Blue Got Mail: Changing the Color of Map Labels in Global Mapper

Billy Noble, Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics, answers questions that come into the technical support inbox. In this video, Billy demonstrates how to customize the color and fonts of labels in a layer of a map in Global Mapper.

Webinar: What’s New in Global Mapper v20.1

For a minor release, Global Mapper version 20.1 offers a surprising collection of new features and functions. In addition to the usual performance improvements and code tweaks that are typical of these minor releases, version 20.1 includes new Digitizer tools, significant upgrades to the Path Profile tool, enhanced LiDAR querying, and much more. In the latest live Global Mapper webinar, we showcase some of the highlights of this release.

Among the specific topics covered in the webinar are:

  • New zooming function in the Path Profile window
  • Legend display for multiple profiled surfaces
  • Option to set the default projection
  • New vector edge-matching tool

Support for Esri RESTful data sources And in the LiDAR Module:

  • New point proximity search tool for encroachment detection
  • Improved point cloud thinning options
  • And much more

If you have questions about any of the workflows or topics covered in this presentation, email: geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com. For licensing or sales questions, email orders@bluemarblegeo.com. To download an evaluation copy of Global Mapper, visit: www.bluemarblegeo.com/products/global-mapper.php

Five Reasons to Sign Up for Global Mapper Training

Chelsea E | Projections
Application Specialist Katrina Schweikert leads a Global Mapper training course in Hallowell, Maine in January of 2019.

Blue Marble Geographics offers several training options to help users get the most out of their all-in-one GIS software, Global Mapper: Customized Trainingfor companies or organizations needing tailored instruction based on specific workflow needs; Self-Training, comprised of a series of lessons that users can tackle at home at their own pace; and Public Training courses that cover the extensive functionality of Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module.

While all three options have their benefits, the public training courses, which take place at a variety of locations around the world, come with a handful of perks on top of being great opportunities for users to increase the return on their Global Mapper investment.

In this blog entry, I will list the top five reasons why you should sign up for a public training class, and outline what this training journey looks like.

1. GIS training for both beginners and professionals

Public training molds to the GIS –skill levels and knowledge of the attendees.

A couple of weeks before the class, attendees receive a Getting Started package, which includes the following resources:

  • A PDF of the training manual
  • The data files that will be used in the course
  • Links to the Getting Started Guide and video
  • The Self-Training materials

While it’s not required for attendees to look at these resources, the package gives them the opportunity to see the topics covered in the courses. It also gives attendees time to reach out to Blue Marble’s training team with any specific questions or concerns they may have about the material.

This pre-course communication helps trainers understand attendees’ skills in GIS, ensuring that all attendees get the most out of their individual training experience.

Chelsea E | Projections
Trainees listen to instructions in the Global Mapper training course that took place in Hallowell, Maine in January of 2019.

2. Hands-on instruction from GIS experts

In a public training class, Blue Marble’s applications specialists walk through workflows that attendees follow, and provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to ask questions.

Introducing functionality that attendees may not have previously known, this hands-on experience allows trainees to apply new knowledge with real data and in meaningful ways. Their earned skills – ranging from basic Digitizer usage, to more advanced functions such as a variety of terrain analysis functions– can later be remembered and practiced at home with the training manual and data files trainees will take with them.

See the agenda for the Global Mapper class here.

Chelsea E | Projections
Applications Specialist David McKittrick gives an overview of the Global Mapper toolbars in a training course in Hallowell, Maine.

3. A resume builder with an official certification

The complete Global Mapper training course is a three-day program incorporating two separate courses that attendees can sign up for individually or as one continuous program. The first two days are dedicated to the core functionality of Global Mapper, and the third day focuses on the LiDAR Module and point cloud processing.

Individually, the courses are great resume builders, however when, taken together, they earn attendees an official Global Mapper User certification. If an attendee is just starting their GIS-related career, a certificate can be a valuable credential proving their broad range of terrain analysis, 3D data editing, LiDAR processing skills, and more.

Chelsea E | Projections
Trainees are given data sets to follow along with workflows during the training courses.

4. An introduction to LiDAR and point cloud processing

With increased access to affordable ways of collecting LiDAR and point cloud data, it’s become more important for GIS professionals to understand what to do with this data and to have access to tools that can efficiently process it.

