Tracks is a GPS tracking utility and track logger for the iPhone. Users can record their walks, hikes, runs and rides along with any photos they may shoot along the way. Favorite sessions can be exported to Google’s Fusion Tables for archiving and sharing. Fusion Tables can also link to session photos uploaded to Picassa. Tracks can also import and export GPX files, which can be used to geotag photos taken on DSLR’s or other non-gps enable cameras, and exchange track logs with other GPS devices or applications. The following page explains the basic usage of Tracks. For some more general questions and answers, be sure to check the FAQ and Geotagging page.
Recording a Session
When Tracks is first started you will be viewing the ‘Recording’ screen. Tracks will locate you and center the map on your position. If for any reason your position can’t be determined, Tracks will alert you to the problem. You will need to grant Tracks access to your location data in order to record sessions. When you are ready to start your activity, simply press the ‘Record’ button. Tracks will begin tracking your location and display a red path indicating your past positions. Tapping the screen while recording will display an overlay indicating when the session started, elapsed time, how far you’ve traveled and what your average speed is. Tracks is multitasking enabled and will continue recording your GPS sessions in the background while using other applications (such as your favorite feature rich geo-tagging camera app or music player). Tracks offers Settings to help manage battery usage when recording, Please be aware: Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life.
Using the Camera
Tracks includes a basic camera feature which allows you to take pictures without leaving the application. Clicking on the ‘Camera’ tab activates the camera on the device and allows you to snap pictures as you go. Pictures are saved to your photo roll just like the standard iPhone camera. The camera allows you to set the Flash mode or toggle cameras between front and rear if the device is so equipped. You may also use other camera apps while Tracks continues recording in the background. So long as any optional camera application geotags the image and saves to the Photo Roll, Tracks will recognize those images were taken during the session and present them on the map when reviewing. To return to the active session, tap on the ‘Radar’ icon.
Saving and Reviewing Your Sessions
When you are ready to stop recording, clicking the blue ‘Done’ button will present you with a save dialog. Your session name will have defaulted to the locality where the session was started. You may change the default name and enter a brief comment about the session. Clicking ‘Save’ writes the session to your device. To abandon your session, simply navigate back to the Recording view using the button on the top left of the screen. This clears your session and reset Tracks for the next recording. You can review your past sessions by tapping the file cabinet tab. Your past saved sessions will appear in a listing in the order they were saved. Tapping any row will take you to a map displaying your path along with pins at the location of any photos you may have taken with the Tracks camera or other geo-tagging Camera app while the session was recording.
- Tapping the base of a pin will display a preview of the image for that location.
- Tapping the pop-up preview will load an image browser and let you scroll through all images for that session. The image browser also offers the ability to email an image or copy it to the clipboard.
- Tapping off of the pop-up preview will close it, and tapping the base of a different pin will preview the image taken at that location.
- Tapping the map when no preview is showing will display some basic statistics related to the activity.
If you decide to delete a session from your device: From the list view, you can swipe across the item and click the delete button that appears. Alternately: Tap the delete button in the header, tap the red circle that appears on the row and then clicking the delete button. Tapping the ’Edit’ button on the map view will allow you to rename the session and edit the note. From the edit screen you can also upload the track data to a Google Fusion table which is discussed further later on in this document. Once a session has been uploaded to Fusion Tables, you will see the option to upload your images.
Tracks 1.0.2 introduces a toolbar to saved sessions. When viewing a saved or imported track’s map, tap on the map (not on a photo annotation) to display the track statistics and toolbar. The toolbar buttons have the following actions:
- The ‘Action’ button displays a list of GPX export options. You may choose to attach a GPX file to an email or save it to the iTunes shared documents folder.
- The left and right arrow buttons allow you to scroll back and forth through your session history.
- The star button selects a Track to display on the ‘My Track’ recording screen. This feature allows you to use an existing session track as a guide while recording a new one. When the star is solid it indicates that session is the one being displayed on the recording screen. A hollow star means the session is not being displayed on the recording screen.
- Only one session at a time can be displayed on the recording tab, and for it to be visible, it must be reasonable close to your current location, since the recording screen will always try to center itself on your current position.
