O-scape: Free Orienteering Mapping Software :: Nopesport Orienteering

Making maps for orienteering can be an expensive business. Being a niche market, orientation mapping software such as OCAD can be prohibitively expensive for people who want to get into mapping, and you are limited to being a Windows user. Going down the vector graphics route using free plugins for consumer drawing tools, such as MapStudio for Adobe Illustrator, opens up cartography to Mac and Windows users, but again proves expensive.

Now, however, we have discovered a new option for creating orientation maps, using completely free software, available on Mac, Windows and Linux platforms. Using Inkscape, an open source cross-platform vector graphics editor, combined with a set of orienteering-specific extensions – O-scape, you can now draw orienteering maps for free.

If you’re used to vector drawing, you’ll find Inkscape and O-Scape easy to pick up. For new covers, vector drawing can be quite a steep learning curve, but the persistence is worth it, and Inkscape seems to be very intuitive to use compared to other vector drawing software.

We contacted Jon Eaton (WCOC), the developer of the O-scape extensions to find out more about the project.

Nopesport: What prompted you to develop O-scape extensions?

Jon Eaton: Last Christmas, I spent some time searching the internet for free software that could provide a platform for producing wayfinding maps. The search paid off when I came across Inkscape.

Inkscape is a cross-platform open source vector graphics editor distributed under a free software license and can be run on Linux, Windows and Mac OSX. Inkscape has similar functionality to Adobe Illustrator and uses the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Inkscape has a deceptively simple and streamlined interface while supporting many advanced features, making it easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps, and more. Inkscape is under active development, with new features added regularly by a thriving community of users and developers using open, community-driven development. More information about Inkscape can be found on the Inkscape website.

Inkscape was designed to accept extensions written in a number of programming languages ​​and includes interpreters for Ruby, Perl and the most commonly used language for writing Inkscape extensions, Python.

I have written a set of Python extensions, the O-scape extensions which, together with the innate capabilities of Inkscape, make it possible to create the complete set of symbols ISOM:2000, ISSOM:2007 and the new ISMTBOM:2010. O-scape extensions are now available on SourceForge.net at: sourceforge.net/projects/o-scape/files/.

Nopesport: What is the benefit of using Inkscape and O-scape extensions?

Jon: Being FREE, Inkscape and O-scape extensions will hopefully allow individuals and small clubs to create maps where they were previously unable to afford the required software. Furthermore, it could provide the mapping tool for orienteering to spread to more regions and countries.

Nopesport: What are your future plans for O-scape?

Jon: Currently Inkscape and O-scape extensions cannot generate pictorial control description tables although a full set of control description symbols is available. This is a gap that I hope to fill in a future update. Inkscape can, however, generate high resolution PNG files, offering compatibility with Condes and Purple Pen.

Simple instructions are currently provided to get users started using Inkscape and O-scape extensions. I plan to write a comprehensive manual to describe the best ways to use O-scape extensions with Inkscape.

Other areas I’m looking to develop include a routine to generate random dot patterns to automatically produce 117 Broken Ground and 210 Stony Ground symbol regions and the ability to import Ocad files into Inkscape (if possible) .

This is the first release of O-scape extensions and therefore has not been tested in the real world. Therefore, I would appreciate your feedback on any feedback you may have that could improve the functionality and performance of the extensions.

If you would like to get involved in the project, read about O-scape on SourceForge or contact us / send your comments to: [email protected] or discuss it on the Nopesport forums.

So, now that we have free map drawing through O-scape, now you can use completely free software from start to finish when organizing an event. Draw the map using O-scape, use Purple Pen to plan your routes, then use Ór to manage the day’s entries and results.

While we believe there is orienteering software out there worth paying for, the free options help open up the sport to individuals and small clubs that cannot afford the cost of the software. Hopefully, this will also force commercial software developers to stay on top of their game by improving their work and meeting the needs of their user base, before going the free route.

If you have any other interesting information about orienteering technologies or software, we are always interested to know more about possible ways to develop the sport using new technologies.

Dino J. Dotson