The third day of training focuses on point cloud processing, covering a range of topics, including: LiDAR filtering and editing techniques, photogrammetric point cloud creation, feature extraction, and more. Whether trainees are just starting to use point cloud data, or if they are experienced, this one-day intensive class will cover everything they need to know about Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module’s capabilities.

See the full LiDAR agenda here.

5. A networking opportunity – connecting with GM users

Supplementing the learning experience, the public training courses also offer the opportunity for trainees to meet other members of the Global Mapper user community and to network within the industry. A broad range of professionals – from government workers to UAV pilots– attend and benefit from Blue Marble’s training courses, which makes these courses rich in a different way every time.

Public Training – A valuable GIS experience

Whether it’s to boost a burgeoning GIS career or to re-energize and enrich a mature one, Blue Marble’s public training is a valuable experience that provides insight into the basics of Global Mapper, lesser known software features, certification, and networking opportunities.

To see when a training is coming to a location near you and to register, visit the Blue Marble training page. If you have any questions about training, contacttraining@bluemarblegeo.com.

Top Five New Features and Functions in Global Mapper Version 20.1

Interim releases of Global Mapper typically offer the Blue Marble development staff an opportunity to fine-tune some of the functionality that was introduced in the most recent major release. While the upcoming version 20.1 release includes its fair share of performance improvements and code tweaks, it also offers a surprising collection of new tools covering everything from the Digitizer to scripting. With the release just a few weeks away and the final edits being applied to the underlying code, we take a sneak peek at some of the more significant additions.


Using the new Zoom tool in the Path Profile View.

Path Profile Zooming

The importance of Global Mapper’s Path Profile tool has grown immensely since the introduction of the LiDAR Module. While it is most commonly used to render a cutaway view of a terrain layer, it also displays a cross-sectional view of points in a point cloud and can used to edit or delete selected points. New in version 20.1 is the option to zoom in the profile view – a function that ensures that even the most densely-spaced points can now be individually identified and selected.

Profile Legend

Continuing the theme of improvements to the Path Profile tool, a new option has been added to more clearly define the individual surfaces when rendering profile lines for multiple layers. A legend, which can be placed anywhere within the Path Profile window, shows each line style along with the corresponding surface layer. This is particularly useful when visualizing and analyzing multiple layers representing change over time.


Selecting a default projection.

Default Projection

Global Mapper’s projection management is universally acknowledged for its simplicity. Load any layer and the inherent projection parameters associated with the layer define the display projection. Each successive layer is then automatically reprojected on the fly to adhere to this system. No questions asked. Change the display projection and each exported layer will ultimately include these new projection parameters. In Global Mapper 20.1, an even simpler approach to projection management can be enabled with the assignment of a universal default projection. With this new configuration setting, a specified projection will be automatically applied when creating or importing any new layer.


Gaps between areas before applying the new “Close Gaps Between Adjacent Features” function
The areas after applying the “Close Gaps Between Adjacent Features” function

Vector Gap Closing

When creating abutting polygons, Global Mapper’s snapping functionality helps ensure that the features’ shared vertices are a perfect match, without overlap or gaps. When importing external files, however, such precise geometric integrity is not always the case. A new Digitizer tool available in version 20.1 can be used to automatically correct these errors. The “Close Gaps Between Adjacent Features …” function allows a maximum distance threshold to be established allowing the boundary lines to be perfectly matched.


The “Select LiDAR by Distance” tool can be used to select a particular point type within a defined distance of a feature

LiDAR Proximity Selection

A common use case in point cloud or LiDAR analysis is the detection of encroachment, and a new point selection option in the LiDAR Module provides this functionality to Global Mapper users. The “Select LiDAR by Distance” tool can be used to specify a particular point type (such as powerline), a distance threshold, and a target point type (such as high vegetation). In this case, running the search will highlight vegetation points that are encroaching within a defined distance of powerlines. This tool can be applied in many other workflows and includes the option to detect points within the proximity of 3D line features instead of points.

What is Maintenance and Support and How Does it Affect Me?

Global Mapper TrainingChelsea E | Projections
Global Mapper open on a laptop in a training course conducted by Blue Marble Geographics’ applications specialists. Maintenance and Support, along with the knowledgebase, videos, and self-guided training, allows users to access the expertise of Blue Marble’s experts.

