Category Archives: BackCountry Navigator Android

Latest updates on the development of mobile map software for the Android platform.


BackCountry Navigator for Android Beta Progress

Thanks to those who have been following, and participating in, the beta program for BackCountry Navigator on Android. I hope you have found that this has potential for bring offline topographic maps to your Android phone.

I wanted to share some of the progress that has been made to date, and some other things to keep in mind.

Multiple Map Downloads
So far, many people have given feedback on how the download service works. This week's build will allow you to start multiple downloads at once. See this article for the process:

There are still some questions remaining about map downloads:

  • Do the downloads consume too much (or too little) of your phone's CPU? If so, there are a few parameters we can change. The first is lowering the thread's priority. The second is the frequency of updates to the notfication area, which is currently about every 10 seconds or so. 
  • A download currently computes a complete list of tiles needed at the beginning of a download. This ensures we don't download tiles that you already have in your repository. A download can get started quicker if we only check each tile as we are about to download it. This has a tradeoff – the total number of tiles will sometimes count down, which can be a bit disconcerting if you don't expect it. 

Android 1.5 support is here!
Owners of Android 1.5 devices such as the HTC Hero and Samsung Moment haven't been able to try BackCountry Navigator before now. Meanwhile, their phone companies have been stringing them along, with an update to Android 2.1 expected "any day now" since about February. This week's build should install and run on 1.5, as well as 1.6, 2.0, and 2.1.  

Some accomplishments:
We've been able to do a number of things with your help as beta testers. 

  • Saving screen real estate by getting rid of the tab interface. 
  • Fixing a bug that caused a malformed url connecting to certain servers in locales with a comma for a decimal
  • Combined the compass view with a view of realtime navigations stats. Added Longitude and Latitude to this view.  
  • Fixing downloads that got stalled or wouldn't cancel. . 

Not Yet Accomplished:
A number of other things have been requested or mentioned that haven't been done yet.

  • Settings to use metric/non metric units in navigation stats 
  • Option to not tilt the map according to the compass
  • Cleaning up erasing map tiles.
  • Localization in Spanish, French, or Italian.
  • Graphical display of GPS Status 

Coming up:

We've made some great progress in importing waypoints from GPX and LOC format, but it wasn't quite ready for this week's build. Look for some messages on that topic, and possibly a video as well.    

You can download this week's build from the usual place:



Beta Progress on April 26th

Thanks to all who have participated or will participate in reviewing the beta builds of BackCountry Navigator for Android. So far, about 43 people have tried the product. has been the most popular map source. There is a discussion of Map Sources, along with some other interesting discussions, in the Android development forum.

This week's build incorporates feedback about the download service. Users reported that cancelling a download did not work. that is now fixed. In addition, I've made the download service less likely to be killed by Android when Android is looking to free up process space.  

The tabs, which you will still see in the YouTube Video, were removed last week for more screen real estate. Today, the tabs have been replaced by a single button in the upper right corner, that is a more concise way of switching between screens. The compass is now featured on a screen that also has navigation stats. It has just three to begin with: bearing, altitude, and speed, but more will be added over time. 

Navigation on GPS Software for Android

Looking ahead, we are incorporating waypoints and tracks. At the moment, our highest priority format is GPS Exchange Format (.gpx) followed by .loc and kml. To speed our progress, please send us samples of some data you would like to see imported. Also, a quick survey is available at 

See today's build at 

Follow this link to download the .apk file.

Everyone have a great day!

CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave Camas WA 98607.


Second Beta build for Android: Map Zooming and Screen Real Estate

Thanks to those who have tried BackCountry Navigator for Android. Since last week, about 15 people have tried it, and at least half of those have given feedback. 

This weeks build incorporates the most common feedback from last week.

  • Gained more screen real estate through eliminating the tabs. In the future, I expect we'll find a simple way of jumping to other views once we need to. 
  • Allowed zoom in up to level 20 for all map sources, even if their native resolution is only 13-17.
  • Fixed map direction which was off by 90 degrees in landscape mode. . 

So far, the most popular map source to try is the maps for Canada. If you have friends going to adventures in Spain or Italy, be sure and let them know, so we can get more coverage on those maps. Coming up, with any luck, are some map sources of Mexico and Australia.

So far, no one has sent a crash dump for a force close. That's good, but if some map sources aren't showing up or look completely wrong, there are probably some network errors occurring. For now, I reccommend using the free program Log Collector to send a debug log after running BackCountry Navigator. We'll see if we can get some good data for any problems that may occur.    

Follow this link to download the .apk file.



CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas, WA 98607


First Beta Download – Previewing and Downloading.

This newsletter informs you of the first beta build of BackCountry Navigator for Android. Since the last newsletter, a number of people have expressed willingness to take an early look at BackCountry Navigator for Android even while many features are not ready to test.  

The focus of this build is on a review of the map preview and map download features. You should be able to view several map types both online and offline on your Android phone. 

