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Shape File Import now in OCAD 12 Orienteering

Graphic hydro features

Import ESRI Shape files on OCAD 12 Orienteering edition

This very useful function was previously only in Professional edtion. From OCAD 12 v12.1.2 it is in Orienteering edition. The only difference from Professional is that although you can view the associated dBase file data during the import set up, that file will not be imported for further processing. Is that an issue? Not for orienteering maps as it just prevents you loading text such as road names.

Note that Shape datasets come as a package of files often including metadata and other information. Using Shape dataset TR_ROAD as an example, this is the file group that must be present when you import.

  • TR_ROAD.dbf
  • TR_ROAD.prj
  • TR_ROAD.shp
  • TR_ROAD.shx

Shape is a great tool for georeferencing

Grounded Patterns near Bendigo
Not an ESRI shape file 🙂

New map

To georeference a new map, simply import a relevant Shape file into an empty OCAD map file, assign (New Offset in the import panel) the Shape file co-ordinates to the map file and you are done. You don’t even need to transform nor keep that data.

Existing map

I import VicMap transport (or just the road layer) and use intersections of main roads to georeference an existing map. If main roads are not available on your map area then you can use lesser roads with caution as I find they are less reliable. A good double check if using lesser roads is to check against georeferenced aerial images such as from Nearmap.

Shape vs DXF

Until I upgraded to Professional version, I used DXF data from the state mapping agency and local government. VicMap had to convert their Shape data to DXF for me. A DXF file is very restrictive in its content vs a Shape file as it contained just one of the ‘layers’ at a time (I don’t know whether this is generally true or just the way VicMap worked). For example, index contours had to be provided as an additional DXF file with additional processing. With a Shape elevation file, I get the index contours plus the interval contours in one import.

The apparent advantages of Shape files was the key reason I upgraded. Within 2 weeks I discovered that the advantages over DXF files were even greater than I had thought. The luxury of importing a complex dataset that is perfectly referenced to others just imported was magic. That time saving was significant for a mapper who at that time also had a day job.

Shape data accessibility

VIC Gov Spatial Data selection
VIC Gov Spatial Data selection

Most sources of GIS data use ESRI Shape data files for transfer. ESRI’s ArcGIS is the most commonly used GIS platform worldwide. Organisations that do not use ArcGIS still conform to many ESRI conventions.

So whether you go to your local council or a forestry company, you will probably find they much prefer to provide data in Shape file format.

The Victorian state mapping agency has public online data access at  Here is my pdf guide to accessing it.  You select Spatial Data to get at topographical data. Then you make various selections to filter data. I find this cumbersome when trying to get at the topo type data especially as some key datasets do not show up (VicMap haven’t yet fixed it).

So I suggest that you get a Spatial datamart login as that gets straight to business with this opening screen DataSearch VIC Spatial datamart Victoria .  Anyone can establish a login.

If you can supply similar links to access topo data in your state then please let me have those and I will publish them on this website.

Which topo datasets?

My most frequent topo datasets

My maps are principally for mountain bike orienteering and tourism trail networks. However, a number of the datasets I use can also be relevant to preparing a base map for orienteering and, as we have seen above, to quickly georeference a new or existing map.

  • elevation – contours, index contours, morphology (banks, cuttings and the like). Spot heights and trig points if relevant.
  • hydrology – rivers, streams, watercourses, channels, lakes, ponds, dams … (not accurate for orienteering maps but may be a useful base).
  • transport – roads, rail, infrastructure (bridges …).
  • features – I use Built Up Area (BUA) to define residental areas.
  • vegetation – useful for trail and tourism maps, too general for orienteering.
  • property – great for locating private property and public space boundaries.

    Creswick trail map snip
    Creswick trail map mostly from Shape

Some dataset content notes

Most datasets have multiple layers. For example, the VIC transport dataset allows me to select on road classification. There are 12 classes ranging from freeway to cycle track. I have a .crt file that automatically transforms those layers to their relevant symbol. You could create a single .crt file to handle all the above transforms although I find a separate one for each dataset to be more manageable.

Some of the above datasets contain a number of subsets. For example, the VIC Transport dataset comprises;

  • 3 x airport datasets
  • 2 x rail datasets
  • 3 x road datasets

Some of these are available as separate datasets. Thus generally I use just TR_ROAD and if there is rail in the area I also add TR_RAIL. This simplifies processing.

