2013 is still the year of the PDF – U.S. Forest Service brags about PDF on mobile

Consider this title: “U.S. Forest Service offers new digital maps for mobile devices

You’d think, “Awesome!” and then quickly read on:

“This mobile app makes it easier than ever to plan your visit to a national forest or grassland,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “By putting important forest information right at your fingertips, it will encourage more Americans to get outside and explore their forests.”

The digital maps are part of USDA’s work toward reaching President Obama’s initiative to create a paperless government that also provides the American public with better, more accessible information. Online customer surveys also indicated a desire for more online products and information, such as maps. The Forest Service is currently working on the first phase of a website redesign, expected to debut early in 2014, which centers on a map-based tool for planning trips onto our nation’s forests, grasslands and other special places.

Paperless, that’s the first sign things are not good.  Paperless usually means one thing….

Doesn’t look awkward at all does it?

The PDF Maps Mobile App, developed by Avenza Systems Inc., is available as a free download from iTunes and the Android Play Store. The app provides access to Forest Service maps, such as motor-vehicle-use maps, which are free while pages from national forest atlases are 99 cents and forest visitor maps are $4.99. Prices are pending for other agency maps.

The maps are geo-referenced with the user’s location appearing as a blue dot. The app works on iPhones (3GS or newer) and iPads with WiFi+3G. It also works with Android 4 or newer operating systems on devices with at least 1 gigabyte of memory.

Oh my, not only are we talking about PDF here but we’re talking about charging for free data.  But maybe it’s a stopgap measure:

In geographic areas with Internet availability users will be able to use the products with live data. The interactive map is expected to be available on a limited basis starting in March 2014.

Read that sentence a couple of times and try and figure out their plans.  National forests with “internet availability” (how’s that for a small subset?) will be able to use “the products” (we talking about PDF Maps Mobile?) with “live data” (which means what?).  I guess we’ll just have to wait until next year to see if 2014 will continue PDF maps on mobile.  But don’t fear:

Paper maps are still available for purchase online at the National Forest Store.


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