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541 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 07:20

I need something that is cell phone or tablet based and does a similar job to Arc Collector or Survey 123. The users will not be GIS users. Is there anything that anyone can recommend?


187 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 08:17

Hi Forest,

I don't know Survey 123 but I'll look it up.

I've been using Arcpad for well over a decade now and it is very powerful and reliable. You can use shapefiles or AXF (a sort of SQL CE database). I have written a basic Add-in for Mf8 for importing AXF files. AXF is great if you have larger datasets and can be scripted using SQL.

Most other consultant arborists in Australia I know also use it so I do some good business scripting and developing custom forms for them. The cost of Arcpad is high initially but if you use it as much as as our industry does cost is not a factor. One of the best things is you can build scripts to validate data input to reduce surveyor error using JavaScript or VbScript.

I use it mainly on Panasonic Toughbooks which are heavy but powerful (great for large aerials of urban areas). Many of my colleagues use Arcpad on Trimble WinCE devices which only run a subset of VB script and the devices are sooo slow.

Unfortunately Arcpad only runs on Windows and WinCE - no Android yet.

I occasionally look at SuperPad which appears to be a copy of Arcpad. I'm pretty sure you can script using C# and probably other .Net languages on that. Not sure how much it costs but probably heaps cheaper than Arcpad.

Something I want to look at more is QGIS Mobile or QField. Look it up if you haven't already.

How complex is your data collection project?


geozap69 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 11:09

The best to use with manifold is manifold iteself on a laptop in a car.


1,433 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 13:33

I've had really good results with and Manifold. There is an API that you can script and automate periodic downloads of the data being collected to use in Manifold. You can bring in layers from WMS/WFS services as well.

I've also used Manifold on a windows tablet and used Forms in Manifold and it worked very well.

"The blessing in life is finding the torture you are comfortable with." - Jerry Seinfeld, 6/26/2013

hphillips13 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 13:57

Mapit GIS Pro at about $10 is a bargain alternative to ESRI based software and runs on my Android tablet and phone and supports internal and external GPS receivers. On Apple tablets and phones you should look at iCMTGISPRO, $200-$300 depending on if you need phone or tablet or both. Are they the best? I don't know your definition but if you are seeking to avoid the ESRI environment and keep the cost down, those are the best alternatives I have found that don't require a Windows desktop or Mobile device and are not cloud and subscription based.

422 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 15:19

Our appraisers might be able to use Mapit-GIS in the field. I'm looking into that.

Oh and they have a great info graphic on their home page.

drtees25 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 16:07

We have tried to use Mapit GIS Pro, but have had problems exporting data from Manifold to Mapit. It appears that Manifold's ability to reproject on the fly works against other GIS applications. We can have layers display where they should in Manifold, but end up on the other side of the world (small exaggeration) when brought into Mapit.

geozap69 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 18:48

I use Mapit and I haven't had any problems with projections. If you are experiencing problems, those are propably because of some settings in the Edit - Assign Projection dialog in Manifold (local scales or ofsets for example). If you reproject your drawing before importing to Mapit in a "simple" system such as lat long in WGS84, without any local offsets, local scales etc, I don't think you will have any problems.

422 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 21:00

What file type do you use when exporting from Manifold? If you export to a .shp file, it works best to use a .prj file created by ArcGIS.

drtees25 post(s)
#13-Apr-18 21:35

We have tried exporting both shape files and KML files from Manifold 8 to MapIt. All of our Manifold data is projected to Washington State Plane with a datum of NAD83. However, when importing data created by Manifold into MapIt, the data ends up displaying anywhere but where it should be We have since tried to import data that is not projected (just latitude-longitude), but with the NAD83 datum. This technique seems to work. I suspect that there may be a setting in MapIt that we do not have set correctly.

Mike Pelletier

1,487 post(s)
#13-Apr-18 22:21

The Manifold generated .prj file for Colorado Central State Plane does not work in ESRI, so I do what dchall8 suggested and use a .prj file generated by ESRI and rename it to whatever I'm exporting from Manifold. It's a pain but works. Maybe not your issue though.


7,905 post(s)
#13-Apr-18 23:41

You should listen to geozap.

All exported vector data must have Local Offsets = 0 and Local Scales = 1.

There are many relevant threads on the forum, some with useful scripts.

Manifold have recently removed the issue for version 9.


187 post(s)
#12-Apr-18 08:55

...but if you are seeking to avoid the ESRI environment and keep the cost down

You don't need any other ESRI products to run an Arcpad data collection system. It uses 'standard' shapefiles and the AXF databases can be created with the bundled Arcpad Studio.

Arcpad is (or was?) actually created and developed by MapTel - an Australian company - but licensed to ESRI.

