back to article At last: Ordnance Survey's map wizardry goes live

After a long beta programme, the Ordnance Survey has officially launched its “slippy”-style smartphone app and website - just in time for shivering in a parka on a Bank Holiday Monday, as you wonder who nicked your bike. It marries the Ordnance Survey’s traditional map into a modern, scrollable UI, and was built from the …

  1. KenBW2

    Finally, a map that distinguishes A roads from Motorways

    instead of all roads just being a shade of yellow/red

  2. pPPPP

    Re: Finally, a map that distinguishes A roads from Motorways

    Just taken a look at the smartphone app and it's pretty good - usual OS quality and I like the way it depicts individual buildings.

    As for motorways, I prefer the Michelin maps. OK the motorways are in the wrong colour, but they separate motorways from good dual carriageways from crappy dual carriageways. It's a shame that a lot of those dual carriageways are riddled with unnecessarily low speed limits and other measures to frustrate the driver and cause dangerous overtaking, but that's another story.

  3. Pink Duck

    Re: Finally, a map that distinguishes A roads from Motorways

    In addition to http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=14/52.0745/0.1964&layers=N

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Best of British

    Best of luck getting that kind of info out of Google.

    Indeed - the level of detail available on OS maps is outstandingly good.

    I remember reading in one of Bill Bryson's books where he is extolling the virtues of OS mapping, and the level of detail that they go to. Words to the effect of...you can go and sit on a rock in the middle of nowhere, open up an OS map, and see a depiction of the very rock that your posterior is perched upon.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: Best of British

    I am not sure if it was OS or the StreeMap's reuse of their data, but there used to be deliberate occasional mistakes here and there to prove that "data has been copied".

    So, what you are saying is correct. Unless the rock in question has been deemed to be the canary for data theft (if they still do it).

  6. BoldMan

    Re: Best of British

    I believe its the A-to-Z people who do that. The "mistakes" usually consist of deliberate additions that aren't there as opposed to moving or omitting things that aren't there.

  7. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Re: Best of British

    Others do it too. A few years ago Bartholomew's successfully sued the AA after the AA published maps which included features which only existed on Bartholomew's mapping.

  8. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Re: Best of British

    Omitting things that aren't there.

    Never a good idea that. Someone might complain if they fall over them.

  9. JLV Silver badge

    Re: Best of British

    Then again, adding things that aren't there can be problematic as well. I seem to recall* someone driving their car into a lake because their GPS insisted there was turn to be made, presumably on a nonexistent bridge or road.

    Good of the Ordnance Survey (lovely Mars map too).

    To my fellow map geeks: if you are cheap and/or not living in the US and also using Apple gear, might I cite PocketEarth as an extremely capable offline GPS app that runs off OpenStreetMap? Not affiliated in any way, just a very happy customer. An extra $5 or so unlocks topo map mode.

    * Yes, it was in an episode of The Office (US version) as well, but I suspect they wouldn't have dared to come up with such a ludicrous plot idea if someone hadn't been stupid enough to do it in real life.

  10. Martin-R

    Re: Best of British

    Find the 1:50k of the Isle of Wight (Bing Maps will do), look for Blackgang Chine and Whale Chine (southernmost tip of the island) and look carefully at those cliffs. I wonder if Bill and Mike post-date Slartibartfast or are perhaps the inspiration?

  11. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Re: Best of British

    The OS have commented before that their map canaries aren't as crude as factual inaccuracies but more "house style" in the way things are depicted.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Best of British

    As a part time outdoor masochist I can vouch that OS maps do contain errors, wether they are by accident or design is another matter.

  13. Tim J

    Re: Best of British

    OS maps are absolutely fantastic. That is all.

  14. Ed_UK

    Re: Best of British

    "...Bill Bryson'..extolling the virtues of OS mapping, and the level of detail that they go to. Words to the effect of...you can go and sit on a rock in the middle of nowhere, open up an OS map, and see a depiction of the very rock that your posterior is perched upon."

