If you’re a GPS mountain biker and you use an Apple Computer, you’ve been left out in the cold by many of the popular GPS software programs. Fortunately Google Earth for Mac came along last year but up until that point, most of us relied on shareware programs and National Geo-crap-tic TOPO! software to view our mountain bike tracks. There’s one program you may not have heard about, though, called Mac GPS Pro that is a solid tool for managing your GPS data – though it’s not for the casual user.
Mac GPS Pro does a good job connecting to most GPS receivers and even recognizes the necessary serial to USB adapter set ups. Mac GPS Pro also lets you capture screen shots from your GPS device which is great for writing tutorials or help guides (like those posted on this site). Tracks are displayed in vector format so you can zoom in on your data without losing image quality and you can export your screen view to an image file (though sadly only to PICT format, a remnant from the old Apple days).
It’s important to note at this point that Mac GPS Pro doesn’t have any built in maps or topographic data. Yep, your GPS tracks will simply show up as green lines on a white background (see above) – not helpful for say, planning an off road or even an on-road adventure. It’s even tough to make sense of the data you’ve collected without having SOMETHING to orient yourself to so you’ll need to use Mac GPS Pro with another program with mapping capabilities (like Google Earth) or with USGS topographic image files (available from James Associates for an additional fee). In my experience the topo files are clunky and difficult to work with, not really worth the state-by-state investment.
The tools Mac GPS Pro offers are great, and in this department you won’t find a close substitute. You can edit individual waypoints and trackpoints, change symbols, and insert data with ease – all in a graphical environment. Mac GPS Pro allows you to save your resulting work in GPX or KML formats, though for some reason it makes you save your waypoints and trackpoints in separate GPX files (I end up combining them in a single file using BBEdit). The latest version of Mac GPS Pro added the ability to view an elevation plot of your GPS data.
Mac GPS Pro certainly isn’t for everyone but if you need a program to save and manipulate GPS data (and you use a Mac), this is the program for you. If you’re looking for a more user-friendly, consumer-oriented program for the Mac, stick with Google Earth for now.