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Frequently Asked Questions

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With answers to commonly asked questions, you won’t be stuck for long.


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  • What is the difference between Raster and Vector ?
    A vector is a line that has a start, direction and end whereas a raster is a collection of dots or pixels. Thus a vector image or drawing is created using lots of lines. Even a curve is constructed using straight lines. Just lots of them A raster image or drawing is created purely with dots. Thousands upon thousands of them. Each with their own colour.
  • What is meant by the term Geo-referencing ?
    Geo-referencing can be thought of as repositioning, re scaling or rotating an image or plan to corresspond with its real life scale and co-ordinate locaton on our planet's surface. Of course this still takes place on a screen, the only difference being your image (in this case a map) now has a place relative to the aerial photography from Google Earth.
  • What is a Geographic Information System or GiS for short ?
    A software program that can create, manage and analyze data that is geographically linked. Most GiS work with layers with a layer being a type of data. For example a road layer contains line data. A land boundary layer contains polygons or shapes. A tree layer contains points and so on. Now think of these layers like transparencies sitting on top of each other. Layers that are all linked by a common location.
  • What is QGiS ?
    QGiS (previously known as Quantum GiS) is a free and open-source cross-platform GiS application that supports viewing, editing, and analysis of geospatial data. Known for its processing abilities QGiS is widely recognised as one of, if not the best GiS package available. Portable Mapper's core functionality relies on QGiS.
  • What is the British National Grid ?
    With the world being round (well almost) that does create some difficulties for those producing maps. So to make life easier most countries have their own flat plane projected co-ordinate system like a flat piece of card sitting on top of a sphere. Here in Great Britain we use the British National Grid. Often refered to as BNG or more correctly EPSG:27700. Each square on the map is 100 x 100km with the bottom left of SV in Cornwall being 0,0. With co-ordinates being traditional written as 6 figure Eastings (bottom numbers) and 6 figure Northings (numbers on right).
  • What is meant by the term GPS ?
    You've probably heard this term a lot but if you want to know a little more about it then please read on. GPS is an abbreviation for Global Positioning System and it's found on our everyday items such as in cars and on our mobile phones. GPS works through a technique called trilateration where time, location, velocity and elevation are calculated. Similar to triangulation where the angle is used but in this case it's velocity. At least 4 satellites orbiting the earth are required, each sending a signal to your GPS device. Each signal recording the time taken to travel at a certain velocity (speed). And with time and velocity known, you can then calculate the distance. Distance = Velocity x Time. Knowing the distance from 4 separate satellites allows an approximate location on the earth's surface. More satelittes equals higher accuracy.
  • What tablet would you recommend ?
    Microsoft themselves are offering some well spec'ed tablets at reasonable prices in their Surface Go range. In trials our Microsoft Go 2 10" 8Gb version performed admirably and whilst this is not the most expensive, it's not the cheapest either. We would recommend you look at our 'Specifications' page for more information. But please remember this is the minimum advisable specification. If you want better performance then consider upgrading the RAM before anything else.
  • And what about a Stylus ?
    A frequently overlooked item but essential for more precise screen navigation and input. Look for a lightweight rechargeable Bluetooth stylus which is pressure and tilt sensitive. Anything less may end up being wasted money. Budget £30-£40. In trials our Renaisser performed extremely well.
  • Why use Microsoft Windows and not Android or Apple ?
    The full version of QGiS is needed for Portable Mapper and that's not available on Android. That just leaves Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows operating systems and with Windows being more commonly used in the office environment, Windows then became the natural choice. In terms of architecture, Microsoft have already started phasing out the use of their 32 bit operating systems in favour of 64 bit or as commonly refered to as x64. Portable Mapper uses x64 and Windows 10 onwards.
  • How do I get my free trial and program download ?
    From the Downloads page you will have access to the free trial, program and maintenance patch downloads as well. Program downloads, including free trials are typically 2.7Gb in size so, depending on your download speed may take some time. Once downloaded unzip the file to your desktop. Before installing you may need to temporarily disable your Antivirus software. But don't forget to reactivate it after installation is complete. Locate the file PortableMapper-v2-23-7.exe and double click to install. Depending on the program version some of these numbers will change. Now just follow the on screen instructions. Typical installation time is about 12 minutes. Free trials include a temporary license key but once the free trial has ended you will need to visit to purchase a full license.
  • What speech recognition software is best ?
    After trialing several internet based and installed speech recognition programs we had clear favourites for ease of setup, use and accuracy. Dragon Naturally Speaking whilst currently undergoing a rebranding exercise is without doubt the most accurate. We tested version 15. Not easy to setup but, once you have spent some time on this the word capture and accuracy rate was nearly perfect. And then there's the price. Expensive when compared to others but clearly you get what you pay for. This software is installed on your device and does not require internet connection. In case you're wondering where Microsoft's pre-installed voice to text software came in the list, it was near the bottom for poor accuracy and difficulty of setup. In terms of online speech recognition. is a great free online tool that requires no setup, is a doddle to use and has a very impressive word accuracy rate too. Of course the only downside is, are you always going to have internet connection when you're out and about surveying ? Finally a note about background noise. A good noise cancellation microphone is a must but the software must play its part too. Here Dragon wins convincingly.
  • What microphone headset would you recommend ?
    Microphone headsets have come along way in terms of quality in the last few years and nowadays you don't need to spend the earth to have something capable of doing the job. The minimum requirements would be Bluetooth with a good range, a noise cancelling microphone that is adjustable to position in front of your mouth and a single ear pad with a head strap to prevent the headset moving. Having closed cup or more than one ear pad is not recommended as you are removed from your surroundings and might not hear danger approach.
