September 30, 2021

A Brief History of Global Mapper – Part IV

Written by: David McKittrick

 

After completing the third installment of this seminal work, which coincided with the release of Global Mapper version 19.1 in early 2018, I assumed it would be many years before there would be sufficient fodder to merit tackling chapter four. I was wrong. A few weeks ago, version 23 was released, and with it the fundamental structure of Global Mapper, as we have known it for over two decades, was significantly and irrevocably overhauled. 

Those who read the previous chapters may recall that in 2013, an optional add-on component, or Module, was introduced to Global Mapper to address the burgeoning availability and use of lidar data.  In the intervening eight years, the Lidar Module took on a life of its own, providing ever more powerful point cloud processing functionality, culminating with the Pixels to Points tool for photogrammetric point cloud creation from drone-collected images. Along the way, a number of additional advanced tools were added to the module, some of which did not directly relate to point cloud processing. For example, the powerful Terrain Painting tool was introduced to the Lidar Module with the release of version 22, however it is used in conjunction with a raster surface layer, not with a point cloud. 

During deliberations about the long-term development strategy for Global Mapper, it became clear to all concerned that a broader platform would be needed on which such advanced geospatial tools could be introduced while maintaining the accessibility and affordability of the base version. Out of those discussions, Global Mapper Pro was conceived, and it finally came to fruition with the version 23 release. 

While many might see Global Mapper Pro as a direct replacement for the Global Mapper/Lidar Module combination, it is actually much more than that. Unshackled by the constraints implicit in the name ‘Lidar Module’, the Blue Marble product management team has been able to expand the application’s horizons to incorporate a variety of powerful new tools. As evidence of this expansion, the debut of Global Mapper Pro includes automatic breakline delineation, vectorization of raster data, and support for Python scripting. Needless to say, this trend will continue with future releases.

While it is exciting to think about how Global Mapper might evolve as it enters its third decade of development, the intent of this article is to recount the highlights of its recent history, so here are a few of the significant functional developments from the last three years.

2018

  • Version 20.0 – Free-flight mode for 3D navigation, 3D model creation from lidar points, lidar thinning

2019

  • Version 20.1 – Path Profile zooming, lidar proximity searching (encroachment monitoring)
  • Version 21.0 – Improved label management, peaks and depressions identification, layer animation to visualize change, image orthorectification in the Pixels to Points tool

2020

  • Version 21.1 – Raster reclassification, cloud data import and export, lidar best fit, and change detection tools
  • Version 22.0 – Eye Dome Lighting for enhanced 3D visualization, Spatial Operations tool to analyze the spatial relationship between vector layers, terrain painting for manipulating elevation values

2021

  • Version 22.1 – New option to save 3D views, extraction of building walls and roof planes from lidar, improved graphing functionality.
  • Version 23.0 – Retirement of the Lidar Module and the introduction of Global Mapper Pro with numerous professional-grade geospatial tools, including advanced lidar processing, terrain painting, and python scripting.

When considering the most important milestones in the history of Global Mapper, the release of version 23 will probably be top of the list. While the base version will continue to offer a dazzling array of vector, raster, and terrain visualization and analysis tools, the introduction of Global Mapper Pro, offers an opportunity for the Blue Marble product and development teams to take the Global Mapper platform to the next level. 

For some, the termination of the Lidar Module may be cause for a moment of somber reflection – after all, it has been instrumental in establishing Global Mapper as the preeminent 3D GIS and lidar processing application – but it is more important to look forward.

As has been said many times, the continued development of this remarkable application is a collaborative effort. We at Blue Marble depend on the expertise, ingenuity, and creativity of those who use our products to help us ensure that it is meeting the needs of the GIS community at large. All of the new and improved features and functions introduced in each release can be directly attributed to the feedback and suggestions from countless users. It is our hope that collaboration continues as we plan for future releases of Global Mapper Pro.

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