Focus Multimedia – Ordnance Survey Interactive Atlas of Great Britain review

fascinating interactive maps of the UK
Photo of Focus Multimedia – Ordnance Survey Interactive Atlas of Great Britain

Ordnance Survey maps are the staple of ramblers, walkers, climbers, cyclists and other outdoorsy types all over the UK. They’re highly detailed maps showing contours, roads, railways, rivers, lakes, sites of interest and all sorts of other useful information. So having them all on a CD sounds like an excellent idea.

And in principle, that’s what you get with this fifth edition of the Ordnance Survey Interactive Atlas of Great Britain. Load the CD, type in the name of a town, city or village (or the grid reference if you’re feeling particularly smug) and you’ll be shown the OS map of the area. There are tools that let you zoom in and out, plus you can decide which features, or layers, are displayed. This makes it easy to pick out particular objects or features that are of interest to you. You can add new pins to the maps to show your own points of interest and label these with text or Web links.

There’s a catch, though. The main maps are at a scale of 1:250,000. This means that you don’t get a lot of detail; just a general layout of land, roads, railways and items of general interest. There’s less actual street information than you’d find in a product such as Autoroute and this definitely isn’t a piece of software that you can use for route planning.

However, that’s not the whole picture. Slip in the second CD and you’ll find you have access to a hundred maps at a scale of 1:50,000. These cover various general areas of interest. And there’s a further hundred maps at 1:25,000 which cover national parks, picnic areas and other areas of natural beauty. There’s plenty of detail here and you can print the maps and take them with you on your treks. Alternatively, there are links to an online purchasing area, where you can buy the full OS map for a specific area.

Then there are maps of 83 town centres and 10 airports, plus over 500 photographs of places of interest with accompanying text. One interesting feature is the selection of video fly-throughs. These take you through specific areas – such as Snowdon or Ben Nevis – by wrapping the map over the contour of the land. It’s all quite clever and interesting, and gives you a good idea of the layout of the land. Add in a quiz, a map skills tutorial and a price tag of twenty quid and it’s hard to quibble.

Company: Focus Multimedia

Contact: 01889 570 156

Ultimately we'd like to see the entire OS range of maps, in all its detailed glory, supplied on DVD. But for various licensing, revenue-generating and practical reasons, that's not going to happen. So getting the general map coverage along with some specific, detailed maps of the areas you're most likely to be interested in, plus some clever fly-throughs and nice photograhs, is a fair compromise, especially when you consider that the price tag includes a site licence.