Useful resources

OCAD blog on Shape import for Orienteering edition

OCAD 12 wiki on Shape import for Orienteering edition

Ken’s mindmap of import of VicMap shape files into OCAD

Other states are likely to have different names for elements described in the above mind map. But the principles should be the same. The mind map may appear daunting but it represents considerable detail that I rarely use in the normal course of importing Shape datasets.

Wikipedia on Shapefiles

The colourful featured image of this post is a screen snip of Shape file hydro data of my local council area. This was displayed using CADViewer. I have used this excellent app by SA based Guthrie CAD for some years. It gives me a fast view of a Shape file (and DXF,  PDF)  so I can quickly detect missing content or incorrect coverage without having to import into OCAD. The information button on screen enables useful info on an element that you select on screen.  Free trial.

Guide to free spatial data – VIC




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Australian National Map and VicMap 40th

Australia online map 2014

Australia online 2D/3D map

The Department of Communications has released the National Map, an Open Data initiative, as it moves to boost the number of publicly available datasets.

The project gives users access to a single platform for government geospatial datasets, including those from the Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Bureau of Statistics and

The geospatial data is visually presented in a map format, enabling users to see the data that they extract.

Currently available datasets cover information on land, water, infrastructure, broadband access, boundaries and population, with more to come.

Continue reading Australian National Map and VicMap 40th

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VicMap 1:25,000 Map Series as Georeferenced PDF

VicMap logo

VicMap Topographic Mapping Newsletter Feb 2014

Newcastle 1913 topo
Newcastle 1913 – Australia’s 1st topo map

This issue of VicMap TopoNews advises that 1:25,000 maps are now available online as georeferenced PDF. These are A0 size and complement the 1:30,000 georeferenced PDFs at A4, A3 and custom sizes.

The A0 map physically is 841 x 1,189 mm which covers 24 x 14 km. At 1:25,000 scale this comfortably fits all editions of OCAD 11.

The 1:25,000 PDFs were last updated in 2012 while the 1:30,000 PDFs were 2013. The A3 size of the latter are as fresh as Dec 2013.

For how to access and more info, visit

Free VicMap PDF appAvenza logo

A reminder that the Avenza PDF Maps app for Android and iOS, will enable you to interact with the 1:30 000 and 1:25 000 PDF map series.

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Queensland Globe – Nearly Nearmap

Earth from space

Queensland Globe free spatial data

We’ve taken the loss of Nearmap hard but now here in Queensland is something pretty close. I have to say I’m very relieved.

Queensland Globe (QG) is a Queensland Government open data initiative which uses Google Earth (GE) to present a variety of spatial data and they are progressively adding more.

[button link=”” style=”info” color=”orange” window=”yes”]Learn more of QLD Globe[/button]

Queensland Globe Pro

You will want to use qglobepro instead of regular qglobe, but it’s hidden away. Download the .kml file, open it and GE will start up with checkboxes for QG data in the Layers pane on the left.

[button link=”” style=”download” color=”aqua” window=”yes”]QLD Globe Pro kml[/button]

Remember you need to switch off terrain features or you will have a parallax view which is no use for mapping:

[ordered_list style=”decimal”]

  1. In GE: Tools / Options / 3D View / Elevation Exaggeration = 0.01.
  2. In the QG checkboxes: Terrain = Off.


Queensland Globe screen
Queensland Globe screen

Here is why Queensland Globe is special

[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • The aerial photography is reasonably up to date in the areas I have looked; it’s not as good as Nearmap, but a lot better than Google Maps (GM).
  • The aerial photography has been selected for clarity, unlike GM, which can be murky, shadowed and useless.
  • The orthorectification of the aerial photography appears to be quite accurate.
  • Photography is high definition – again better than GM but not as good as Nearmap.
  • It has 10m contours which look reasonably good.


But Queensland Globe is not perfect:

[unordered_list style=”red-x”]

  • No georeferencing information is available, but see below.
  • Contours disappear when you zoom in very close.
  • Cadastre is unreliable and sometimes appears only when zoomed out too far for usefulness. Just keep trying.
  • Images can’t be downloaded, you have to take screenshots.



Here is how to add georeferencing information to the GE / GQ image. Download the Gridlines Manager .kml file.

[button link=”” style=”download” color=”aqua” window=”yes”]Gridlines Manager kml[/button]

This one appears in the Place pane in GE (I’m not sure how or why) and will remain there for future use. (It seems to be necessary to load the QG KML file each time.) Switch on 0.1km grid lines as well as the QG imagery and contours, take a screenshot and you have an image which you can easily load into Ocad and print out for fieldworking.

