Blue Marble Monthly GIS Newsletter – January 2018

Satellite imagery

Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

2018 promises to be a memorable year for us here at Blue Marble. We have already mapped out our product development plans for the next 12 months; we are finalizing our travel schedule which will see us attend conferences and conduct training classes in many corners of the world; and perhaps most importantly, we look forward to celebrating our 25th anniversary. Look out for announcements about some special events in the coming months.

To kick off the year, we begin a series of reseller spotlights by introducing our German partner, screen & paper GmbH; we share the latest installment of the Brief History of Global Mapper; we hear from our resident 3D artist about the process of adding 3D models to Global Mapper; and once again, we challenge your geographic aptitude in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge, with a copy of Global Mapper up for grabs.

Contours in Global Mapper

Reseller Spotlight | screen & paper GmbH

Blue Marble’s reseller and partner program is an essential ingredient of our overall business development strategy. Just last month, we introduced a new partner in Beijing whose familiarity with the GIS environment in mainland China will be an indispensable asset as we continue to expand our footprint in that part of the world. In recognition of the essential role played by our key business partners, we will be publishing a series of Reseller Spotlights, beginning this month with screen & paper, based in southern Germany.


Density map in Global Mapper

Projections | A Brief History of Global Mapper — Part II

The second installment of this gripping tale picks up where we left off last month. If you recall, Global Mapper had emerged from its infancy as dlgv32 and was beginning to establish itself as a credible GIS application in its own right as it approached adolescence. This month, we chronicle the functional highlights from version 6 in 2005 until Global Mapper became part of Blue Marble’s product suite in late 2011. During this time, many of the core components that we see in today’s releases were added to the software, including the 3D Viewer, access to online data, and watershed modeling.


3D model creation for Global Mapper

Product News | Creating 3D Models for Global Mapper

In case you weren’t aware, we live in a three-dimensional world, and we are seeing this increasingly reflected in the technology that we use. Nowhere is this more apparent that in the broad field of geospatial data management and display. As users of Global Mapper will acknowledge, 3D visualization and analysis are at the core of much of the software’s recent development initiatives, from LiDAR processing to terrain analysis. The use of 3D models is also gaining prominence as a means to visualize data in a more realistic perspective. To shed some light on the process of creating these 3D models, we hear from Blue Marble’s resident 3D artist and QA technician, Stephanie Martini.


File formats supported by Global Mapper

Did You Know? | File Format Support in Global Mapper

Prospective users of Global Mapper will often ask how it differs from the GIS software they are currently using. While cost and value are important considerations, interoperability is also a distinguishing characteristic. The count of unique data formats supported in the most recent release of Global Mapper has risen to over 300, which means it can work with virtually any data that you might be using, right out of the box. While there are some restrictions that limit either the importing or exporting of particular formats, no other GIS software comes close to Global Mapper with respect to interoperability.


Line of Sight tool in Global Mapper

Webinar & Webcasts | The Line of Sight & View Shed Tools

Don’t have time to watch one of Blue Marble’s full-length recorded webinars? Over the coming months, we will be creating a series of short videos focusing on specific functionality in Global Mapper. We begin with a concise introduction to the process of conducting a Line of Sight and View Shed analysis. These processes are variations on the theme of detecting obstructions either along a specified linear path or in multiple directions.


Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

To the unnamed entrant whose response to the Capital City question in December’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge, was simply “Stumped”, such jovial creativity does not, unfortunately, put you in the running to win a copy of Global Mapper. Among those who correctly identified Reykjavik, along with the other four locations, was Kyle Sorenson of MWEC. Kyle will soon be receiving a copy of Global Mapper version 19. Check out the answers here.

This month, another copy of Global Mapper 19 is on the line. Click the link below and take a stab at all five of the geographic features. Good luck!

See complete terms and conditions here.


