.

  • Print and export maps directly from TOPO! in color, grayscale or black and white.

  • Transfer your custom information directly to or from any leading GPS receiver.

System requirements: Microsoft Windows 95, 98, 2000,NT;16MB of memory; double speed CD-ROM drive; 256-colormonitor; 486 DX/66MHz PC or higher. Made in USA.


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mpbro - Jan 25, 2002 1:12 pm - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
5 stars for the amazing capability that this software gives you. Scroll effortlessly over map regions, at multiple (1:24K, 1:100K, 1:500K) scales. Make routes and check the elevation profile. Upload/Download GPS data.

Subtract one star for some pretty profound software problems:

  • Can anyone say "undo"??? How many times have I meticulously traced out a route, only to accidentally delete it, with no undo to help me.
  • I used this software to build my online online running calculators. I would have killed to have a copy/cut/paste protocol for the little arrow symbols.
  • The elevation profiles and trail distances are almost by definition inaccurate. Human trailmakers are excellent at minimizing local elevation gain, while poor at finding the shortest path between two distant points. The topo trails, on the other hand, tend to be straighter and shorter than the real trail, while not as careful to minimize elevation gain. The magnitude of the errors depends on the nature of the topography and the accuracy of the trail's location on the map, since you have to trace it out by hand.

GPS upload has worked quite well. I have a Garmin ETrex Summit, and I have uploaded tracklogs from a few runs that I've taken in the area. TOPO!'s facility for editing the waypoints and turning tracklogs to trails is quite reliable.

GreenNerve - Mar 17, 2003 3:30 pm - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
I agree for the most part with the other reviewer. However, “profound software problems” sounds like there are bugs in the code. I’d have to more aptly characterize these as a lack of development on the interface. There are many features once you figure them out. I think multiple toolbars would have made things easier.

The third point, I think, is unfair. If you can input closely spaced GPS points, then the software will make a very accurate trail map with accurate distances and profiles. Most of this data simply doesn’t exist which is not a fault of the software. When the day comes when we’re out there on the trails with GPS units capable of gathering and storing coordinates every 5 feet along a 10 or 20 or more mile trail, then we will have the near perfection we think we should expect from our computer toys. We will then be able to download or upload an exact trail at their website instead of the rough ones now there.

The California package is a relative bargain as the ones for forests/parks within the state are $50 each and only cover a small piece of the state. This one is so comprehensive it will even let you create a profile of your own street within a major city.

Works fine with Win XP also.

Misha - Mar 28, 2003 10:30 am - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
This product already paid for itself, saving me well over $100 on California Topo! maps. While I agree with some of the issues raised by mbpro (especially the lack of Undo), they are not super critical and won't prevent me from using this software. There are ways to mitigate such problems through usage habits (i.e. Save your maps in progress more frequently).

ScottyS - Jan 28, 2004 9:40 pm - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
I give this 4 stars, only for the spartan editing options. But what the heck: seamless topos with an underlying DEM is great. What I really like is the integration of this with ESRI's GIS programs (extension costs extra) to basically do away with DRG's.

Just by itself, this is a great planning and debrief tool. Pretty soon we are all gonna have this on palm/GPS setups in the backcountry!

Don't forget to go to the NGS website to get periodic software update downloads.

Now all we need is a 3D Open GL version....

Hack - Mar 12, 2004 8:45 pm - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
Great software, makes life much easier. I have used it to make countless maps, routes, profiles, etc.

It has so many great features and countless uses.

scottfromcali - Apr 1, 2004 11:24 am - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
Love the software, lots of features, easy operation once you get used to it. Elevation profiles are awesome, distances, and the ability to label points, campsites, and routes. I have saved lots of $$ by printing my own maps up, and they can now be custom maps taylored to my trip. Just throw them in a plastic sleeve and go. I am not crazy about the waterproff paper as I doubt home printers have waterproof ink so that is redundant.

Tech support is a joke!!! Terrible!

Brett A - May 27, 2004 3:01 am - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
Overall this has been an invaluable tool to me. It makes things a lot easier having maps for the entire state on my computer. Elevation profiles are a great tool for route planning.

I agree that there are a few small things that could be changed or added, like undo, but I can live without them.

If you plan on needing a lot of maps, just go for this.

Augie Medina - Sep 25, 2007 8:41 pm - Hasn't voted

Good Value
For 10 CD-Roms covering California, the price is excellent. What a savings when 7.5 USGS topos now cost $6 plus. Learning the lay of the land with the software takes a little work, but the features are cool. Buy good printing paper and you've got durable maps of the areas you're interested in.

theflyingmountaineer - Jul 12, 2008 12:05 am - Hasn't voted

great software
This, as well as all other Nat Geo TOPO!s did a good job when they took over TOPO! when it used to be it's own company. This is the only topo software I'll use in the future.

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