    Well remembered! I like BB's turn of phrase. I think it was something like "...the spot where my buttocks were deployed."

  15. John Hughes

    Link?

    So you somehow managed to review it without providing a link.

  16. Ian K

    Re: Link?

    Although in a similar fashion you managed to say there was no link without going on to provide a link.

    FWIW the new system can be found here:

    https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/osmaps/

  17. RobinGatward

    Re: Link?

    https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/test/index-os-maps-7-day-trial-1.html

    Its on their website home page

  18. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Link?

    Excellent. it even shows you on screen what the current scale is. Unlike Google maps which removed that feature as "too much information". Reminds me of the paper road atlases I used to buy which are "Voted Britains Clearest Maps". Yeah, all the small places and minor roads are missing FFS!

    Thank $deity for OS. Now that they are finally and properly online, the others may up their game a bit.

  19. Roger Kynaston
    Pint

    Map geek

    I'll have to sign up for the paid one though I am going to continue my quest to get all 204 sheets in the Landranger.

    Any chance the Admiralty could be persuaded to do something similar given how awful ARCS is?

    Beer because a pub should be the end destination of all walks.

  20. tiggity Silver badge

    Re: Map geek

    Not just end destination, ideally start and various waypoints en route

  21. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Re: Map geek

    I'm well on the way to that - although some of 'em are quite old and out of date now.

    My sadness was fully saddened when I realised that OS no longer publish a 1/4 inch series for the uk. Cheap road atlases from petrol stations and the likes of Aldi are excellent value but nowhere the same level of quality or detail.

  22. Mage Silver badge

    Irish Version

    It will be delivered 15 years late and cost €500 a month.

    Irish ordinance survey data for Radio Planing can cost €10,000 per town.

  23. Wyrdness

    I've just downloaded the iOS version. It looks excellent. I'll definitely be using this.

  24. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

    I remember the days

    When I installed a very early computerised digitising system at the Ordnance Survey in Southampton. My first job was at Laser-Scan (founded by Otto Frisch). It must have been about 1980 or 1981. There was a "Fastrak" laser scanner attached to a VAX 11-780.

    Here's a scan of a photo of the later design of the operator's console. A map was photographed onto a A6 negative, which was then scanned, a square mm at a time, by a red laser, and straight lines were followed automatically. The operator could select which line to follow at junctions using a tracker ball and 16 buttons (which could also be pressed as chords!). When a line had been digitised, a blue laser wrote on a piece of photochromic film sandwiched against the negative, removing it from the display.

    I can remember scanning 1:1250 maps (NZ2741NW, Prebend's Bend, Durham, which was our standard demo), contour lines, and a project for the Forestry Commission where we digitised the boundaries of all the woodland in the UK (the green overlay from 1:50000 sheets, all 204 of them).

    There's more history at my ex-colleague Paul's page

  25. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Useful but ...

    paper maps don't need batteries. Also, does this need data connectivity, because when seriously getting away from things even 2G is intermittent?

  26. Lee D Silver badge

    Re: Useful but ...

    "offline".

    It's right there on the page.

  27. Michael B.

    Re: Useful but ...

    They seem to do a degree of caching. I just viewed my town, killed the app and then put the phone into airplane mode. The app moaned about not having a data connection but the maps I'd just viewed were available.

  28. Jimbo 6
    Pint

    I'm happy...

    ...because I looked at the first screenshot and immediately thought "is that Ladybower ?". I hereby award myself 100 Nerd Points and a pint of Scruttock's Old Dirigible.

  29. Vincent Ballard
    Thumb Up

    Re: I'm happy...

    I can see the point where I had lunch last Sunday.

  30. J J Carter Silver badge
    Windows

    C'mon son!

    No Windows 10 mobile app? Epic fail!

  31. ZSn

    Re: C'mon son!

    The map app that comes free with windows 10 is not as good as good as this, but the HERE maps that underlay is are good enough for navigation. Additionally you can download all of the UK in one go and navigate offline to your hearts content.