Tracks has some basic settings that can be adjusted to suite your needs.
- Use English Units: When set to ‘On’, will display distances in miles. When set to ‘Off’, metric units are displayed.
- Distance Filter: Controls how far you have to travel from your last location before a new location will be recorded.
- Desired Accuracy: Allows you to select a lower accuracy setting if you want to conserve battery power or a higher accuracy at the expense of battery power when needed. Note that Tracks offers an option labeled ‘Best (High Battery Use)’. Generally you should only use this option when your device is externally powered. If you chose to use it while on battery power only, you should be be prepared for rapid battery drain, and ideally be close by a charging station of some type.
- Map Type: You can view streets only, satellite image only or a hybrid map showing both.
- Google Account Information: If you want to upload a session to Google you need to supply your Google account information.
Uploading and Sharing Tracks Sessions
You can archive and share your sessions by uploading them to Google Fusion Tables. To upload a session, select it in the list, tap the edit button, and tap on the ‘Upload Session’ button at the bottom of the edit screen. If you have not yet entered your Google credentials, you will be prompted to do so. You will receive an alert once your upload has completed. To view your uploaded tracks, use a web browser to navigate to http://google.com/fusiontables. Once you log in to Google’s Fusion Tables, you will see your uploaded tracks. By default all uploads are private until you choose to share them by clicking the ’Share’ button and changing the options as desired. Click a track to view its details. Fusion Tables allows you to do quite a bit with your uploaded data, and you can learn much more about it from Google by taking their product tour. To view your track data on the map you can click the ‘Visualize’ menu and select ‘Map’. At that point you will see your track info and can generate links to embed in other applications such as Facebook, Twitter or your WordPress Blog.
Importing and Exporting Tracks Sessions
Tracks also supports importing and exporting sessions to and from GPX files. GPS eXchange are recognized by a wide variety of devices and applications, and websites such as trailregistry.com. You can use exported files for geotagging photostaken on a DSLR or other non-gps enabled camera. Imported files can be used for finding new areas to explore or planning hikes.
You can export tracks similar to uploading a Fusion Table. From the Edit/Save screen, select ‘Export’. You will be given the option of exporting them to your iTunes documents folder, or attaching the GPX file to an email. If you choose the email option, Tracks will include your Google account as a recipient. Any files exported to iTunes will appear in the File Sharing section of the ‘Apps’ tab when your device is connected. From there you can drag them out to your desktop or other location. You can also drop GPX into iTunes to make them available to Tracks when disconnected.
Tracks can import GPX files from the iTunes documents folder or email. To import a GPX file attached to an email, long tap on the attachment and select “Open in “Tracks”. If Track is not the default option, you may need to select ‘Open in..’ and then tap on Tracks in the list of apps capable of opening GPX files. The ‘Tracks’ tab has an ‘Import’ button on the top left corner. When tapped, you are presented with a list of Files in the Tracks Documents folder. The files in grey are those that were exported from Tracks, and the files in white are those that were dropped into iTunes from another source. To view the contents of any file, simply tap it’s row in the list. The contents of the file will be displayed on a map. You may either abandon the import by clicking the ‘Tracks’ button, or continue with the import by tapping ‘Save Import’. If you tapp ‘Save Import’, you will be given a chance to rename the file and add any notes before completing the import.
Tracks Roadmap – Enhancements Under Consideration
- Autosave. Incrementally save track data while recording. Not only does autosave minimize potential for data loss should something unexpected happen to the application or device, but it sets the foundation for the next feature.
- Live Track Sharing. One of our users requested this feature and we think its a great idea. Look for it soon. One of the things that should differentiate Tracks is we will not require you to sign up, create any special account or otherwise submit any personally identifiable information (the sole exception may be linking your friends and sessions across multiple devices, where we may need an email address)
- Pause recording. Allow recording multiple segments in a single session. So you can stop for lunch and pause tracks to save your battery. Then finish recording the afternoon leg of a trip in the same session.
- Waypoints and Tagging. Let users tag images and routes with keywords and/or comments(preferably by voice).
- Calendar view of previous tracks and/or search functionality on list view.
- Advanced Camera controls and/or zoom functionality.