Blue Marble Geographic events

Upcoming Events

International LiDAR Mapping Forum
Denver, CO | February 5 – 7

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA | April 10 – 14

Commercial UAV Expo Europe
Amsterdam | April 10 – 12

Denver, CO | April 30 – May 3


A Brief History of Global Mapper Part II

Chelsea E | Projections

As any 5-year-old will attest, every good story begins with, “Once Upon a Time…”. For Global Mapper, that time was 1997, when its predecessor, dlgv32, was conceived by the USGS and brought to fruition by Mike Childs. Continuing with the storytelling analogy, dlgv32 was the ugly duckling that would eventually transform itself into the beautiful swan that is Global Mapper. Devotees of Hans Christian Andersen will concur that the transition from cygnet to swan was a slow and often arduous process; an experience that can also be applied to Global Mapper.

In the first part of this brief history of Global Mapper, we chronicled the software’s formative years from its first fleeting steps as a simple viewing application to its adolescence as a fledgling GIS tool. In the second part, we continue the story as Global Mapper undertakes a remarkable evolution, establishing itself as a preeminent player in the geospatial software space.

It is worth noting that for much of this journey, Global Mapper remained under the singular charge of Mike Childs. Many users have expressed amazement that the software gained a worldwide following with just one individual at the helm. Mike was somehow able to concurrently develop, distribute, and support Global Mapper with minimal assistance. Stories of Mike responding to customer questions at ten o’clock on a Saturday evening, during which he would not only provide one-on-one assistance, but would often tweak the code and deliver a custom build, are the stuff of legend. While Global Mapper has developed significantly since these early days, this direct interaction with customers is still an essential part of its development process.

At the conclusion of part one of the Brief History of Global Mapper, we had reached 2004 and version 5.09 of Global Mapper. By that stage it was already apparent that it was beginning to turn heads in the worldwide GIS community. On a personal level, it was around this time that I first encountered the software. Working in cartographic production for DeLorme, a company renowned for its Atlas and Gazetteer series, I needed a tool that would allow me to manipulate some of the datasets that were used in the company’s paper and digital products. As with most Global Mapper aficionados at the time, my introduction to the software was through word-of-mouth recommendation from a colleague, who in turn had learned of Global Mapper from a client at a former workplace. I subsequently recommended it to many of my geospatial comrades. And so on and so forth.

Global Mapper Development Accelerates

Global Mapper version 6, released in late 2004, saw the introduction of several significant new features and functions including the 3D Viewer for rendering a three-dimensional model of terrain data, support for displaying online data (initially limited to TerraServer imagery), the introduction of the batch conversion tool, and support for several new formats including JPEG2000. As a consequence of this expanding functionality, version 6 also saw a price increase from $99 to $199. This rapid development cycle continued with each successive release:

Global Mapper History Part IIChelsea Ellis



Blue Marble Acquires Global Mapper

At the end of 2011, Global Mapper would undergo its most significant transition since its inception, 14 years previous. Maine-based Blue Marble Geographics, a modest geospatial software company, widely known for its expertise in coordinate conversion and geodetics, acquired Global Mapper. Thankfully to all concerned they also acquired the services of Mike Childs. While there were some murmurs of discontent among long-time Global Mapper users who mistakenly thought that Global Mapper had been gobbled up by some faceless corporation (Blue Marble had just over 20 employees at the time), this acquisition proved to be a win-win-win arrangement.

  • Blue Marble won (obviously) because they were able to add Global Mapper to their suite of software offerings.
  • Mike Childs won because he was able to utilize Blue Marble’s sales and support team allowing him to devote more of his time to developing the software. Rumor has it he may have also benefited financially.
  • Finally, Global Mapper users won because, in the ensuing years, the software’s functionality and prominence would grow exponentially, emboldened by an expanding crew of Global Mapper developers, an eager and enthusiastic support team, and a dedicated group of globetrotting sales and marketing specialists.

In the final installment, we conclude this saga and recount the Global Mapper development highlights over the last seven years, culminating in the recently released version 19.

David McKittrick is a Senior Application Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics in Hallowell, Maine.  A graduate of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, McKittrick has spent over 25 years in the field of GIS and mapping, focusing on the application and implementation spatial technology. McKittrick has designed and delivered hundreds of GIS training classes, seminars, and presentations and has authored dozens of articles and papers for a variety industry and trade publications.