If you don't mind using a Windows platform/device and don't need to upload to the cloud in realtime (with no chance to review the days catch before committing to the db!) then I've never seen anything as powerful as Arcpad. People often tell me "oh try this free (or cheap) data collection app!" but they are never even close to Arcpad. If you doubt then download a copy which will work for 20 mins or so at a time and check out the object model for programming.

If you have a simple "yes/no", tick the box, etc. type data collection requirement then yes, some of the free or cheap ones are ideal. If you have many people out in the field all day long for days or weeks on end collecting hundreds of data points each day and "time-is-money" then its hard to go past Arcpad and it will pay for itself in a week.

541 post(s)
#13-Apr-18 07:59

Last year I was using a Trimble Juno with windows CE and some expensive data collection app. It was not ArcPad. The device and app combination was not great. You needed a juice pack on the back of the trimble to get through the day and that makes the device heavy. The screen update was also much slower than a garmin which made it hard to use the device for walking straight transects. Additionally, windows CE is depreciated and it is hard to get it to play with Win 10. I would actually not run anything that requires that operating system.

I did not know that ArcPad was still going. I did OK with GBM Mobile which was the MapInfo competitor. Thanks for the head up. I will give ArcPad another look if it runs on something that is not Windows CE.


187 post(s)
#14-Apr-18 01:48


I've heard those dinky little devices like Junos called 'executive toys'. They appear in the shirt pockets of the guys that rarely make it out of the office and disapear a year later. The best thing about these and other larger (and better) WinCE devices like GeoXT is you can pick them up on Ebay with Arcpad installed for half the price of Arcpad (put the device in bottom draw and use Arcpad on Panasonic Toughbook/Toughpad running Win7 or 10 (which you can also pick up for a few hundred $ on Ebay).

An important consideration I think is whether you have tech savy people using the data collection devices or not. While some might cope with full QGIS or Manifold on a device, for most it would be a case of eventually hitting the wrong tool or menu item and stuffing things up. You then either try to sort them out over the phone, go out on site or have them come back to the office.

With dedicated field GIS you can hide tools that are not required and have greater control over input. I know you can make custom form interfaces for Manifold - I've done this using Visual Studio and C# - but it is not a strait foward process compared to using Arcpad Studio.

Having said that, the most efficient data collection system I've seen for large tree surveys is properly trained operators using custom Arcpad forms on on WinCE Trimble Rangers with keypads. The operators use codes and tab keys without hardly ever looking away from the tree being inspected! They are sick of me pointing out the limitations and slowness of WinCE and wanting them to move to full Windows devices (of which we know none that have keypads). They are right - at least for now - the system works very well, is reliable for them and is one reason they win most of the larger data collection contracts.

541 post(s)
#16-Apr-18 00:41

Hi Steve,

I once used a Trimble Pro XR to record all the trees growing on footpaths in Bowen to determine which needed pre-emptive work. The old Pro XR had a key pad with all the letters and it was possible to create a feature data definition (entry form) that was entirely key pad driven and I could log a tree in 40 seconds, which involved entering data into about 10 fields. That is a level of productivity that I have not matched with on screen soft keyboards. I am always touching the screen by accident and ending up in some other screen or application and loosing time. Will have to check out Trimble rangers.

Thanks everyone for the info. There are a few things try.


187 post(s)
#16-Apr-18 02:03


The Pro XR is an older backpack style DGPS unit but you probably had a Ranger data collector or similar as they are often used together, or it may have been something else (Recon, etc.)

With the Panasonic Toughbooks/Toughpads you can turn screen to Digitizer Only (as opposed to Touch & Digitizer input) to stop accidental screen input - this is a must and I always do it with mine as soon as I get them. I just received a FZ-G1 Toughpad on Friday with Windows 10 - my first device with Win 10!. $330 on Ebay (lucky find but you gotta keep looking).

I just installed Arcpad with the ECW plug-in so I can use ECWs as base layers. The handwriting recognition on Win 10 is great which means time saved on the free text inputs. I personally could not use a keypad device like a Ranger for my daily work (doesn't mean I wouldn't have others using them though!). The screen is too small and I need to see the wider picture. I also hate WinCE due to limited power and VBScript sub-set (some functions aren't recognised).

I have designed and built many Arcpad widgets to help increase input efficiency. Capturing tree data in 40 seconds and less is easily done (depending on the tree of course) with photos (one-to-many relation - so as many as you like) and measured DBH. I've even made a form to assess 'overview of tree health' for >21,000 trees in a major city where you can pick a or from tool bar and tap each tree point to assign the face that reflects its health (entered as "dead", "poor", etc.) and the form does not even open - just the point symbol changes to the emoticon. This project uses an AXF file (for speed) and imports into Manifold using an Add-in I cobbled together many years ago. The client uses it once a year and I believe it takes a couple of weeks for a single operator to assess every tree.

