Garmin MapSource®

Post Reply
Mukhallalati Basha
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:11 am

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:57 pm

MapSource is a Garmin software, where you can:
  • Back up important trip data separately from your Garmin device.
  • Plan routes from the convenience of your computer instead of on your device.
  • Create, view, and edit waypoints, routes, and tracks.
  • Plan extensive or complicated routes, in which you travel to several locations in an order you specify.
  • Transfer waypoints, routes and tracks between your computer and your device.
  • Transfer selected map from your computer to your device.
  • Find items, addresses and points of interest included in the map data.
  • View your maps in detail on your computer screen.

What type of device do you have?

MapSource is a valuable tool if you have a device that doesn't accept data cards or that has a small built-in memory.
The map products contain smaller map sets that compile the entire map. Because devices with small built-in memories probably do not contain enough memory for the entire DVD/CD, MapSource enables you to transfer just the parts of the map you need to your device.

What is Recommended?

With MapSource, you'll be able to view all of the detailed maps on your computer, which is helpful when planning. The level of detail depends on the map that you purchase, but details may include highways, interstates, business and residential roads in metropolitan and rural areas, and points of interest.
Also you will be able to see map details on your computer to aid you with your planning.

MapSource helps you plan trips on your computer quickly and easily. Search for the locations you want to visit, then save and organize them, or use them to create custom routes. When you are done, transfer the data to your Garmin device, and you’re ready to travel.

Interface and Tools

The MapSource interface consists of a graphic map, menus, toolbars and tabs. The graphic map displays the detailed maps that you have installed and unlocked on your device. The graphic map also shows any waypoints, routes or tracks you have transferred or created.

Using tools and the graphic map, you can draw routes, mark waypoints and create tracks. The Find feature allows you to
locate cities, map features/points of interest, addresses, intersections and waypoints.


Garmin requires that users use their product called MapSource to upload maps and poi's (points of interest) to their gps units. For this reason I have written this chapter to cover the use of MapSource with handheld gps receivers. This chapter is not intended to replace the Garmin documentation but will provide some tips that may help in understanding the most effective ways to use this product.

MapSource is the name of the software program itself but this name is often used interchangeably with the names of the various maps. This can lead to confusion particularly when dealing with features differences which are map specific. This chapter will always use the term MapSource to refer to the program. This program can provide three separate but related functions for the gps user. It can upload purchased maps and/or to the gps device, it can manage user data such as waypoints, tracks, and routes, and finally it can provide a real time tracking ability when the gps is attached to a pc while traveling down the road. In addition the program has the ability to aid in route planning depending on which maps are owned and being used by the user. MapSource can provide auto routing as well if the underlying database has the appropriate data. The resultant route can then be downloaded to the gps even though it does not have auto routing capability.


Product installation on a pc is pretty simple using the standard setup command. If you try and load a second product it will sense that an existing product is loaded and install only the map information. Mac users have indicated that a pc simulator can be used with this product although there have been mixed results with the actual download of the map data to the gps. Generally you may have to run the serial interface at less than full speed on mac simulators.

If you have the latest version of MapSource on the cdrom you will be given a choice of a full install. Selecting this will cause the entire cdrom to be loaded on your hard drive such that the cdrom will not be required to run the program. In addition the city select and newer metro guide product also installs all or most of the maps so that auto routing can be performed on the cd. However, most product installs require the cdrom be used to contain the data. If you would prefer to be able to run without the cdrom on one of these older versions of MapSource simply copy the entire cdrom to the hard drive and then perform the setup directly from the hard drive copy.

Once installed, use the about button under the help menu to check the version. Garmin releases new versions of MapSource frequently which can be downloaded from their web site. However, the CD-ROMs are not re-released when the program changes so it is very likely that the cdrom installed a down level version. The download from Garmin requires a previous installation of MapSource to install. The about button is also the place to check which map products are loaded and the version of these products as well. As with the gps units Garmin always releases a product as version 2.0. Versions 1.X are used for testing.

A few of the map sets sold by Garmin use unlock codes to enable the maps. These unlock codes are keyed to the gps itself and will support up to two gps devices for each key. If the map set you purchased requires an unlock code the installation will prompt you to run the unlock wizard. You can run this during installation or later. Generally unlock codes can unlock a region of the cd or the full cd depending on what you purchased. Often a cdrom purchase will include only one region in the base price with additional regions requiring additional purchases.