Where in the World December 2017 Answers

Name the country – Jamaica












Name the capital city – Reykjavik












Name the island – Socatra












Name the body of water – Bass Strait












Name the airport – Hong Kong International (Chek Lap Kok)

The Process of Creating 3D Models like “Snowy” for Global Mapper’s Library

Snowy the snowperson in Global Mapper
“Snowy” the snowperson was added to Global Mapper’s 3D model collection in late 2017.

Global Mapper’s 3D functionality has been on the rise over the last couple of years. One of the more creative improvements was the addition of 3D point styles. They allow users to pick from a library of 3D models, and place them as points for better visual representation of their data. The 3D point styles can be placed individually, assigned to an existing feature type, or extracted from LiDAR. The point style options range from trees to push pins, and more are being added as updates roll out. The creation of the 3D models used in the library is a multi-step process, with plenty of scope for creativity.

Technical Considerations When Designing 3D Models in Global Mapper

Global Mapper is a Geographic Information Systems program that is embracing the new 3D age, but its first concern is always the accurate representation of large quantities of data. The unique context of its 3D engine raises some considerations that need to be addressed when creating each 3D asset. The most pertinent issue is the amount of models that need to be displayed on screen at once. In order to mitigate lag, all models made for Global Mapper are limited to five hundred polygons or less, and they are unable to take advantage of Alpha mapping or Normal mapping. This creates a challenge for the artist to produce a model that is both within the guidelines of the program, and also universally readable as the object it represents. In the future, Global Mapper’s 3D model rendering capabilities will be improved as we continue to add more and more 3D functionality.

3D Model Creation Process in Global Mapper

The first step to making any 3D point style is finding a need to fulfill. Many of the models are based on existing 2D styles — some were requested, while others were added to enhance our fun factor. Examples of the process are shown below using the newest model, Snowy the snowperson.

The creative process begins on paper, the model is sketched out. This allows the artist to plan the design, and get a rough estimate of the polygon count. The actual 3D work is done in a program called 3ds Max, a 3D modeling application from Autodesk.

First the model is created with the polygon count carefully considered. Each individual piece is modeled separately and aligned to fit together. Then the mesh is unified, creating one object. After the model is finished, the mesh needs to be unwrapped, which is done directly in 3ds Max.

UVW — process of creating a flat representation of the 3D model on a 2D plain
The 3D model is broken up into sections for easy texturing, minimal stretching, and to hide the seam where the texture edges meet.

Unwrapping is the process of creating a flat representation of the 3D model on a 2D plane, called a UVW map. The model is broken up into sections for easy texturing, minimal stretching, and to hide the seam where the texture edges meet. The snowperson in this example was broken down into nine UV shells. The orange nose is four identical shells perfectly overlapped, sharing the same material image.

Flattened 3D model of snowman
The nine UV shells of Snowy share a single 1024×1024 PNG image created in Adobe Photoshop.

When unwrapping a model, a checkered pattern is applied to properly display the texture mapping, allowing the artist to manipulate the shells and reduce distortion. The nine UV shells of Snowy share a single 1024×1024 PNG image created in Adobe Photoshop.

Adding texture to 3D model in 3ds Max
After the texture is created, it is applied to the model in 3ds Max using the material editor.

After the texture is created, it is applied to the model in 3ds Max using the material editor. The first application is often not perfect, so the material is created using the PSD file directly from Photoshop. Using the PSD makes adjusting the texture easier, because saving the Photoshop file automatically updates the material in 3ds Max. When the texture image is completed, it’s added to the material editor as a PNG, and the model is exported as an OBJ file. In the accompanying image you can see two identical materials, one is the PSD for editing, and the other is the final PNG.

When the model is exported as an OBJ, it then can be imported into Global Mapper and exported as a Global Mapper Package file to be added to the shipped 3D point style list.

