September 30, 2021

A Brief History of Global Mapper – Part III

Written by: David McKittrick


The next chapter in the saga of this venerable software’s two-decade long adventure, picks up where we left off in the second installment. The year was 2011 and if you recall, our hero — the dashing and indefatigable Global Mapper — had seemingly been kidnapped by the ruthless and malevolent Blue Marble Geographics. At least that was the impression of many of the software’s most loyal disciples at the time.

“Global Mapper has been swallowed by some faceless, uncaring corporate behemoth. Gone are the days of the freewheeling, interactive development philosophy of the early years.” Or so they feared. In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth.

While many of our detractors at the time assumed that Blue Mable looked loftily down on its customers from its executive offices atop some gleaming glass and steel skyscraper, the reality was that the company’s entire staff could have fit comfortably into one of the aforementioned building’s elevators. Spurred by the addition of Global Mapper to the company’s software offerings, Blue Marble would eventually see an expansion of its workforce but at the time it numbered no more than 20.

For you as a Global Mapper user, the most significant consequence of this transitional period and the years that followed was a rapid acceleration in the software’s development. Reaping the benefits of a supporting cast, Mike Childs was able to singularly apply his talents to the development of Global Mapper. Routine and mundane tasks, such as selling the fruits of his labor to customers, were left to a group of dedicated specialists. If the truth is told, one of the most difficult aspects of this transition was convincing Mike that he no longer needed to respond to each and every inquiry. 

Needless to say, relinquishing control over something that you have caringly nurtured for many years is not always easy, but Global Mapper was becoming a team effort with each developer significantly contributing to the software’s functionality. If it were possible to quantify and graph Global Mapper’s evolution, 2011 was the year that the slope of the line began to steepen and the release of version 14 the following year proved this and served to silence the cynics.

The bulleted list of new functionality, updated tools, performance improvements, and various bug fixes for version 14 alone was 10 pages long, a trend that has continued with successive releases. Condensing this into a manageable size for this Brief History does a disservice to the software. If you have a couple of hours to spare and you want the unabridged version, read the What’s New section in the software’s Help files. I guarantee you will be introduced to features and functions that you did not even know were included.


  • Version 14.0 – Support for reading and writing to/from spatial databases such as ArcSDE, the addition of the Terrain Analysis menu and Favorites toolbar for easy access to frequently used tools


  • Version 14.1 – Introduction of Dongle licensing, Voronoi/Theissen modeling for analyzing point data, flooding or water level rise simulation
  • Version 14.2 – Simple pile volume calculation, the calculation of summary statistics for a numeric attribute field
  • Version 15.0 – Introduction of the LiDAR Module providing advanced point cloud processing tools, Raster Calculation such as NDVI, support for extensions allowing third party developers to customize the software


  • Version 15.1 – Support for displaying multiple surfaces in the Path Profile tool
  • Version 15.2 – Quiver Plot rendering
  • Version 16 – Automatic point classification and feature extraction in the LiDAR Module, 3D fly-through recording, graph and chart creation


  • Version 16.1 – A new map rotation option, vector selection and measuring in the 3D view
  • Version 16.2 – Support for near-infrared values in point cloud datasets
  • Version 17 – New cartographic design and map publishing tool, multiview map display interface, 3D point symbols


  • Version 17.1 – Perpendicular profiling, custom feature extraction from LiDAR data
  • Version 17.2 – Map book (atlas) creation, terrain cutaway in the 3D view

In late 2016, Global Mapper would undergo what was arguably the most significant update in its release history, at least from a superficial perspective. Out went the old “disco” logo, and its idiosyncratic interface design and in came a fresh new look with updated graphics, a more intuitive layout, and a bold new logo. What didn’t change was the powerful capability of the software and the continued improvements that were being made to its functionality.


  • Version 18 – Interface redesign, customizable toolbars, “Infinite Terrain” and multiple surface display in the 3D view, introduction of Global Mapper Mobile for iOS and, later, Android devices.


  • Version 18.1 – New tool for calculating color statistics within an area, bank angle option added to fly-though simulation
  • Version 18.2 – Addition of the dockable Overview Map, support for reading and writing data from Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Version 19.0 – Pixels-to-Points tool for creating a 3D point cloud from UAV images, new tabular Attribute Editor, dynamic terrain hillshading adjustment


  • Version 19.1 – Multivariate querying, 3D Mesh creation in the Pixels-to-Points tool
  • To be continued…

While it’s fun and sometimes enlightening to look over your shoulder and marvel at how far you have come, Blue Marble’s philosophy is very much focused on looking forward. Plans are already in the pipeline for Global Mapper version 20 and beyond. Thanks to the continued support of our growing customer base and their eagerness to participate in the collaborative development process that is unique to this remarkable application, we have a long list of new functionality that will be added over the coming years. Global Mapper is a project that will never be complete.

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