Once again the gridlines are not entirely reliable, sometimes they don’t display, I think because the system relies upon the availability of a server somewhere to provide the data.

How to load the image in Ocad? I find it’s easiest to import a GPX track somewhere in the vicinity of your map, as this fixes up your map’s Coordinate System, Zone and Offset, and locates you near where you want to be. Now in Ocad go to Map | Set Scale etc and set a grid distance of 100m. Switch on the grid and you can now load the QG image and adjust to the gridlines.

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OCAD Adds Co-ordinate System for Nearmap

NearMap logo

A Mercator projection for Nearmap imagery

Grounded Patterns near Bendigo
Grounded Patterns near Bendigo

In testing Nearmap’s not-for-profits’ plan, Russell Rigby of NSW reported that after analysis;

  1. The Google Mercator units aren’t even close to metres so current Nearmap imagery cannot be imported straight into OCAD at a meaningful scale.
  2. The OCAD transformation [via registration of image corners to OCAD map] from Google Mercator to Map Grid of Australia is good, but needs testing in more areas to be sure.

Following further investigation by Russell and myself we determined that the EPSG code 3785 referenced by Nearmap was not present in OCAD’s co-ordinate system range. Further detective work showed that OCAD contains the original version of the Google Mercator projection (EPSG 900913) but it is no longer officially in use. Not that a cursory search of the spatial world would tell you that. Fortunately Russell came across this post in Alastair Aitcheson’s spatial blog.

Popular Visualisation CRS / Mercator

I advised OCAD hq of the issue along with the background we discovered and they got onto the matter immediately. Their recent service release of 2013-09-04 contains the co-ordinate system referenced by Nearmap images available under the latter’s Basic plan. In the OCAD co-ordinate system list it is named Popular Visualisation CRS / Mercator (EPSG 3785). Note this addition is not documented in the release notes.


Images previously downloaded via Hypertiles

If you downloaded images via Hypertiles before Nearmap closed off the free service, then you should find those images are georeferenced. Thus if used as a background image, the images will register nicely with a georeferenced map.

You can check the co-ordinate system of such images by opening the .vrt file that is in each Hypertiles data set. The first few lines show;

[quote] <VRTDataset rasterXSize=”75677″ rasterYSize=”113090″>

The EPSG reference can then be looked up at In this case [quote]EPSG:28355: GDA94 / MGA zone 55[/quote]

However, whichever you selected when running Hypertiles, OCAD should convert nicely.

Russell Rigby on trialling Nearmap’s Basic plan

(Nearmap’s Basic plan offered to orienteering appears to be the same as, or very similar to, their Photomaps Standard Plan).

There is no equivalent of Hypertiles now, where you can nominate the area and resolution level that you want ( at least at the subscription level that is in any way likely).

The current subscription model has a download limit (50MB/month basic, next level 250MB/month). Any image displayed on the screen is included in downloads, to the extent that Nearmap suggests reducing the size of the browser window as a way of reducing the downloads. Panning or zooming adds to the download, as does viewing an image sequence. Using the screen tools (measuring, area, lat/long etc) does not add to downloads as long as the image is not moved.

There are two choices when saving an image. The first is to effectively capture the screen, the second is to define a box to download at high resolution. Both options can generate a world file, in the format attached to the image I sent previously. The only indication of the size & resolution of the resulting image file comes after the download has been requested and performed, so working on a tight download budget could be difficult.

The jgw is the only world-file format – there is no equivalent of the vrt file. Nearmap help suggests loading the output files into a GIS system (ESRI, Mapinfo etc) to work further with the image.

In the test data area Level 17 corresponds to approx 1m pixel size (1.19 “units”), and each change in level corresponds to a factor of 2 eg level 18 == 0.5m pixel. The only way I can see to control download size is to measure the max dimension of the area I want, & do a quick calculation of which scaling level will give between 3k & 6k pixels along that dimension, or I get to level 21 (approx 6cm) which is the smallest pixel size available.

The quality of the imagery is very high, and for capital city areas, very frequent. Regional coverage is less frequent (3-6 months for Newcastle), & is patchy and one-off for other coastal & inland towns in NSW. Many towns are not covered, or are only photographed in flood time! Some areas I have looked at have more recent coverage on Google or Bing, but usually not as high resolution.

The terms & conditions for the licence say that the first 2 months have unlimited downloads.