Stephanie Martini is a Quality Assurance Technician and 3D artist at Blue Marble Geographics. She is lead QA for the Global Mapper 3D Viewer, and creates all 3D assets used in Global Mapper.  Prior to joining Blue Marble in 2014, Martini spent four years training for game art and design, and got her BA from Alfred University in New York. She aspires to live long enough to have her consciousness downloaded to a computer, and join her mind with the AI that will inevitably control our world. 

Reseller Spotlight: Andreas Haux from screen & paper GmbH

screen & paper logo
screen & paper GmbH is a Global Mapper reseller that focuses on data processing and GIS-based cartography.

Blue Marble’s global network of partners and resellers are an essential component of the company’s business development strategy. With just over thirty full time employees, most of whom are based in the company’s headquarters in Maine, Blue Marble’s worldwide reach would be severely inhibited if it weren’t these dedicated companies and individuals. Partners are selected, not only because they have demonstrated an ability to expand the company’s business, but also because of their genuine enthusiasm for Blue Marble’s products. Besides simply selling the software, most resellers are actively involved in the GIS community in their region and often offer training and other professional services to their customers and clients.

Andreas Haux of screen and paper
Andreas Haux of screen and paper GmbH

As an acknowledgement of important role played by these partners, over the coming months we will be publishing a series of reseller spotlights in which each partner company will have an opportunity to share some information about their business in a question and answer format. We begin in Germany with screen & paper GmbH, whose Managing Director is Andreas Haux.

1. Tell us a little bit about screen and paper?

screen & paper is a company that not only distributes GIS and digital cartography software, but also uses the products itself, with a focus on data processing and GIS-based cartography. Software development for the internet has established itself as an additional focus of the company.

2. How long has the company been in business?

screen & paper was founded back in 1993 so it is almost as old as Blue Marble Geographics.

3. What are your target markets?

The great scope of Global Mapper is one of the reasons why the product is aimed at a wide range of users. Surveying, cartography, industry, supply, as well as government and education are screen & paper’s core markets.

4. What geographic area do you cover?

Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland are the areas in which screen & paper operates.

5. How long have you been reselling Global Mapper?

2004 was when we first discovered Global Mapper and we were so enthusiastic that we immediately requested and were approved to become a reseller of the software.

6. Why were you originally interested in reselling Global Mapper?

First of all, Global Mapper was the ideal tool for preparing data for further processing in cartographic tools such as MAPublisher. Since we also distribute this software, we have included Global Mapper as an addition to our product offerings.

7. What is your favorite feature of Global Mapper?

Like most users, I am amazed by the enormous range of geospatial data that Global Mapper can read and write. But going deeper into the functionality of the software, my favorite feature is the ability to control so many functions via scripting.

Script Processing in Global Mapper
The Run Script command allows users to run a Global Mapper script file that they have created. This is a powerful option that allows the user to automate a wide variety of tasks.

8. Other than reselling Blue Marble software, what other services do you provide?

We provide German language support for the software and offer training and workshops, focused on the special demands of the customer. We are also developing web-based software and support customers in preparing their GIS data fulfilling their special needs.

9. How has your partnership with Blue Marble benefited your business?

Global Mapper has become the primary focus of screen & paper’s software distribution since the beginning of sales activities in 2004. Due to the large range of functions of the software, the continuous development, and the fast and reliable support in the sales and support area, a steadily growing base of satisfied customers has established itself. In addition, by translating Global Mapper into German and constantly dealing with the software, the company’s own knowledge grows continuously.

10. How do you see your business growing with Global Mapper? New markets?

We expect new markets to develop, especially in the processing of UAV-collected imagery and more generally in the generation and processing of point cloud data. Again, the wide range of functionality will help open the door to new markets in the future.

11. What motivated you to undertake the task of translating the software into German?

We were quite familiar with the English language and the special technical terms of GIS. However, Global Mapper offers a range of text-based functions so a German user interface is simply more accessible to the German-speaking users. And to us as well!

12. Any final words?

I’m quite tempted to share many more words about Global Mapper. But actually, I can summarize by saying that I’m nothing more than a satisfied and enthusiastic customer!

For more information on screen & paper, visit