When you start MapSource you may need to have the cdrom already loaded so that MapSource can use the maps that are on it, however the equivalent of the base map is already present on the hard disk so some map viewing can be done even if the cdrom isn't loaded. Look at the view menu and find the entry for 'show gps map detail'. This is a toggle and, if set to off, you can view the base map and any zoom level without needing the cdrom. The screen will look something like this:
The standard menus of file, edit, view, tools, and help are provided. Many of frequent commands from the file and edit menus are available as icons on the next row followed by some favorite viewing options. Much of the time you will be using the tools menu which is duplicated as icons on the third row. The left side contains a tab separated text area while the right portion shows the map itself. There is a movable bar between these two items. A status bar appears at the bottom of the screen.

MapSource is only able to work with one database at a time but it is possible to run multiple copies of MapSource which can use different databases. It is possible to cut and paste data between these separate copies.

Working with Maps

The primary purpose of MapSource is to select and download maps to the gps. In early versions of MapSource this is about all the product would do. And it still is the only thing that you can't use another program to do.

The maps must be loaded as a set to the gps since a full table of maps is created by MapSource. There is no provision to update a map on the gps incrementally and thus there is no need to erase the map memory before starting the transfer. You can erase the map memory if you wish by downloading a map set that contains no maps. Some of the gps units include a memory capacity bar but this is not used for map memory although it is used to store the table of map contents.

Unlocking maps

Some map sets require unlock codes in order to use the maps with a gps. These codes are keyed to individual gps units Garmin permits one purchased unlock code to be used with up to 2 devices. Most map sets do not require unlock codes. If you need to unlock a map you will also need to determine the gps id code. Both the unlock form and the id form are on the tools menu. There is also an unlock wizard installed if you install a product that requires unlock codes.

If you receive the long 25 character unlock code you can enter it directly into the unlock form. This form is also the place to display map sets that were previously unlocked. You may have received an 8 digit coupon instead of the full unlock code. In this case you will need the unlock wizard which can be launched from windows on the start menu but selecting programs and finding the MapSource entry. The unlock wizard can use an internet connection to download the unlock code.

To obtain the id from the Garmin receiver you will need the receiver set to Garmin or Garmin/Garmin mode.
The unlock form can also be used to export or import an unlock database. It is a good idea to back up your unlock database onto a floppy or other safe media.

Working with Tracks, Waypoints, and Routes.

The MapSource product provides the ability to manage the Tracks, waypoints, and routes databases that are inside your gps. This can provide for backup of this data and will also provide for the ability to edit this using a keyboard and mouse which is usually much easier than trying to do it on the gps itself. There are many other programs that can also be used to manage this data but MapSource provides some unique features that allow it to directly work with the same maps that you can download to the unit.
The ability to work with tracks, waypoints, and routes is available for all Garmin units, even if they do not support maps or poi's. However to get the product itself the use must purchase a product containing maps or poi databases and the map on the pc can still be used for real time tracking or to help in route and waypoint creation.

Prior to releasing MapSource Garmin had another product called PCX5 (Dos based) that could be used to manage tracks, waypoints, and routes. This product has been discontinued but there is still the ability to import databases created with this product to MapSource. The import menu selection on the file menu offers this option. Unfortunately you cannot export files in this format, nor can you import files in any format that you can export so MapSource does not permit working with its data outside of the MapSource environment. As a work around some folks actually download MapSource data to their gps and then upload it into another program or vice versa to do data exchange.

Way points

Waypoints can be downloaded from the gps and modified in MapSource or they can be created directly in MapSource. The easiest way is to create them graphically on the map itself. If you are using the waypoint tool you can just click to place a new waypoint. You can also right click and select new waypoint at any time to create a new waypoint. Once the waypoint is selected a form will appear that allows you to modify any of the data for the new waypoint. Click OK to create the point or cancel if you decide you don't want to create a new waypoint. There are several fields on the form that may or may not transfer when the waypoint is sent directly to the gps. For example some gps units do not support altitude while others do not support the description data; the oldest units don't support icons. If the gps doesn't support some particular field it will simply be ignored during the gps upload.

