There are plenty of online mapping sites out there, but if you want Ordnance Survey mapping on the web, where better to go than the Ordnance Survey? That's the theory anyway, we've been playing with the OS online mapping app, OS getamap to see just how it works.
Free Or Paid For?
There are two options when using the site, a standard free user one, which anyone can use simply by registering - you can opt out of newsletters etc if you choose - and a subscription one which gives you access to additional features for £30 per year.
The Ordnance Survey kindly bunged us a free sub, so we could test out the paid-for option, but the site still works just the same in free mode, though with some limits. More about that in a bit.
First, you get access to the whole UK in both 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scale, zooming the map in brings up the larger Explorer scale mapping. To locate yourself, just use the search box. Or alternatively, upload a GPX file. In free mode you're restricted to a relatively small mapping window - see screenshot - but paying the subscription allows you to expand to a full-screen map.
Plotting A Route
That's really handy if you're trying to either draw or view a route and makes it easier both to get a clearer overview and reduces the amount of panning and dragging. Planning your own route is pleasingly straightforward, a simple click to click, join the dots effort. Unlike some route software we've used, there's no weirdness and if you misclick, you can simply drag the waypoint over to where you want it to to be.
Once you've finished your route, you have acess to a whole bunch of route tools all of which work well - there's an elevation profile, route card, basic stats page and so on. You can choose to keep the route private or to share it with other getamap users and if you're a subscriber, we like this, you can choose the colour, thickness and opacity of the route trace to suit your own preferences, which is nice.
Once you've got your route, you'll probably want to do something with it. Like download it. You can download to your computer as a GPX file with either paid or free usage or direct to most GPS devices. Or you can e-mail a link to someone else so they can view the map or route on getamap.
Of course, you may be a bit 'old school' and still favour paper maps. In that case, having a paid subscription allows you print the route map onto a full sheet of paper - or you could save it as a pdf of course. With free use, you can only print half a page at a time.
Overall, for route planning, it's as good or better than anything else we've used. Nicely streamlined with all the information you're likely to need, easy to use and quite versatile and of course, the mapping is top notch.
You can also, as a paid or free user, search for other routes in a particular area and access other user's walks, bike rides or whatever that have been tagged as 'public' - you can choose which classifications of route to look for, cycling for example. Or walking. Or if you're sad, driving.
In addition, paid users get free access to a variety of authored routes. For example, a quick scan of our local area brought up three Country Walking routes and three Trail ones. You can still access those routes as a free user, but you'll have to pay for them individually.
There are other features too. You can find pubs, use a driving route planner or get a very basic weather forecast for the map area you're on.
Simple and Effective
Of course there are plenty of other mapping options out there on the web, some good, some not quite so good, but a quick play with OS getamap suggests that it's one of the better, slicker ones out there. And of course the good thing is that you can try the free option for, well, free.
As far as the £30 per year subscription option goes, the one really big plus is having a full screen map, it's simply easier to use both for viewing and planning routes. Additionally, if you're a map rather than a GPS person, being able to print a full-page OS map is a real boon.
Anyway, we're impressed so far by the simplicity and ease of use of the site and we'll carry on using it and report back with some longer term observations in due course.
The site URL is www.getamap.ordnancesurveyleisure.co.uk. In addition, www.magazine.ordnancesurveyleisure.co.uk/magazine/tscontent/editorials/getamap/index.html has a lot of basic info on the site that's worth a look before you start playing with it. Mostly though, it's not exactly complicated and if you're on the free option, the site will tell you if you could do something more with a subscription.