GPX file editors

Roger Hubbold writes: this page describes a number of online software systems for creating and editing GPX files for use with GPS devices and smartphones. Some of these are free, while others require a paid account, or a free (but registered) account. All comments describe my personal opinions and should be treated accordingly. If you find anything factually wrong please let me know and I will make corrections. I have not attempted to explain how to use each system; the easiest way to learn is to experiment with them, using their help pages and other materials online.  I have only included systems that I have actually used.

As well as the programs described here, there are other commonly used systems. Garmin provide a route planning system (Basecamp) to go with their GPS devices, that runs on your PC or Mac. Route planning can also be done through a Garmin Connect online account. For those of a competitive bent Strava can also be used — it has a route builder too. I have no experience of these.


Ride with GPS

Ride with GPS

Most recently I have been using ridewithGPS.com. Basic facilities can be used free of charge, although two levels of paid-for account are also available ($50 to $80 per year). Ride with GPS is is professionally maintained and provides a wealth of route planning capabilities. You need to be aware, however, that to use it you will need to register for an account and it then stores your routes in that account. You need to set your account profile to maintain your privacy, unless you don’t care about these things. You can see a summary of your routes and you can download them as GPX files, upload your rides, and also sync them with a Garmin account. The more powerful facilities — such as splitting and joining, and rerouting parts of a ride — require a paid-for account. It has an excellent Help system, with many videos demonstrating how to do things.

There is also a Ride with GPS app for smartphones that allows you to record and follow rides on your phone, although battery life can be an issue with phones on longer days out. With a paid account you can store maps for offline use on your phone.


GPX Editor

GPX Editor

GPX editor ( gpxeditor.co.uk) was developed by a keen cyclist and can be used free of charge. In particular, you can create a new track fairly easily by clicking key points and then – unlike some of the other systems – you can reroute part of the planned track by dragging those points. This functionality is also available when you load a previously planned track back into GPX Editor. Like other programs, GPX Editor uses Google routing algorithms to perform road following.

More usefully, the program allows you to split tracks and reroute a segment that has been split off, and also to join different tracks together, though this is easier to accomplish with Ride with GPS. OS mapping for the UK is supported, as well as Open Street Map. Most of the commands are invoked via pop-up menus by right-clicking the mouse. The nested nature of these is sometimes a bit fiddly, but they have the advantage that the whole window is available for the map itself.

BikeHike


BikeHike

I’ve used bikehike.co.uk regularly, and for some time it was my route planning software of choice. It has the ability to compute height data, although in common with several other systems it tends to overestimate. In the UK it can also display OS 1:50K maps in the upper-right corner of the window, which is occasionally useful for looking at contours or points of interest. Like other systems, it uses Google route mapping so that only key points need to be entered. An undo command allows errors to be corrected, but no route splitting or joining is supported.


BikeRouteToaster

BikeRouteToaster

Bike Route Toaster is in many ways similar to BikeHike, although its interface looks somewhat different. It used to support computing height data, but I’ve found that this facility no longer works reliably. BikeRouteToaster allows you to set an offset from the road centre (e.g. left for the UK, right for Europe), which is handy where part of an out-and-back route shares a road.


Google Maps and GPS Visualizer

Another alternative for creating routes is Google maps. If you choose the Cycle option for routing then it does a fairly good job of choosing routes that we often use ourselves — not surprising perhaps, as cyclists will have contributed the information that is used to propose routes. I find it particularly valuable for planning new routes in areas that I don’t know well.

But, how do you get from a Google route to a GPX file that you can load onto your GPS unit or phone? Answer: use http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/convert_input. First, plan your route in Google, then copy the information in the browser’s address bar that corresponds to your route and paste it into the URL field in GPS Visualizer and click Convert. Once converted you’ll see a new page and you can then click the link to download the file to your computer. Voila!


ViewRanger for smartphones

An alternative to a GPS unit is to use a phone app, such as ViewRanger, which supports OS mapping in the UK, IGN in France etc. Apps that allow you to purchase and download maps to your phone have the benefit that they don’t need an internet connection while riding. Similar capabilities are provided by the Ride with GPS phone app. I find ViewRanger excellent for walking because it uses OS maps that show footpaths. It isn’t free, although it’s not expensive, and you have to pay for OS maps and similar maps for other countries. But you can also download Open Street Mapsfrom the ViewRanger website, free of charge, to store on your phone.