  • How many devices can I install Portable Mapper on ?
    You can make as many copies of the program downloaded files as you like however you are only allowed one working instance on one device per license. Portable Mapper will shut down if you try to share your data on more than one device. You will then need to contact Portable Mapper to reactivate your license or purchase another.
  • Are new releases of Portable Mapper free for existing users ?
    During your license period you will have access to the download area where maintenance patches and program upgrades will all be provided to you free of charge. So long as your license key is valid.
  • How do I backup my data ?
    When ever you close down Portable Mapper using this tool you are asked whether you would like to backup your data. Choose yes and all the data layers stored under the headings of 'Sketchpad' and 'Map Server' will be backup up to the folder specified on screen. That includes all the graphics and their associated text data. This is a good practice to get in to and try and do this on a regular basis too. No computer hardware or software is infalable and having a good backup routine in place is just good housekeeping. Why not for example do daily backups and then at the end of the week store a copy off site just in case the unthinkable happens to your business premises.
  • What if I lose internet connection ?
    All users will lose access to the 'Live Mapping' layers as these are live streamed to your device using the internet. As soon as you have internet connectivity again Portable Mapper will reconnect automatically. Server connected devices will also lose access to their 'Map Server' layers. With these devices being 4g and wifi connected this can happen but rarely. You can continue working but can't save until a connection is re-established. As soon as you have internet connectivity again Portable Mapper will reconnect.
  • When I close the program my new or imported data layers are not saved !
    Preventing the user from saving temporary layers within the project was a decision not taken lightly. Imported data from potentially unknown sources can damage the integrity of the parent file and, cause instability and ultimately a crash. The only way to prevent this is to prevent the parent file from being altered. AutoCAD DXF and DWG files can however be imported, geo-referenced and then stored on the integral map server layers, whilst most other file types can simply be dragged and dropped over the main interface.
  • Should I buy a handheld GPS ?
    There have been lots of exciting developments recently in the world of mobile phones. To be precise how their locational accuracy has improved to better that of a dedicated handheld GPS device. Most handheld GPS devices for example for orienteering are begining to use dual frequency GPS and Glonass satellite communications on the E1, E5a, L1 and L5 bands. However, many new mobile phones do this too. But in addition use the terrestrial mobile phone mast positions to triangulate their location to an even higher level of accuracy. This was evident with trials between Garmin's latest handheld a mobile equiped with the same GPS features. In answer in to question. There seems little point buying a handheld GPS when a suitably spec'ed mobile of the same price does the same job more accurately with of course a host of other features too. For more information and a list of capatible mobile phones please see our 'Specifications' page.
  • Am I entitled to any technical support ?
    Yor are entitled to 30 days free technical support from the moment your full licence key is activated. Please direct any corresspondence to Portable Mapper via where your query will be answered as soon as possible and within one day.
  • Can I import an AutoCAD DWG or DXF site drawing ?
    Yes, even if they are not geo-referenced either. For DWG use the inbuilt DWG to DXF converter, following the easy to use on screen intructions. Once in DXF format open the DXF then if needs be geo-reference it. It will need geo-referencing (add location information) if your DXF appears off the coast of Cornwall at co-ordinates 0,0. Portable Mapper makes life easier for you with a move to post code function built in to these tools. Now this is done save your geo-referenced work using the DXF Cloud button.
  • What settings are used to convert DWG to DXF ?
    When converting DWG to DXF using the inbuilt ODA file converter we use the following settings : Input Folder : C:/PortableMapper/import/dwg Output Folder : C:/PortableMapper/import/dxf Input files filter : *.DWG Output Version : 2013 ASCII DXF These settings are built in but can be changed upon request.
  • My imported DXF does not appear where it should do ?
    This can be caused by two reasons. If your imported DXF still contains a title block and border then they must be removed to hopefully expose the locational information. If after removing the title block your DXF is still in the wrong place then it will need geo-referencing. Thankfully Portable Mapper does this all in one go. Just follow the on screen instructions and once done do save the DXF to the cloud for a permanent copy.
  • Can I export my drawing to AutoCAD DXF or DWG ?
    Only vector layers can be exported from Portable Mapper to AutoCAD. In other words layers that are not created using pixel dots such as imagery. These non-vector layers are automatically switched off by Portable Mapper prior to export. Simply zoom to the area you'd like to export, press the export DXF button and your DXF will snap straight in to AutoCAD.
  • I can print all other mapping layers, why not Mastermap ?"
    All mapping layers in Portable Mapper are provided by Ordnance Survey and all, with the exception of Mastermap are subject to the Open Government License (OGL). A document allowing the use of and printing of mapping data for any reason. Mastermap however can be viewed online only and is subject to a different contract. One where printing of any kind is prohibited, and that is why when you come to print a document, Portable Mapper will switch the Mastermap layer off. Furthermore online viewing of Mastermap is not without limit. It is a shared resource to be used fairly with other Portable Mapper users. We would suggest using the screen export TIF tool to create a geo-referenced copy of the Mastermap data, switch the Mastermap layer off and then drag and drop the TIF back in. Thus not using un-necessary Mastermap data and keeping a permanent copy for viewing within the software only. Please remember Mastermap must not be printed.
  • Can I share my drawing on line ?
    Absolutely. Portable Mapper provides an export KML tool which creates all the files that Google Maps needs to create an online map. This is completely free. Click the 3 lines on the Google Maps search bar then chose 'My Places', 'MAPS', 'CREATE MAPS'. Import your KML layers to create a fully interactive and shareable map that's visible to anyone you share a link with, whether that be on a desktop or mobile device.
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