Stranded In The Southland

Friday, July 22, 2005

Topo! Ugh!

The first thing I did after becoming a member of HPS was to take advantage of the club discount on Topo! software. This seemed like a big win, since someone had set up a database of HPS hikes accessable only with the Topo! software. Plus, having topo maps for all of California seemed like a win.

Alas, this is some pretty lame software. The interface is painful. Really painful. Like, the author had never read any guidelines on computer-human interaction.

For instance, when scrolling, the cursor is moved by the application to recenter it, rather than smoothly moving the map. It's a big no-no to move the cursor from where the user put it -- very confusing. Besides, with a 1.6GHz CPU and a half-gig of RAM, the application really should be able to scroll the maps smoothly with no problems whatsoever.

The modes for dealing with the display are similarly annoying. Zoom mode is useless there are only five possible zooms, from the nation-wide map down to the 7.5-minute topo maps, so there isn't much need to zoom at all. Usually I want to scroll around. Alas, you can only scroll around when the cursor is at the very edge of the screen. Unless you get into move mode. Not that there's a hotkey to do that or anything.

Selecting map annotations (like the HPS hikes) is tough, and the file selection pop-up has a scrollbar at the bottom instead of the side. WTF? (Okay, maybe I've configured something wrong on Windows.) And there's no way to search the list of files to find the peaks I'm looking for. (Again, this may be more of a Windows problem than a Topo! problem.)

Finally, the maps come on 10 CDs. As I wander around the state, looking at maps, I'm constantly switching CDs. Why not use a couple of DVDs? I don't think a machine has been sold in the last three years without a DVD player. It'd be so much nicer to have a Northern California DVD and a Southern California DVD. Argh!

I haven't gotten around to printing maps -- hopefully that'll work out a bit better. Plus, there's some additional software that'll let me put maps onto my Palm Pilot -- that'd be kind fun. We'll see, maybe this weak-ass software can redeem itself.