Using US Topo and Historic Topo Maps on your Mobile Device

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Lesson 6a: Using USGS US Topo and Historic Topographic Maps on your Mobile Device - This video demonstrates how to download and use US Topo and Historic Topographic maps on a mobile device.

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Date Taken:

Length: 00:09:40

Location Taken: Augusta, ME, US


In this lesson, we will demonstrate how to
download and use USGS US Topo and Historic

Topographic maps on a mobile device.

For this demonstration, we will show the National
Map viewer mobile client, which is easily

accessed from both Android and iOS devices,
as well as the process of loading maps into

the Avenza PDF Maps application, available
on both Android and iOS platforms.

The USGS offers both the most current topographic
maps, called US Topo, and the Historic Topographic

Map Collection for free web download.

Let’s start our demonstration at the National
Map viewer mobile client, the starting point

for discovering and downloading USGS topographic
products on your mobile device.

The link for the mobile client is shown (

In the mobile client, select maps.

This will bring you to the map interface,
where you can either zoom to the area you’d

like to retrieve a map or enter an address
into the search bar.

You can also have the map extent go to your
current location using this icon.

The map provides the capability to change
the base layer using the drop down at the

bottom of the map.

Once you’ve selected the extent for your
area of interest, select continue to map sets.

Here, select either Historic Topographic Maps
or US Topo.

I’ll select US Topo for this demonstration.

Next, select continue to products.

This products page will show all of the maps
available for download in the extent you’ve

selected, on multiple pages, if needed.

Navigate through the pages using the previous
and next buttons.

Because the US Topo Map program reproduces
US topos over the US every three years, you’ll

see not only the various maps listed by area,
but also each of the previous years that US

Topo maps have been created.

You can go back in the process using the back
to map sets button if you’d like to narrow

or expand your search.

From there, you can also go back to the map

You can also redefine your search using the
show filters button.

Once you’ve found the map or maps you’re
interested in downloading, select add and

continue to cart.

In the cart, click on the title of the map,
which will begin the download onto your device.

Once the download is complete, you can select
remove to empty your cart.

On your android device, use your file management
app to browse to the downloaded file.

You’ll see the downloaded zip file, which
will start with GDA in the title.

If you unzip this file, it can be viewed with
any pdf reading application.

Simply viewing the pdf file does not allow
you to take advantage of the file’s GeoPDF

attributes, however.

On your iOS device, you will also use a file
management app to browse to the downloaded

file starting with GDA and unzip the file.

Usually, this file will automatically open
in a pdf reader on an iOS device.

Again, simply viewing the pdf does not allow
you to utilize the GeoPDF attributes.

For both Android and iOS devices, Avenza’s
PDF Maps app is available to read GeoPDF files

like the USGS US Topo and Historic Topo Maps.

Each map is delivered in PDF format with geospatial

When viewed on a GPS enabled device, like
a smartphone or tablet, the geospatial extensions

allow users to see their location on the product,
as well as add waypoints, tracks or trails,

or other features allowed by the application.

While the GeoPDF is layered, with the ability
to turn on or off various layers (like the

orthoimagery, for instance) using a common
PDF reader in a desktop environment, the GeoPDF

will open on a mobile device with the default
layers turned on.

There are not currently any GeoPDF readers
in iOS or Android that allow user customization

of the GeoPDF file via the PDF’s various

The PDF Maps app from Avenza allows you to
not only view the US Topo on your android

device, but also use the GPS associated with
your mobile device.

To load a US Topo into PDF Maps on an Android
device, which has already been installed from

the Google Play store, go to your file managing
software and either copy or move the US Topo

file from your download folder to the PDF
Maps folder.

Now open the PDF Maps application, and select
the plus icon to add the new map to the application.

Select from device storage and select the
map, at which point PDF Maps will load the

US Topo map.

Once loaded, you will now be able to view
the map.

Select it from your available maps, and navigate!

To load the US Topo into PDF Maps on an iOS
device, you can simply use your file management

app to navigate to the pdf you’ve downloaded,
click and hold on the icon, select open with,

and select open in PDF Maps on the dialog
that appears.

You could also load a map through the application
using the plus icon here.

You can use your finger to navigate around
the map, and pinch and zoom to zoom in or


You can also rotate the map to a different

The target icon on the upper left will turn
on your GPS receiver, identifying your location

on the map with a blue dot.

You can also drop waypoints, and use PDF Map’s
other features with the US Topo.

While the US Topo contains current aerial
imagery for viewing, please note that hiking

trails are not yet available for many states
in this product and in many cases you may

also need to get the historic map if you are
looking for trail information.

The process for accessing Historic Topographic
Maps is similar.

Again, open the USGS Mobile Client in your
mobile browser, select your area of interest

on the map, and continue to the map sets.

Select historic topographic maps and your
list of available maps will be displayed.

The historic topographic maps can date back
to the late 1800s and can be in a variety

of scales.

Select add to any of the historic topographic
maps you’re interested in downloading, and

select continue to cart.

Once in the cart, click each of the file titles
that you wish to download.

You can then view the pdfs or load the maps
into a program like Avenza’s PDF Maps.

In addition to downloading individual maps
for use in PDF Maps, the application also

offers the ability to view US Topos directly
from the application’s store.

It is important to note that the maps available
from the PDF Map store may not be the most

current map available for a particular area.

To ensure you are getting the most recent
map, you should access the mobile client and

download each individually.

We will demonstrate the process in the Android
version of the app, though the process in

the iOS version is nearly identical.

To access US Topos directly from the app,
go to the store by clicking the shopping cart


Then, select topographic on the list that

Zoom to an area of interest, where you will
notice markers displayed on the map that represent

different maps.

Click on a marker to see the pop-up, which
you can click again to see the map’s information,

and then you will have the option to install
the map on your device.

Any installed maps will show on your map list.

A final disclaimer: Any use of trade, firm
or product names does not imply endorsement

by the U.S.


No warranty, expressed or implied, is made
by the USGS or the U.S.

Government as to the accuracy and functioning
of the commercial software programs cited

in this training, and the U.S.

Government shall not be held liable for improper
or incorrect use of the USGS National Map

Topographic Data employing these software

In this lesson, we demonstrated how to download
US Topo and Historical Topographic Maps on

a mobile device and how to utilize the GeoPDF
content in the Avenza PDF Maps app.

This concludes Lesson 6a, to continue to the
next lesson, please return to the course homepage.