  32. Peter Prof Fox

    Out of date and missing basics

    [Using Firefox] My home town, Witham, Essex, has no PROW marked and is years out of date. No OS land-use symbols.

  33. Tony W

    What will it do to the other companies selling digital OS maps?

    The OS own version will always be up to date. But if you buy digital OS maps from, say, Anquet, you get only the current version - even if it's about to be superseded. (Sometimes companies might allow you to update within a few weeks of purchase but they won't promise to do it.)

    The resellers have maps that you download so they can be 100% offline, but at current prices that's not enough to save them. Unless they can agree with the OS to move to a competitive subscription model, they're surely doomed. And why would the OS compete with itself by doing that?

    By the way, people writing about motorways and dual carriageways miss the point. There are plenty of road maps, but the OS maps come into their own when you get out of the car.

  34. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Happy

    OS maps come into their own when you get out of the car.

    Only if you haven't been using then to navigate while IN the car ... There's usually a couple lurking in the back relevant to where I'm going. Superb if you meet roadworks or diversions, even if you know the area quite well.

  35. Richard Cranium

    Re: What will it do to the other companies selling digital OS maps?

    Been using the OS subscription service for a while (didn't realise it was Beta) but have a number if issues with it as compared to my preferred desktop OS mapping: Mapyx Quo. For example OS app is picky about GPX file formats. It even failed to read back in a GPX file I exported from the app.

    BTW if you've looked at the digital maps in the past and balked at the cost, look again, I got all of UK 1:25k and 1:50k for £125 (from Mapyx on special offer). Quo isn't perfect but I've tried several alternatives and it's the most versatile, primary gripes are that some commands/settings are hard to find and there are still a few irritants if using it on Win10.

    As my primary use is for off-road map updates are not a big issue. In practise I mostly use Quo for planning then print off the map(s) I need for the hike. An A4 sheet of today's route is a lot easier to handle than an OS sheet and I'm never going to rely solely on electronic navigation devices. (I often enlarge the print image too so I can read the map without my glasses).

    Mobile phone battery life is a big issue (worse in the cold) so I use a dedicated GPS (basic, no in-built OS mapping) which has better antenna so captures more satellites faster than mobile. That runs for 18 hours on 2xAA batteries. I don't regard a mobile mapping app as being as good and reliable as hard-copy plus GPS location.

    The focus of this article is on the mobile OS mapping app but the license also gives you desktop (web-browser) access and a big screen is an advantage to see overall image of an area/route.

    Bottom line is I make little use of the OS app - but it's under 20 quid a year and it's sometimes a useful additional reference.

  36. Palpy
    Go

    For those of us across the pond --

    -- the USGS has an online map tool which, although not as comprehensive as the OS maps, does allow viewing of a reference map, USGS topographic maps, and aerial photos. Better than Google maps or Bing, but just for USA.

    Linky: http://ngmdb.usgs.gov/maps/TopoView/viewer/

    Look forward to browsing the OS site. Terrible map junky, me.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Normal shite will be resumed as soon as devops allow.

    The map here is wrong and the feedback to report it gives "Save failed" !!!

    Hope nobody drives down the road as they will crash through the wall that's been standing for 150 years and smash into the road on the other side which is 4 to 5 feet lower.

  38. Sid Smith

    You get unlimited offline OS maps for a one-off payment (was about £8) from Back Country Navigator, Android only.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.crittermap.backcountrynavigator.license&hl=en_GB

    Have used BCN for years: overcomplicated and occasionally buggy, but it's fast and cheap compared to the OS equivalent -- which has higher res but is thus slower and you can only download pre-formed 'tiles' that might not accord with your plans for the day.

    Will check this upgraded OS app, of course. I wonder if existing subscribers get any kind of deal.

  39. Sid Smith

    I should add that there is no bliss as sublime as GPS on an OS map. At last you have the infinite detail of the OS but without spending half your walk orienteering instead of enjoying the countryside and your companions.