If you have purchased Global Mapper and/or the LiDAR Module in the last two years, you have heard from our sales team regarding Maintenance & Support (M&S). But you may find yourself wondering, “What is Maintenance and Support and how does it affect me?”

The “Maintenance” Part – Keep your version of Global Mapper up-to-date

Longtime users know that, with every purchase or upgrade of Global Mapper includes a year of technical and licensing support. This support, along with our knowledgebase, videos, and self-guided training, allows users to explore and experience all Global Mapper has to offer. With customers in mind, we updated our support model in summer of 2017 with a 12-month M&S plan that begins on the date payment is received for an order. M&S now includes all version releases of the software within that 12-month period, allowing customers to utilize the most current version of Global Mapper.

The “Support” Part – The Blue Marble Tech Team is here for you

In addition to providing users access to the most current version of Global Mapper, M&S also includes the unparalleled technical and licensing support we are known for offering. Our technical team is ready to answer any questions you might have, from format questions, to complex workflow scenarios, in a timely manner. Technical Support is not a substitute for training. We offer many training solutions both in person and virtually. For more information please visit https://www.bluemarblegeo.com/solutions/geodesy-training.php .

Maintenance and Support Renewals and License Structure

This M&S model also provides customers with the option to renew their support every year. Some of you will likely have received emails from us in the past few months letting you know that your support has ended, and explaining how to renew your subscription. Please contact the sales team with questions about the renewal option, coverage period, or how to purchase additional licenses.

I’m sure many of you are thinking that since Global Mapper has a perpetual license structure, “How will Maintenance and Support affect that model?” Rest assured it will not affect your license. However, the level of support that you receive is directly related to the status of your M&S. If your M&S is out of date, Blue Marble’s technical and licensing support teams may be unable to assist you.

Blue Marble strongly encourages you to stay up-to-date with M&S, so that you have access to the best software we have to offer. Staying current guarantees the highest level of software support and service, and that you are receiving the latest software fixes and enhancements.

In the coming weeks Global Mapper 20.1 will be released. Are you eligible to use all the great features and enhancements the new release has to offer? Users with current M&S coverage will need to download and license this version of Global Mapper. If your M&S is out of date or if you have questions about the status of your Global Mapper license, please contact orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Create a 3D Model from a Point Cloud in Global Mapper

One of the highlights of the version 20 release of Global Mapper is a new tool for generating a 3D mesh or model from a selected LiDAR or other point cloud points. The resulting layer contains a complex vector feature comprised of an array of abutting triangles that, when displayed in Global Mapper’s 3D Viewer, take the form of a realistic three-dimensional representation of the object. As is typical with Global Mapper, the process of creating a 3D mesh is remarkably straightforward.

Foreshadowing Geodetic Updates: NADCON 5.0 in Geographic Calculator 2019

The latest version of Blue Marble Geographics’ coordinate conversion software continues the 25-year tradition of providing solutions for the most complex geodetic challenges. Geographic Calculator 2019 offers a number of requested improvements, such as a more user-friendly interface, a universal copy and paste function, a new angular unit conversion tool, as well as several enhancements to seismic file format support. However, a closer look also reveals several new features that provide some insight into more significant shifts in Blue Marble’s future development plans.

Geographic Calculator 2019 has added support for version 5.0 of the National Geodetic Survey’s (NGS) North American Datum Conversion tool (NADCON 5.0). This single line item in the release notes may be easily overlooked, but it represents years of work by NOAA-NGS. It also represents a fundamental change in the way United States coordinate reference system and reference frame transformations are performed. Before delving into the details, let’s answer this question…

What is NADCON 5.0?

The origin of this transformation methodology is rooted in the readjustment of the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD27) to the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD83). The differences between these reference frames were very regional and irregular, which resulted in shifts that could not easily be modeled with traditional mathematical transformations. The solution was the original North American Datum Conversion (NADCON) Utility, which was adopted in 1990 as the federal standard for modeling differences between the two systems.

The early versions of the NADCON transformations typically had an accuracy of 12 to 18 centimeters, which represented a significant improvement over most other large-scale models at the time. That said, the tool did have its shortcomings. According to NGS, it was “poorly documented, was applied inconsistently across regions, contained numerous errors, and was difficult to use”. Those kinds of defects were also shared by another NOAA-NGS tool called GEOCON, introduced during the realization of the NAD83(2007) reference frame. The significant difference between the original NADCON and GEOCON transformations was the latter’s ability to perform three-dimensional coordinate transformations among various newer NAD83 frames. This was also improved in GEOCON11 (version 2.0), but time constraints meant that only eleven states were able to provide data for these adjustments.

