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Australian Orienteer Summer Edition is Mapped

Geostationary Satellites

Orienteering map technology

The coming edition of the Australian Orienteer carries three articles relating to technology and orienteering maps. Continue reading Australian Orienteer Summer Edition is Mapped

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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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ELVIS rocks with LiDAR contours

image Elvis storm 1998

ELVIS delivers 1m, 5m, 25m contours – free!

ELVIS is Geoscience Australia’s new elevation information system. It is free, licenced under Creative Commons and makes public LiDAR data very accessible. Thank you to Russell Rigby, mapping convenor ONSW who made me aware of ELVIS. The LiDAR data available is;

  • SRTM-derived 1 Second Digital Elevation Models Version 1.0
  • DEM SRTM 1 Second Hydrologically Enforced
  • 5 metre Digital Elevation Model (DEM) – this delivers 1m, 5m, 25m contours

I downloaded 5m DEM data covering part of the 2015 Anglesea mtbo map, imported contours into OCAD and overlaid those on the OCAD map file of 5m contours. The correspondence was very close which is a tribute to mapper John Sutcliffe as much as to the ELVIS data.

The Coverage

The 5m resolution coverage, which provides down to 1m contours, is fairly thin. These surveys cover Australia’s populated coastal zone; floodplain surveys within the Murray Darling Basin, and some parts of  major and minor population centres.

Maybe we will see more sand dune coastal area maps akin to those near Hobart,  Auckland, Levin and Invercargill. And perhaps street and park-O where more detailed contours are desired.

Ease of use

The website isn’t yet the friendliest until you get to know it and then it does work well. Here are tips based on my learning;

Symbols of available datasets1m Hydrologically enforced DEM

  • Selecting  a right arrowhead symbol provides a synopsis of that data type.
  • Selecting a download arrow symbol takes you to the selection of data coverage for your project.
  • Selecting the globe symbol, (red when selected) shows on the map at left, the available coverage for that data.
  • Selecting the ‘eye’ symbol (orange when selected) show the extent of  that data coverage.
  • Note the latter two symbols act like check boxes, not radio buttons.
map of ELVIS 5m data coverage, eastern states
ELVIS 5m data coverage, eastern states

 Selecting a 5m dataset5m DEM for Victoria

  • At time of writing, selecting the name of any state 5m dataset gives you identical national information. It also has links at right (when selected) to state mosaic downloads – these are of no relevance to OCAD use.
  • Selecting the download icon frames the 5 metre DEM coverage area for that state.

Download of data

Whichever dataset you choose, the method of selecting data is the same. The download wizard is easy to follow.

  • For Output Format, select Esri ASCII Grid for OCAD import. The file will be a .asc type file.
  • For Coordinate system, select GDA94 for OCAD import.

OCAD import

The easiest method is to use the DEM import wizard available in OCAD 12 (OCAD 10 & 11 users, see the video tutorials link below); The defaults provided in the wizard are adequate for a first run.

You can select 1m, 5m and 25m Contour Lines and produce background maps of any or all of Slope Gradient, Hill Shading, Hypsometric Map.


There are 4 video tutorials on DEM at These videos are useful for OCAD 10, 11 and 12 users.

I created a 4 minute video tutorial on the basics of using ELVIS. View it online at

And here is a base OCAD file I created to import the DEM data and then in turn it is imported into your OCAD map file with minimal symbology and colours.

ELVIS issues

ELVIS striation issue Wilsons Prom
ELVIS striation Wilsons Prom

Russell Rigby detected an issue that is mainly evident in steeper areas. The contours have a degree of blockiness or striations. Russell has made Geoscience Australia aware of this issue.

This is strongly evident in the steep Wilson’s Promontory contours at right.

It is less evident but still distinguishable as a series of  ‘steps’ in the less steep Preston contours below right.

In many orienteering areas, the issue won’t be much of a problem. For example in the Anglesea contours, I had to inspect closely to detect the striations.


ELVIS improvements

ELVIS striation issue Preston
ELVIS striation Preston

Russell Rigby and myself have made contact with ELVIS re suggested improvements and data quality concerns. We each received responses that indicate a will to continue product improvement.


Russell Rigby, ONSW mapping convenor for his experiences of ELVIS.

Geosciences Australia for releasing an easily accessible pool of LiDAR data.

NASA for the Creative Commons licenced image of 1998 storm Elvis over USA and Atlantic.

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From GPS and Google Maps to Spatial Computing

Curious about spatial computing? Or more than curious?

Course logo
Course logo

This course from the University of Minnesota via Coursera delves into spatial computing for geographic information systems (GIS). Now that might seem heavy going but the course caters for three different goals of participants;

  • Curiosity – learn about one or two spatial concepts of interest to you
  • Concepts – learn about spatial concepts but not get involved in programming or statistics
  • Technical – the lot!

Why might this course interest you?

If, like me, you use data from various sources then you will doubtless have run into issues ranging from data formats to co-ordinate systems to projections to …. So you might want more than a passing knowledge of what you are dealing with.

I am hopeful the Curiosity track will increase my knowledge of co-ordinate systems and projections so I can bother Russell Rigby a little less. And if I can get through at least some of the Concepts track maybe I will further broaden my knowledge of ESRI Shape files and the like as I use them in nearly every map I produce.

This course introduces concepts, algorithms, programming, theory and design of spatial computing technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), Google Maps, location-based services and geographic information systems. Learn how to collect, analyze, and visualize your own spatial datasets while avoiding common pitfalls and building better location-aware technologies.

Best of all…

It is free unless you specifically want a certificate of attainment.

You will find out that egocentric maps exist but they are not necessarily your maps 🙂 And did you know orienteering maps are allocentric?

Sign up here. But be warned, it does take a fair bit of time and commitment. 8 weeks of 4-10 hours per week. However I understand you have until Christmas to complete it.





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Online Mapping Course Returns

Maps and the Geospatial Revolution

This free online course is back again.

Learn how advances in geospatial technology and analytical methods have changed how we do everything, and discover how to make maps and analyze geographic patterns using the latest tools.

Continue reading Online Mapping Course Returns