    With BCN, I use the option to leave GPS switched on even when the phone (or tablet) is turned off: it uses less battery than you might imagine and means there's no waiting when you consult the map.

    (MAPS.ME is the equivalent for town use. Worldwide, offline and only a one-off payment.)

  40. DanTUK

    Nice, but custom printed maps seem to be more up to date

    My parents' postcode (property built in 2013) is accurate down to the blobs representing the houses on their street on custom printed maps (I bought them a copy last summer).

    However this new online one is only accurate to 200 yds/mts, the detail at which only goes as far as the road of their street - the houses are missing. When zooming in any further most of the street's road disappears (also built in 2013), with the only blocks present being those representing the show houses built in 2012, and the street only going as far as these houses.

  41. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Nice, but custom printed maps seem to be more up to date

    "However this new online one is only accurate to 200 yds/mts, the detail at which only goes as far as the road of their street - the houses are missing. When zooming in any further most of the street's road disappears (also built in 2013), with the only blocks present being those representing the show houses built in 2012, and the street only going as far as these houses."

    And yet the housing estate a mile or so from me which is still being built is fully depicted on the new OS map and shows the individual houses when fully zoomed in at ~30 metres to a centimetre on screen, or about 100yds/Inch. The aerial view shows the lovely green field that used to be there. The one that was always boggy due it being prone to flooding after rain and having poor drainage.

  42. David Roberts Silver badge

    Unique Code?

    In the blurb on the Play Store I read

    "Once you’ve purchased a printed map and redeemed the unique code, you can download your map tile and save it for future reference in ‘My Maps’ on your device."

    This sounds good for the future - buy a paper map and get a free digital copy - but makes those of us who have previously bought maps feel a little hard done by.

    However, apart from going into a shop and having your map stamped with a unique code I can't immediately see how you could compensate those with a stash of OS maps.

  43. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Unique Code?

    "However, apart from going into a shop and having your map stamped with a unique code I can't immediately see how you could compensate those with a stash of OS maps."

    Standard "new deal" type thing.

    Hey, have WE got a DEAL for YOU!!!! FREE MONTH plus HALF price subscriptions for the next 11 months.

    Minimum 36 month subscription, full price applies for remaining 24 months, if you are a current or ex-customer then fsck off, this or for new mugs only. Early termination fees of double the remaining contract price applies.

  44. David Roberts Silver badge

    Footpaths?

    Downloaded the app to my tablet and had a quick scan of a local route we walk on a regular basis. Using the guest account.

    There seem to be a lot of footpaths missing.

    Some may be permissive by the generosity of the land owner, but some at least have "Public Footpath" signs.

    The footpaths also disappear when you zoom out to a realistic view for route planning.

  45. Jelder

    Re: Footpaths?

    If you are on the free/non subscriber 'standard map' it only shows roads and streets. For footpaths you need to take up the 7-day free trial to access the 50k and 25k maps.

    Then you should be able to see them all in the same detail as the paper maps.

  46. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    But Transverse Mercator is ideal for "slippy" web-style because the OSGB TM projection is pure squares. I've coded web mapping, albeit scrolly not slippy, and the OSGB projection makes it a programming doddle.

  47. Robert Grant

    Er.

    Hasn't Bing Maps had this for years? E.g. http://binged.it/1Z0S5za.

  48. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Er.

    Not really, no. Bing, like streetmap.co.uk, are using digital scans of the printed OS maps. The OS is using the OS data directly. It's most obvious when you zoom right in for the detail. The OS maps are still sharp. Bing and Streetmap look blurry and over magnified like a too zoomed jpg image.

    If you zoom right into your link where the A420 High Street does a sharp 90o into St Aldates with County Hall on the left and switch between two tabs, one on OS, one on Bing you'll see a huge difference. The street names for one.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Woof!

    I just love OS. Quintessentially British, and the online job they just did (I'm using the website) shows what real cartography is. Makes Google maps look like crayon.

    Excuse me now while I spend the evening rambling over the sceptr'd isle.

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