NADCON 5.0 was built to replace both of these imperfect NGS tools. Unlike its predecessors, it is well-documented, more “user-friendly”, it includes downloadable transformation grids that can be integrated into third-party software, and covers the entire United States (including overseas territories). Newer remote sensing technology and the ability to handle much larger datasets also allows for a finer level of detail during the transformation process. As with the GEOCON model, NADCON 5.0 also offers new transformations between many reference frames and three-dimensional coordinate systems, and it supports the US National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) as well as many other previously unrecognized local horizontal coordinate systems dating back to the late 1800s. It also provides local error estimates as a component of the transformation, which is likely to pique the interest of your friendly neighborhood geodesist.

How does NADCON 5.0 work?

Like the traditional NADCON version 4.0 transformation, version 5.0 is delivered as a set of grid files that can be used to move between individual reference frames. Unlike version 4.0 however, it is no longer limited to horizontal shifts. The new grid files contain fields for identifying 3D transformations between reference frames and an error metric where available. Furthermore, there is a much larger set of grids to choose from and it is no longer constrained to the traditional NAD27->NAD83 or NAD83(20xx)->NAD83(20xx) model. Instead, transformations can be performed between six separate realizations of NAD83, NAD27, and the US Standard Datum (USSD). NADCON 5.0 also provides access to precise transformations between other historic systems such as the Old Hawaiian Datum, Puerto Rico 1940, and local Alaskan systems, such as the St. Paul Island reference frame of 1897 and 1852.

Unlike the old version 4.0 transformation, NADCON 5.0 was designed to chain together various grid files to provide a more accurate result. This makes things a bit more complicated because of the need to keep track of individual transformations as components of a larger concatenated operation. The following diagram shows an example of a shift from the NOAA Technical Report NOS NGS 63.

Diagram from the NOAA Technical Report NOS NGS 63

The illustration shows a chain of transformations for moving a surveyed data point based on the USSD system to NAD83(2011). Any subset of the chain can be used independently as part of the NADCON 5.0 model. This chain process can support a new model once it is created (for example, the 2022 National Reference System) and with one grid file, associate it to all historical models.

So what is foreshadowing about the addition of NADCON 5.0 in Geographic Calculator?

NADCON 5.0 will be instrumental in the transition to yet another adjustment from NAD83 on the horizon — the introduction of the new National Reference Frame of 2022 (NATRF2022) and NSRS2022.

A graphic from the NOAA Technical Report NOS NGS 63 shows the errors for horizontal transformation for USSD/NAD 27/CONUS.

If you are a frequent visitor to Projections, the Blue Marble blog, you may have read an entry by Product Manager Sam Knight explaining why the new NSRS is being developed. If you haven’t seen Sam’s entry, the short explanation is that geoid and GPS-height accuracy have improved and that NAD83 did not account for the dynamic movement of our planet over time. Under the new system, all measurable gravity-related values (such as orthometric heights, geoid undulation, deflections of the vertical, etc…) will be time dependent for compatibility with the NATRF2022 coordinate systems — making for more accurate time-dependent transformations.

NSRS2022 will also replace all of the current vertical datums, which will require updates to VERTCON — another NGS transformation tool. Originally designed to transform between the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88) and the North Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29), the 2022 update to VERTCON will transform orthometric heights from the old datums into heights in the new North American-Pacific Geopotential Datum (NAPGD2022).

Small changes leading up to larger changes

With awkward acronyms, complex geodetic concepts, and NGS tool history, the 2022 update as it relates to NADCON 5.0 is a lot for a short blog entry. But hopefully you get the key message: NGS is making big changes that will lead to more accurate transformations and Geographic Calculator is an early adopter of these new geodetic parameters. Be on the lookout for more updates as tools like NADCON 5.0 develop and grow. Until then, the Geographic Calculator will continue to hold a finger on the NGS pulse.

To learn more about NGS, its tools and the upcoming NSGS of 2022, visit their website at https://www.ngs.noaa.gov or read this NOAA report.

