We are, after all, dealing with digital versions of wall maps: other things being equal (like pixel density), a larger screen will always be better.
The Nations feature, providing data on every country and territory on the planet, is now a pull-down menu; choosing a country highlights it on the map. The Map Room is a blog about maps by Jonathan Crowe, covering everything from collecting to the latest in geospatial technology. National Geographic Society offers a pair of iPad-optimized atlas appsa€”World Atlas HD and The World by National Geographic.
Going Global: World Atlas HD features a global view that you can spin and rotate with the touch of a finger. Ita€™s a big, wide world out there, and World Atlas has opted to keep the size of the app to a manageable 67.6MB by only preloading a few levels of maps. How Far Must We Go: Tap and hold on the distance scale bar in World Atlas HD, and it becomes an adjustable direction line that shows the distance between two points on the map.
World Atlas HD lets you drop pins on the map, but only for your current location and in the capital cities of countries around the globe. There is an especially clever feature in World Atlas HD involving the distance scale bar in the appa€™s upper left corner. Panning around the globe is fairly smooth, but zooming in and zooming out causes the app to redraw your view.
The World also includes the nation factboxes found in World Atlas HD, but puts its own twist on the feature. World View: In addition to facts and figures about a particular nation, factboxes in The World by National Geographic include full-screen photos shot highlighting the country you're researching. The photos look great on the iPada€™s screen, but again, therea€™s something of a missed opportunity here. That complaint aside, The World by National Geographic is a decent mobile atlas, if not a standout one.
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Whether ita€™s thumbing through a road atlas, spinning around a globe, or sticking pushpins into a wall map to designate where Ia€™ve been and where I want to go, I can find countless ways to amuse myself with a well-designed map.
Both apps deliver the world to your tablet, with an easy-to-control interface and a decent amount of data. Launch World Atlas HD, and ita€™s easy to see why: The app opens to a gorgeously rendered globe, either in portrait or landscape view, that you can spin and rotate with just the touch of a finger. In other words, if youa€™re connected to a network via Wi-Fi or a cellular connection, you can zoom in to your hearta€™s content, right down to road maps supplied by Bing. Tapping and holding to place a pin as you would in the built-in Maps app doesna€™t work here; instead, that behavior summons a pop-up window containing information about the country youa€™re tapping on.
If you tap and hold the scale bar, it becomes a purple direction line that you can drag anywhere on the map.
You can start typing the name of a city or country in the search box, and the app will dynamically generate a list of results. The redrawing happens fairly quickly, even on an original iPad, though some users might expect a more seamless experience. Like World Atlas HD, The World launches to a globe that you can rotate and spin in any direction. Call up information on Belize, for example, and The World lists population, language, GDP, and other data; it also includes a brief description of the country.


If Ia€™m looking at the photo of Mont Blanc thata€™s included in the France factbox, Ia€™d like to see some indication on the attached map of where that photo was taken. Students interested in geographya€”and anyone looking for a different view of the worlda€”will find some value in National Geographica€™s offering. We give you the scoop on what's new, what's best and how to make the most out of the products you love. The Atlas features Nat Geo's award-winning cartography and stats and facts about every country on Earth. So if therea€™s an app that can bring that experience to the iPad and tell me a little more about the world around me, Ia€™m eager to give it a try.
Unfortunately, neither app taps into the full capabilities of iOS and both left me wanting more. Youa€™ve got a choice of three looksa€”the sepia-hued Executive view, a brighter Classic look, and Satellite. The information is certainly useful and adds value to World Atlas HD, but if you like to put pins on all the cities youa€™ve visited or the places youa€™d like to go to, youa€™ll likely be disappointed with this app. Youa€™re able to adjust the start and end points, which gives you a good idea of the exact distance between two points on the globe. Tapping one of those results will make the app jump over to that city or countrya€”but the search results box and on-screen keyboard remain.
Note that if youa€™re zoomed in on the Pacific Ocean, you cana€™t pan past the International Date Line; the app will force you to zoom out to the globe view in order to enjoy uninterrupted panning.
Certainly, better search and bookmarking features would go a long way to refreshing this app. Here, however, the globe is peppered with yellow dots, each one representing a specific region. The World doesna€™t do that, and while it certainly isna€™t a deal-breaker for the app, ita€™s one of those things that would have made The World so much more valuable to users. On the iPad, I see most of eastern Africa and the southern Arabian peninsula, from Darfur to Oman, and from Cairo to the Seychelles. The controls will be familiar to anyone whoa€™s used an iOS device: Double-tap or pinch outward to zoom in, or pinch inward to zoom out.
It takes a separate tap to dismiss each and get a full view of the result you wanted to see. Tap on one of those dotsa€”Western Canada, say, or South Central Asia, and the app will zoom in on that region. World Atlas divides its map library among six continents, with different maps for both the Classic and Executive views. I would also prefer a simple alert when Ia€™m trying to zoom in on a map I havena€™t downloaded; that seems like a better approach than showing me a grayed-out screen that I have to zoom out of to resume using the app.




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