To get started, you can look at previous newsletters and this YouTube Video.

Feel free to share this video with your friends on Facebook or any other social network. It's my first movie. 

For now, you will find the file menu item disabled. Future builds will allow you to review features such as waypoints and tracks.  

Go to this page to download the .apk file:

Have a great day!

CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas, WA 98607.


Toolbar Buttons and Map Downloads

Greetings, everyone.

As development of BackCountry Navigator for Android continues, I wanted to share some developments on two fronts.

The first is the first appearance of the first toolbar buttons, for selecting an area and starting a download. 

Toolbar buttons for selecting topo map in Android

The second is an overview of download notifications when downloads take place in the background: 

Notification of ongoing map downloads in Android.

These are further explained at these forum topics:

Toolbar Buttons

Background Downloads

The question continues to come up about when a beta version will be available for people on this mailing list. 

At this time, previewing and downloading of maps for several map sources, has come a long way, while other functionality, such as waypoints and tracking, is not quite ready. I am evaluating whether anyone would be interested in reviewing the map download functionality before these other features are ready. The first beta release would be to the people on this mailing list, and not to the Android Market, and would therefore require 'Unknown sources' to be enabled in your Application Settings.  

Have a great day!


CritterMap Software
3515 NE 252nd Ave
Camas, WA 98607


Single Map Repository for Android

Development of BackCountry Navigator for Android is ongoing. 

Topo maps and other maps used by BackCountry Navigator come in many small pieces,which are put together when viewing. BackCountry Navigator in the past has stored these has stored these in the database file with the vector data – the tracks and waypoints – all in a .db3 file. 

Recent research for BackCountry Navigator on Android has proven that performance is sufficient when map images are stored in a single, file based repository for image data. This is a large number of smaller files in a neatly organized directory instead of one large file. 

This will mean that there will be a single choice between online preview and offline maps. There will continue to be a choice of datafiles for other data (waypoints and tracks). 

There is a discussion of this in more detail on the forum: 

Single Map Repository Forum Discussion

Have a great day!



Finding Places

As work continues on BackCountry Navigator for Android, we discuss the means of finding a geographical place.

In BackCountry Navigator for Android, finding a place is valuable for recentering your topographic map on a particular area.  As Google is heavily involved in the Android platform, they believe that every application should have a search. 

(View On Web)

As of earlier this month, BackCountry Navigator does have a search. This search allows you to find a favorite geographic place. Use the Find Place menu button, and then type in a place name. In this case, I'm typing in a search for Box Lake, Idaho. 

Search for top map surrounding Box Lake, Idaho.

Android's location API will then find the closest match for the name in most cases, but in some cases may provide a few choices.

Topographic map centered on Box lake on an Android screenChoice of places for centering topo map on Android.

That's all that's needed. But for more fun and adventure, you are welcome to push the voice button. This brings up Android's voice interpreter. It will either provide you with a correct answer, or some entertainment. 

In the example below, I try speaking Box Lake, Idaho when prompted:

Voice Interface for finding a geographic place. Android topo map centering on Barking Fox Lake.

Unfortunately, I keep centering on "Barking Fox Lake". Other amusing possibilities emerge, such as "One North Tank", when I was looking for Lacamas Lake.

Everyone have a great day!



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15Feb/10 topo maps to be featured in BackCountry Navigator for Android

Through a partnership with, new topo maps will be featured in BackCountry Navigator for Android.

These maps have the same information as the USGS Topo maps, but have shading and sharper image quality.

Here is an example:

USGS Topographic map on Android Screen topo maps on Android maps also cover Canada. You will be able to to preview and download these maps for offline use as easily as other maps in BackCountry Navigator. also give users the opportunity to order a custom, waterproof printed map, a good thing for both safety and convenience.
To learn more the maps, visit the online map viewer.  While you are there, be sure and order a printed map as a show of support for these maps in BackCountry Navigator. 



Map Preview for Android

Development of BackCountry Navigator for Android is ongoing. In this newsletter, we talk about previewing topo maps and other maps in Android. Previewing allows you to look at areas you plan to visit by real time retrieval from the internet. 

Previewing Maps in Android

The preview mode in Android allows you to browse maps for an area you are interested in, and allows you to better plan  and specify maps for using when offline. You can enter Preview mode from the "Show" button on the menu. You have a choice of maps including topo maps. Some will be familiar, others will be new, and more will be added in the future. 

Previewing a map online in Android

The preview mode fills in tiles as they are retrieved from a server. You can zoom into several levels of detail, and use your finger to move the map around:

Online preview of topo map tiles.  USGS topo maps on Android

The preview map allows you to easily specify a region to download for offline use. 

Selecting  a topo map for use in Android software.

Feel free to share feedback on this feature at the following forum topic:

Coming up in this newsletter series, we'll talk about the types of maps available, and about specifying maps for download.

Have a great day!