Posted on Leave a comment

Become More Productive with OCAD in 2017 – Part 2

New Year resolutions that will stick

Here are some matters that puzzled me or other mappers, but were eventually resolved. Take a browse to up your OCAD productivity.

Multiple OCAD instances

After an OCAD update to a new version (such as 11 to 12), do not be tempted to run both versions simultaneously on the one PC. The same temporary file names are used by both versions.

Characters inserting/deleting 1 or more places away from cursor?

I use cartographic fonts and a few fonts with slightly quirky styles. For many months while editing blocks of text on maps, I blamed my laptop for letters being inserted and deleted 1 or more places from the insertion point. After moving to a desktop PC and having the same issue, I thought to ask Mark Roberts who replied ‘ligatures’.

Ligatures are 2 or more letters combined into one character. ff, ae, fi, ffi, ft are often combined in a font that enables ligatures. See Wikipedia for more. OCAD recognise ligatures as a single character whereas your OS and you are seeing it as multiple. So if I write difficult in OCAD using a ligature font, OCAD thinks the cursor is 2 characters prior (the ffi being a single character). Note that ligatures in a block of text are cumulative in effect.

A 25 second video showing a normal insertion and then a ligature effected insertion. Deletions are similarly affected.

Solution 1 – do not use fonts with ligatures.

Solution 2 – once you understand there is a pattern, it is fairly easy to edit small blocks of text with ligatures.

A DEM elevation profile is back to front?

OCAD DEM elevation profile image
OCAD DEM elevation profile

You may have merged many segments of track, or drawn a long curvy track, only to find the profile depicts the opposite direction of travel.

This is because the elevation profile function uses the direction in which the line was drawn (or traveled in the case of GPX tracks). Simply Object>Reverse Object Direction and redo the elevation profile. It is also a symbol on the menu that you might know better as the symbol to reverse the direction of fence tags.


Aiming off

On a stressful day, this is a calming 5 minute video. Though I’m not sure which is the more calming – the scenery or the voice.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. [John Muir]


Posted on Leave a comment

Book Review – Cartographer’s Toolkit

Cartographer's Toolkit book

Colours, Typography, Patterns

A toolkit it is. Supposedly only for those who have expert cartographic knowledge. I cannot lay claim to the latter (my only career regret), yet I am finding this toolkit very useful. In fact it lifted a mental block for me on one map. So unless you are a pure orienteering mapper, this toolkit is likely to have tools that you can reuse for both print and web cartography.

I have already reused colour palettes, acquired new fonts, used one composition pattern and admired the abstract art. Exactly as Gretchen N Peterson intended in her book Cartographer’s Toolkit | Colors, Typography, Patterns. She has carefully thought out and very successfully presented the chapter elements.

Colour Palettes

Colours sample
Colours sample

The Color palette chapter presents a series of harmonic colour sets. It encompasses coordinated, differentiated and colour ramp palettes. I lack colour smarts so this chapter has been a boon, enabling me to quickly test three likely colour palettes for a new trail map. Each of the 25 or so palettes comprises specifications of 10 colours, samples of usage and even a colour blindness simulation. The chapter is introduced by basic colour theory and practice.


Typeface sample
Typeface sample

Similarly, the Typography chapter is introduced by the basics of typography in cartography. While I knew of typeface x-heights through my print industry experience, I wasn’t aware of their relevance to cartography. Replacing OCAD’s default font Arial with a cartographic font, I was startled at how much better it looked on the map.

Fifty typefaces are listed across categories of standard (system), free and ‘for fee’ fonts. As with colours, each font is portrayed in a sample situation as well as alphabet and text. Some of these fonts are referred to in my previous post Cartography Typography for Neophytes.


Pattern sample
Pattern sample

The signal to noise ratio of the Composition Patterns chapter was far higher than I expected. At first glance I thought the chapter interesting but not too relevant to trail maps. How wrong. Applying a discontinuous frame to an orienteering event map enabled a useful bulge of content to be kept and the map still looked good.

Then line highlights provided a new slant on marking trail routes. Small multiples reminded me I could show enlargements of selected trails on some trail maps. And I really enjoy the intentional and unintentional art.

Maps show the way

And so does Gretchen Peterson. She has resoundingly accomplished her objective of providing tools for reuse. She has also given me pleasure in reading, re-reading, examining detail and re-examining.

In addition to her intended audience, I commend this book to amateur cartographers like myself who have an interest in improving. I cannot close better than by quoting from her introduction

This book enables the thinking cartographer to use colors and fonts deliberately, and it shares ideas for creating just the right layout compositions with just the right elements to create truly communicative and enduring maps. — Gretchen Peterson

Cartographer’s Toolkit | Colors, Typography, Patterns. Gretchen N Peterson. Published 2012 by PetersonGIS. Amazon US$35.

