March 23, 2021

Adding On-Screen Elements to Improve the Map Display in Global Mapper

Written by: Haley Brown, Technical Content Writer


On-screen map elements are a great way to visually enhance the map display in Global Mapper. Many in the cartographic community think that a map is not complete without a legend, a north arrow, and a distance scale. Some have even suggested that a grid is an essential component of any map display. While these opinions are open for debate, for those cartographic purists, Global Mapper provides all of the options needed to appropriately enhance the map layout. In this article, we explore the on-screen layout elements that can be added to provide context to the map layers on display.

The following tools are located under Display Options in the Configuration menu: Grid, Distance Scale, Elevation Legend, Map Legend, North Arrow, and Overview Map.

Enabling Grid Display shows lines on the map representing either latitude and longitude or the currently selected global projection’s easting and northing values. Users have the ability to edit the spacing, placement, and label options of the lines, as well as export gridlines to any of the supported vector formats.

On-screen grids enabled on a world map

Latitude and longitude grids enabled on a world map

The Distance Scale option places a scale bar on the map display. This scale bar contains editable font, background color, position, and transparency choices. As the map is zoomed in or out of, the scale bar adjusts automatically to show the displayed screen’s actual scale. The units for this are controlled by the Distance Measure Units option in the Measure/Units section of Configuration.

On-screen Scale Bar

Scale bar displayed in meters

The Elevation Legend is applicable to any gridded data that has been loaded as a terrain, such as an elevation or density map. The legend shows the color range and associated values used to display the loaded data. Units are presented in either meters or feet, and the unit text can be customized if necessary. The legend will update automatically based on the shader chosen via the Shader Drop-Down. Certain shaders will use different units by default, such as the Slope Shader, which shows percent grade rather than elevation values.

On-screen Elevation legend

Elevation legend displayed in meters

A Map Legend can be displayed for loaded vector data, raster data with color palettes, or both. An on-screen map legend is helpful when multiple vector types are loaded into the workspace, such as classified lidar points. The content within the legend can be organized, a header and footer can be added, and the style and position can be edited.

On-screen Lidar Legend

Legend showing the classification of lidar points

A North Arrow can be added to any map. Global Mapper has several options for north arrows. Users can create a custom north arrow as well, using Custom Symbols. The position, scale, and transparency of the north arrow can also be edited.

On-screen North arrow on a map

North arrow on a map

An Overview Map is an on-screen item with a dedicated and dockable window. It shows where the map is zoomed to relative to the entire data extent. The displayed location in the 2D View can be adjusted by clicking or dragging a box within the Overview Map. This option is useful to track the map view’s position on larger areas of data and to switch between multiple areas swiftly.On-screen Overview Map

Overview map showing the world while zoomed into Australia on the main map

The ability to change the background color of layers in the control center was added in the recent v22.1 release of Global Mapper. By right-clicking the desired layer in the Control Center and navigating to Layer > Set Background Color for Layer, a different background color can be set. This is useful for users who use work with many layers and want to organize their data or share workspaces and want to create simple directions based on color.

Layers in the control center with background color changed

Layers in the control center with background color changed

Line feature segment bearing information can also be easily added to a map to display a feature’s length and bearings. This tool is practical to provide the measurement and orientation of lines in a feature efficiently and is located in the Configure menu under Vector Display and Rendering.

Segment length and bearings displayed on stream lines

Segment length and bearings displayed on stream lines

If you’d like to display on-screen map elements on your maps or to learn more about Global Mapper, download a 14-day free trial and request a demo today! For more information, contact us.

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