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Editing the National Geographic TOPO! / Adirondack Park Explorer software

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  • Editing the National Geographic TOPO! / Adirondack Park Explorer software

    I know it's a bit of a reach, but I was wondering if anyone has any info about the creation, editing, or exporting of the map data from this software? While the software is very clunky, the maps it creates are handy for a hike and to quickly determine your elevation gain and distance for the hike.

    If anyone knows any tech details, feel free to let me know. So far all I've learned is that .TPQ is a proprietary format created by [probably] Wildflower Productions which is the main data used by the software. Wildflower was purchased by National Geographic around 2001. It looks after absorbing Wildflower Productions, NatGeo put the ~15 Wildflower employees to work pumping out software for various parks, states, and hikes. More info on Wildflower and the early product:

    Also, I've found someone's GitHub which supposedly can export from .TPQ to PNG or Google Earth's KML: A quick scan through the code and it looks like the TPQ format uses a 1024 byte header, and then after that the remaining data might just be a PNG file.

    That makes sense to me, but I still haven't been able to figure out the mechanism where they have a trail or road and make it so the trail snaps to it. I'm not sure if that's handled in the actual map data, or if it's something the software handles when it sees an image of a road or trail.

    Anyway, I'm just getting started on this initiative. It would be great to add/remove things on this software which have changed since 2007. If I ever figure it out, I'll share the data. If anyone knows anything about this, let me know!


  • #2
    I remember looking into a way to get the data into tiles to use on a gps enabled app, like avenza. I came across the same (or similar) post you found on github. I had contacted the author. I do not recall the exact response and reasons, but he was unable to help. I have since stopped trying.

    If you do end up finding a way to hack the TOPO! software, I would be interested. I still use my version regularly as it is quick to open and look at the map without unfolding multiple paper maps.
    "There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go." -from "The Call of the Wild" by Robert Service

    My trail journal: DuctTape's Journal


    • #3
      It might be easier to work with Caltopo, but I don't know what they have in the way of an API. You can definitely upload and download .gpx and .json files.


      • #4
        I believe that most of the trail and lean-to info on the NatGeo maps is sourced directly from the DEC (with some editorializing with respect to the fact that the map scale can obfuscate things that would otherwise be depicted right on top of each other). In other words, it's the exact same info that is shown in the DECInfo Locator interactive map. You could probably FOIL that information if you wanted to go through that process to have it in a format you can use for your own purposes.

        At one point, you could contact the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and they'd provide for you a CD with the DEC's geospatial information in shapefile (ArcGIS) format. Not sure if this is still an easy option for obtaining this information or not, though.

        To be perfectly honest... while there's undoubtedly some value in having access to the actual data in a format that is easily translatable to other software, it probably wouldn't be my primary source of information in any case. A lot of the DEC's geospatial info is not very accurate.

        CalTopo uses OpenStreetMap as the base on which the CalTopo in-house layer is built (the same as AllTrails). There's a lot of variability here- in some cases it's far better than the DECInfo data, in other cases it's far worse. It really depends on whether anyone has put the effort into that specific location with regards to trying to ensure accuracy with the OSM data.


        • #5
          Agreed the software is very clunky, and it's requirements are WinXP/2000 - so it's even difficult to run now. Exporting data to your device using their software is very limited too.

          I wrote code to extract from the TPQ files the bit-perfect JPGS, and then packaged them up into a KMZ file. I then converted the KMZ to MBTILE file for use on a mobile device (by far the best format for mobile, super fast loads and large data sets possible).

          Here is the ADK Nat Geo TI mbtile file (159MB), which loads in LocusMap on Android, Map Plus by MioCool on Apple, and QGIS v3+ on desktops. Here is the KMZ file (98MB) to load into Google Earth (a bit memory intensive, and takes a minute to load). The KMZ file would never work on mobile devices.

          I've used my code on all Nat Geo products (Trails Illustrated and State Topo). See my other thread for the entire ADK park of USGS Topo Data and some assorted other maps I compiled.

          Using MOBAC you can utilize the mbtile files I provided as a source, and create smaller maps, in nearly any format, to load onto nearly any device (if you don't want to take up a ton of room). You can just write a smaller mbtile file for your sections of interest as well.

          I also have the purchased the fold-out ADK Trails Illustrated maps from about 2 years ago. The differences (in content) from the old disc version is minimal, although they changed their numbering system and some look/feel stuff. I tried having my physical map scanned to create a more modern mbtile file, but they do not scan well because of the reflective, water-proof material.

          The Trails Illustrated stuff is available in Gaia Maps (for a cost). However, downloading data to your phone is very slow, and very buggy, and cannot be relied upon to work once you're in the field. When the data is downloaded, it is saved to an unencrypted mbtile file, so I could create an ADK park modern data set using this method. However, 300MB of data (for a relatively small section of the Catskills) took the entire week-long free trial and many attempts to complete the download, when it should have taken under a minute. I'm not sure why that download was that large either, when the entire ADK park (in my mbtile file) is <160MB.

          Here's the github repo for my code to extract any Nat Geo disc. Fair warning, it's not pretty but it get's the job done. I've already done the Trails Illustrated for the National Parks and Southern Appalachians, if anyone wants them as well.

          Hope this helps you.

          **Edit: I totally missed you referencing my Github repo in the first post, thanks! :-)
          Last edited by ndoggac; 10-09-2023, 02:57 PM.


          • #6
            A bit more info to add. All the underlying imagery I provided is considered "raster" data (in the GIS realm). Paths, waypoints, and some other forms of data are "vector" data. I don't recall the Nat Geo TI program ever having vector data. However, that data is out there from other sources, like DEC, USGS, USDA, etc. You can also create your own vector data (bread crumb trails, saved waypoints, paths drawn in Google Earth or QGIS, etc.).

            If you think there was vector data in the Nat Geo TI data, I can go back and take a look for it and see if I could export it in some way. Likely more up to date data is available from other places though. The beauty of Locus Maps (my fav on Android) and other modern apps, is you can load up raster imagery in an mbtile containing one map (satellite imagery), load another mbtile on top of it (Nat Geo TI) and then turn on any combination of vector data you want.

            I created a couple videos on how to use Locus Maps for my Stillwater Nav page, and there's text guides as well for both Locus Maps and Map Plus on Apple.


            • #7
              After re-reading the PDF guide for the NatGeo TI ADK software. It did have 3D terrain data, which can be acquired (in better quality and resolution) from other sources now (DEM, LIDAR). It also had the ability to create waypoints and trails. I'm not sure if/how the trails were actually "snapped" to objects in the imagery. If they did snap, then it must have been in the program itself somehow. There were bits of data in the TPQ file that gets skipped over, some of that could have been used for that functionality. I was really just focused on extracting the raster (jpg) data.

              Waypoints and tracks could be exported to a *.TPO file though from the program. There's a great program called GPSBabel that can read in .TPO formats and convert them to many modern formats (KML/KMZ, SHP, etc.). Or older formats as well if you need to support a specific legacy device.