Gretchen Peterson’s informative blog A Cartographer’s Toolkit.

Posted on Leave a comment

Cartography Type Face Off

Font Cisalpin LT

Trade Gothic LT

Jim Lewis responded to my earlier post Cartography Typography for Neophytes with a further typeface that he has found useful. Trade Gothic LT at about US$29. Trade Gothic typeface was first released in 1948 by Linotype. Is is popular in advertising and multimedia. Adobe has a version and Linotype has released Trade Gothic Next and even Trade Gothic for Nike 365.

Below is Trade Gothic LT surrounded by two typefaces mentioned in my earlier post. I recently changed road names and legend text on a map from OCAD’s standard Arial to CartoGothic and was really surprised at how much better the latter looked on the map.

Fonts comparison

Font Cisalpin LT
Cisalpin LT


JCS_40 TradeGothicLT
Trade Gothic LT


CartoGothic Std
CartoGothic Std

[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Open Type fonts, of which Cisalpin and CartoGothic are two, are not compatible with OCAD 9 and earlier. Also some high quality fonts are not compatible with Condes v8 and earlier.[/box]

Posted on Leave a comment

Cartography Typography for Neophytes

Jokerman font

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]okerman is fun but does it do the job?

Map typography should enhance assimilation and visualisation of the map  content, yet not be noticed. So says one expert opinion I recently read. It does make sense although given the grand cartouches of yesteryear, I do wonder if there is not still a place for some fun in titles – hence Jokerman in the Cyclic Navigator series maps.

Apart from titles, the main typography requirements on a map are for features (streams, roads, legends) and block text (descriptions, warnings).

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]ypeface styles

Large blocks of text such as in reports and books, are usually most readable in [typography font=”Droid Serif” size=”18″ size_format=”px”]serif typefaces[/typography]. With the advent of high resolution screens, serif typefaces are increasingly used for this purpose on computers as well as in print.

However, on our orienteering and topographic maps, we usually see [typography font=”Droid Sans” size=”18″ size_format=”px”]Sans-serif typefaces[/typography]. Typically the ubiquitous Arial on our orienteering maps probably because OCAD has Arial as the default typeface.

Although sans-serif typefaces come into their own when our maps leave limited space for text, sometimes standard sans-serif typefaces simply don’t fit — in a few senses of the word.

Feature text may have to be as small as 6 or 7 points. Selecting such a small size of your standard sans-serif typeface may result in difficult to read text. Some fonts such as Arial do have narrow styles. But does even that have the cartography X-factor?

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]artography’s X-factor in type

This X-factor is known in the type world as x-height. A tall x-height improves readability at small type sizes. Bookman and Georgia are system fonts with tall x-heights.

In simple terms the x-height is the height of the body of the lowercase character ‘x’ in a regular typeface. Below the x-height in the character set are the descenders and above the x-height are the ascenders.

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ierarchy of map typography

Typically a geographic, topographic, road or trail map will use variants of a sans-serif typeface. Or it will use a serif typeface for titles and natural features with a sans-serif for other features.

Look at such a map and you will almost certainly see this hierarchy of typefaces. This might be along the lines of;

[unordered_list style=”green-dot”]

  • state
  • city
  • town
  • locality
  • features such as street names


Arial, Franklin Gothic, Nueva and Minion are system (WIN or Mac) typefaces with a reasonable range of variants. The variants or typefaces chosen should allow features to be immediately distinguishable.

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]artography specific typefaces

The ultimate, these typefaces are typified by a wide range of variants enabling construction of a smooth hierarchy. Of course suitable x-heights are a key element for feature use. Unfortunately most such fonts are licensed for dollars.

[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Cisalpin by Linotype is often referenced as the top typeface developed specifically for cartography. [highlight]$$$[/highlight]
  • I recently acquired CartoGothic Std. It has only 4 variants but is free. [highlight]Free[/highlight]
  • Carnova. The ultimate in a non-presence carto typeface. 12 variants for $12! [highlight]$[/highlight]
  • Quadon is unusual in that it is a serif slab typeface, great for titles yet legible at small sizes. [highlight]$$[/highlight]
  • You might not like to take a look at Cartographer typeface.


[dropcap]F[/dropcap]urther reading

For a more technical discussion of cartography typography, read Map Font Basics on Typography. “gives non-specialist mapmakers a chance to explore typography in a semi-structured environment”. Firstly explore the tool in its numeric sequence, taking every other link as you proceed. That will give you an idea of how to make it work for you.

Vischeck simulates colour blind vision. To use it, OCAD and PDFs need to be exported as image files.

If you are into trail maps or other non-sport maps or simply interested in basic cartographic design, then I recommend a book I recently bought and read in just 2 sessions. Cartographer’s Toolkit : Colors, Typography, Patterns by Gretchen N Peterson. I will be reviewing it soon.

Cartographer's Toolkit book