There are several preferences that effect waypoints and waypoint generation. You can select the grid and datum you wishto use to display the location and the units for altitude and depth. You can also pick the default prefix to be used in name generation as well as the length of the name. Note that older Garmin units only support a 6 character name while the newer units support a 10 character name. The units, position, and datum information are only for the purpose of display and data entry. They will be converted to an internal format when uploaded to the gps so it really doesn't matter which you use. Leave the datum at WGS84 unless you are trying to match the information from a paper map you are using as a reference.


A route represents a collection of waypoints/map points connected in a prescribed order. It defines the desired path from one place to another. Generally it identifies the critical turns that need to be made by the user to get from their starting location to a destination and the gps can be used to provide directional guidance from one point on the route to another. Routes are usually created manually by the user as part of the planning process for a trip, but they can also be created automatically by MapSource if the correct mapping database is used or they might be created on the gps itself and stored for later use by MapSource.

The unique thing about routes made in MapSource is the fact that they can take advantage of map points on some units. Map points are locations on mapping receivers that are identified and reference to map locations and are not waypoints. Thus they do not appear in the waypoint memory and are not limited to the 500 or so locations supported as waypoints. (They do effect the amount of memory reported in on the memory used display.) The user will need to be careful here since some Garmin units do not support map points and for these units the map points will need to be converted to actual waypoints. This can be done by right clicking on a map points and selecting waypoint to create a waypoint from the map points data. The MapSource documentation does not always make the distinction between map points and waypoints clear.

Generally a route is built in MapSource by clicking on successive map locations and these are mappoints by default so long as the point clicked contains a mapping object. Once the desired route is created it can be uploaded to the gps and used for navigation. When building a route the user will need to consider the capabilities of the gps unit that they own. For example, routes have a limit to the number of total points that can be contained in one route. Many units limit this number to 30 while some units allow up to 50 points, and the GPS V can support up to 250 mappoints. If you build a route with more than the prescribed number of points it will be truncated when you load it to the gps. In these cases you will need to split it into several routes or remove some of the intermediate points.

Another way to work with routes is to use the route properties (select with right mouse click or from edit menu) to add, delete, or edit property data. An existing route can be duplicated as a starting point for a new route or as a step in splitting the route.

It is possible to reuse the same waypoint or mappoint in more than one route and this is often done when splitting a route into sections. Routes and portions of routes can be cut and pasted inside the MapSource product or even between two copies of the program running simultaneously.

Track logs

Track logs cannot be created manually in MapSource but it is possible to do some editing on the track logs that are downloaded from the gps. In addition it is possible to create a track log using the real time display capability (described below). All Garmin units support an active track log but many also support up to 10 saved logs in addition to the active log. When uploading the log back to the gps it must be named "Active Log" in order for it to replace the active log, otherwise it will be stored in one of the saved logs on these units.

Track log data can be displayed in MapSource and will include some information that is not directly stored in the track log. Active logs include information about the time and location and can include breaks. Some logs will also include altitude data. MapSource can use this information to compute speed data, leg length, and direction which can be shown using the track properties on the right mouse button. It is even possible to display a vertical profile for logs containing altitude data. Saved logs do not include the time stamps so the speed data cannot be calculated. MapSource will also show breaks in the active log as if there were multiple logs but there is really only one active log.

To edit the track log start by displaying the properties. You can cut and paste individual track log entries. You can paste from one track log to another. Be careful you do not exceed the length capacity of the log. If you make a mistake use the edit undo command to fix it. You can also rename the track log or invert it.

Downloading and Uploading data to the GPS

The upload/download dialog box allows you to select whether you wish to work with waypoints, routes, tracks, maps or any mix of the above. When uploading and download data the full list is used. All of the waypoints in the gps are downloaded at once, as are the routes and tracks, if selected. If your maps are not tied to your waypoints I would suggest you always work with them separately such that maps are not stored in the same database as routes, waypoints, and tracks. This is done simply by saving the data in separate files.

If you upload a route that uses waypoints you will need to ensure that you also loaded the appropriate waypoints as well. Otherwise the route could reference existing points at the wrong location or fail to work at all.