Creating a 3D Fly-Through in Global Mapper in Five Easy Steps

Let’s begin with a poll. With a show of hands, how many of you currently work with some sort of 3D data in Global Mapper?* One, two, three, four… OK, I think I can safely conclude that everyone’s hand is raised, just as I thought. We are currently at a significant epoch in the history of mapping. Traditional cartographic renderings consider the Earth from a two-dimensional, birds-eye perspective but that is rapidly changing. Our world is a 3D world and the technologies that we use to visualize, analyze, and distributize** our geospatial data are increasingly taking the additional dimension into consideration.

Case in point is Global Mapper’s ingenious fly-through recording capability. What better way to show your client the scope of your engineering project, or to share the archeological model created using the Pixels-to-Points tool, or to simply soar over mountains and valleys unencumbered with the constraints of gravity, feeling the wind in your face as you glide… OK settle down. Back on task.

As is typical with Global Mapper, the fly-through recording functionality is remarkably straightforward. Draw a line defining the flight path, enter the flight parameters, open the 3D View, click the Play button and you’re on your way (with seatbelts fastened and tray tables in their upright and locked position, of course). Alternatively, if you have a prerecorded track file, such as one that was created by a drone, you can use that as the flight line. All of the flight parameters such as speed, height, etc., will be automatically assigned.

Let’s take a look at an actual example.


1. Load a 3D data layer in Global Mapper

In this scenario, we’ll use a 3D mesh created in the Pixels-to-Points tool. Frequent viewers of Global Mapper video presentations or training class attendees will already be familiar with the data in question ̶ ­the famous Brazilian landfill.


Drawing a flight path in Global Mapper
Drawing the flight path using the Digitizer’s Line tool

2. Draw the flight path

Before putting pen to paper (or digitizer to screen, to be more precise), we will need to consider what form our flight will take. There are three alternatives: Straight Ahead, in which the view will look in the direction of the flight (a cockpit view, if you like); Fixed Direction, in which the view will always be on a specified bearing or azimuth; or Fixed Point, in which the view will always be focused on a target point in three-dimensional space. Because we will be using the latter, we will create a line that encircles the focus point.


3. Set the flight parameters

With the newly created line selected on the map, we click the Create 3D Fly-through button (hint: it looks like an airplane, you can’t miss it). If you haven’t seen it before, the dialog box includes a table listing the XY coordinates of each vertex in the line along with a number of additional columns that will be automatically filled in after we apply the necessary settings.

Setting flight parameters in Global Mapper
Setting the flight parameters including focal target, altitude, and speed

As previously noted, we’re going to use the Fixed Point option, which requires us to enter the focal target, a process made easy using the Select from Map button. Because we want the perspective to be looking down rather than horizontally, we establish a target Z value corresponding with ground elevation or a little below, let’s say 550 meters.

Elevation Mode in this case will be Absolute, meaning that our flight will maintain a specific altitude. The alternative, Relative to Ground, will result in the simulated flight rising and falling while maintaining a consistent height about the surface (the captain apologizes for the turbulence). For our landfill flight, we will be cruising at a consistent altitude of 650 meters.

Finally, we need to decide how fast we want to fly. This can be established by either setting the duration of the flight or by entering an actual meters-per-second value. Setting one of these variables will automatically change the other. Our circuit of the landfill will take 40 seconds.

Clicking the Generate Fly-through Data button will populate the aforementioned table with per-vertex flight details and double-clicking on any line in the table will offer the option of editing the settings for that segment. After clicking the OK button, we’re ready to take to the air.


Viewing the flight playback in 2D and 3D
Viewing the flight playback in the 2D and 3D Views

4. Play the fly-through

Now for the fun part. In the 3D View, a collection of buttons controls the preview, playback, and editing of the flight. Click Play and away we go. In the corresponding 2D view, we can monitor our progress and heading along the flight line. Should we need to make any changes, there’s an identical airplane button in the 3D View, which opens the same dialog box that we used to create our flight.


5. Export the video

Finally, we click the button that resembles a vintage movie camera to save a video file in either MPEG-4 or AVI format with options for defining the resolution and frame rate. The video can then be posted to our favorite movie sharing site or sent directly to a client.

Wasn’t that easy? Time to try it for yourself.

*If you actually did raise your hand in response to reading this question you might want to explain to your office colleagues what you were doing

**Not a real word