July 11, 2023

A Brief History of Global Mapper – Part II

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 first 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.

Global Mapper’s Functionality Becomes a Team Effort 

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 be 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. 

The Wave of New Features Begins  

The bulleted list of new functionality, updated tools, performance improvements, and various bug fixes for version 14 alone was ten 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, I recommend that you 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 – 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, and 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 at the time, 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.

Both old and new Global Mapper logos.
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, the 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 the fly-though simulation.
  • Version 18.2 – Addition of the dockable Overview Map, support for reading and writing data from Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • Version 19.0Pixels-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.

The Lidar Module Grows into Global Mapper Pro

Those who have used Global Mapper for a few years 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 lidar or point cloud processing.

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 standard version. Out of those discussions, Global Mapper Pro was conceived, and it finally came to fruition with the release of version 23. 

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 included automatic breakline delineation, vectorization of raster data, and support for Python scripting, and this trend has continued with each successive release.

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 several years:


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


  • 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, and image orthorectification in the Pixels to Points tool.


  • 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.


  • Version 22.1 – New option to save 3D views, extraction of building walls and roof planes from lidar, improved graphing functionality.

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 standard version of the software would continue to offer a dazzling array of vector, raster, and terrain visualization and analysis tools, the introduction of Global Mapper Pro offered an opportunity for the Blue Marble product and development teams to take the Global Mapper platform to the next level. 

  • Version 23.0 – Retirement of the Lidar Module and the introduction of Global Mapper Pro with numerous professional-grade geospatial tools, including point cloud segmentation, vector extraction from raster layers, and Python scripting.


  • Version 23.1 – 3D buffering, wireless data transfer to/from Global Mapper Mobile, contour generation from point cloud layers.
  • Version 24.0 – Raster histogram matching, script recording functionality, Kriging tool for geostatistical analysis.


  • Version 24.1 – New Pixels to Points wizard, Relative Elevation Model (REM) creation to accentuate local variation in terrain, raster convolution filter for image sharpening, edge detection, etc.
  • Version 25.0 – Watch this space!

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 and Global Mapper Pro.


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