The oldest Garmin units do not use names for routes but rather have the routes numbered. On these units MapSource will display the name comment but uploads will start with 01 and multiple routes will be uploaded sequentially erasing any routes with the same number on the unit.

Working with Real Time display.

Garmin also supports a real time display option with MapSource. Using this feature permits an attached pc to provide mapping display and track logging while directly attached to a gps in real time. There is real time display support for NMEA mode or Garmin mode. Some of the Garmin units do not support real time output in Garmin mode but if your gps does then this is the preferred mode for real time display. In NMEA mode the update is every two seconds while in Garmin mode it is every second which makes the display feel a bit more responsive to what is actually happening in your car. In addition, the maps that have an unlock code require Garmin mode so that they can check the lock status.

To set up the display just pick the gps tab on top of the list display screen and then click on start tracking. The program will automatically sense whether the unit is set to NMEA mode or Garmin mode and will begin track. There are only two options. You can force the current location to remain on the screen and you can turn on track logging if you wish. If track logging is turned on it creates an active log on the pc in the same format as it would be if it were collected with the gps except that it records a point at each sample of the data. If you stop the log or stop the gps tracking then start it again it will create a new active log. The current log will be displayed on the screen as a bread crumb track of your current movements. You will need to save the tracks in a file if you wish them to last longer than one session. If you scroll the window the keep car on screen flag will turn off. Click the flag to return the screen to the gps location.

All of the data displayed is under control of the preferences form reached from the Edit menu. You can change the display formats just like you can in the gps itself. It will be saved automatically. Note that DOP (dilution of precision) may or may not be displayed depending on whether the gps is sending this information. You might try switching between Garmin mode and NMEA mode to see this data as NMEA generally supplies it.

While the gps display provides real time tracking it will not display navigation data. The compass display shows your current track direction which is the sam information as the digital readout just above the display. The compass output is customizable using the preferences settings.

Other Features

MapSource has many special features beyond the basic ones shown above. In many cases these features will be enabled only if you have the correct map product installed and selected. The menus and forms may have additional items and choices available to match the particular map set. For example, if the map set supports auto routing on the pc then additional menus will be available to perform this task.

Setting the PC clock

If you have your gps hooked to the pc and tracking satellites you can use it to set the pc clock from the gps. This provides a very accurate source of time information for the pc. Simply select the 'Set PC clock' from the tools menu.

Working with the Find command

The Find command is available as an icon (binoculars) or as a menu select item from the View menu. This mimics similar functionality that is on the gps itself but often the gps can find object types that will not be found using the pc product. The form that appears is dependent on the map set you have currently selected. A basic form provides the ability to search for cities in your database but an advanced form will appear if your map set supports advanced searches. Advanced search include city, poi look up, as well as street and address searches. Searches are limited to the selected map region. If you are using a map with a lock code the advanced search functions will only work in the unlocked area although you can do city searches on the full map.

Another way to find objects is just to display a map of the area of interest and move the mouse cursor over objects on the map. A popup display will appear identifying the object under the cursor.

Once you have found the desired object you can view it on the map. Even though you have selected to view the object on the map you may need to zoom the map in to actually see the object. Use the right mouse button on the object to view a menu. If the menu offers the choice of map features then select this and then select the properties choice. This will generally happen if you are zoomed out too far and MapSource isn't sure which object you are interested in. If the choice is clear to mapsource it will offer the properties choice on the first menu. For a poi this will show quite a bit of additional information about the object.

Working with the auto router

If you own a map set that permits auto routing on the pc you will find that MapSource has added this feature to its menus. Once the route is created it can be treated like any other route that you might have created manually and can be downloaded into a gps even though the gps does not directly support auto routing. A route downloaded in this fashion is subject to the standard route limitations of the gps itself so the names of route points could be truncated and the number of the route points in the route could be truncated during the download. You may need to split the route into several routes to load it into your unit.

Measuring Distances

MapSource can measure distances and bearings between points on the map. This is available as a tool icon or by using the right mouse button to select a starting point. Each click will add a leg to the measured distance. The right mouse button can be used to cancel the current distance measurement or to clear the measurement and begin again. The total distance and the bearing from the beginning point will be shown on the status bar.
Post Reply