Widgets like a species picker (below) help by reducing most species choices down to 3 clicks by filtering (open form, first letter for genus, second for species, third letter - if needed - for second letter of species if there are a few similar). You will be able to create similar or same with in Arcpad with a bit of VBScript or JS. Arcpad allows you to use your imagination for how customise a project to make it super efficient.

If you're interested in further discussion find my e-mail on my web page (web "business card" more like it - it's mainly for WMS, etc for clients)


Arcpad Species Picker.PNG

541 post(s)
#16-Apr-18 07:03

Hi Steve,

I have departed from the botany business, I was a consultant botanist. With the green tape reduction, in Queensland, business dried up. I am working on collecting information related to land management now. Examples include how many sea turtle nests have been dug up by feral pigs and how many noxious trees have been stem injected. I think that my big challenge is making a picture of what has been achieved over time. That comes in handy for funding applications but also, I would like to extend what we do to include more biodiversity work.

My primary data collection system now is something that I wrote in ms-access. It allows me to use super zoom cameras and underwater cameras, stuff without data entry ability and often without GPS for data collection. Downloading and filing of photos is automated. Geotagging of photos is automated. I am after ecological insights and recording of these is highly streamlined. For example, I can record where noxious tilapia got to as a result of recent flooding. My system are not task-oriented but understanding oriented. They are similar to but more developed. I take about 500 photos a day so I avoid note-taking in the field but as others prefer in-field data entry I am working finding the best system there also. The other big weakness of pads is the camera for biodiversity studies as most subject require a long zoom to capture well. I might develop a hybrid system where someone operates a camera and another person uses a pad to log the photos.

Nice work on the above form.


hphillips13 post(s)
#16-Apr-18 15:47

Steve -

I appreciate your point that 'time is money' and spending some money on a good data collection software like ArcPad may pay out dividends in time saved vs other less costly alternatives. Further it was helpful to clarify that ArcPad is stand-alone and does not require a larger ESRI investment to function to gather data for Manifold.

It's good that this thread has turned to mention data collectors because the data collection software discussed in this thread is usually tied to an operating system that further ties it to certain data collectors. Additionally sunlight readability, convenience (like the keypads on TSC Rangers that Forest and your field crews describe), ergonomics (lightweight and easy to hold like the hourglass shaped Ranger), and screen size (for soft keypads or to view imagery as you mention) all affect the usability. Rangers are a hit for some in spite of their laggard performance on the stagnant Windows Mobile 5-6.5 while you prefer the larger screened Windows Toughbooks/Toughpads as better for your needs.

As you say, ebay is your friend to find a datalogger like a Trimble Ranger or Nomad, possibly with ArcPad on it but good luck in finding the corresponding Windows desktop software to go with it. I was considering a used ebay Nomad but the speed and age of the OS mentioned in this thread is making me think twice about it, plus the proprietary nature and age of old Trimble gear makes even finding replacement batteries an expensive proposition. In their favor, those old Trimble dataloggers are tough and if the software still runs and collects the data needed, why should I worry that the Windows Mobile software was written years ago?

I wish that a recent consumer phone or tablet could make a satisfactory datalogger but poor sunlight readability makes most of these of marginal usability as a field datalogger (that includes all the Android devices I have :-) ). I am gaining interest in the Toughpad you mention, that would get the job done on a more modern OS and maybe I could get used to the size. Alternatively, have you ever seen a TSC2 with ArcPad reading from an external bluetooth GPS like an SXBlue or EOS Arrow?

Maybe we will have a happy confluence of technology in a few years: Arcpad on Android (or Manifold on a Windows tablet!), tablets and phones with sunlight usable reflective ClearInk screens and inexpensive and accurate Broadcomm L1/L5 BCM47755 GNSS chips. Of that, the first seems the least likely; people have been asking for ArcPad on Android since at least 2012. Do you wonder if ESRI might just let ArcPad wither to steer people to ArcGIS for Mobile or Collector for ArcGIS?


187 post(s)
#17-Apr-18 09:06


Interesting job you have!

The species widget is just an example of many I have concocted to save time in the field, the point being you can work out easier ways to make the program work for you and save time on your data collection what ever it may be.

I never use the cameras in the devices either (nor the inbuilt GPS if I can avoid it).

For photos I have a widget that takes the last photo number from my Panasonic digital camera (entered by me, not wi-fi or bluetooth) when I log-in to the Arcpad project and then adds another digit each time I click the photo button on the record form. The form then requires that I click on a direction for the photo and a caption or note can be added (a drop down will add standard string phrases to the caption txt box).

The drop down photo name field allows me to use past photos taken that session as well as the next photo. Each record can have one, zero or many photos so it is effectively a many-to-many table relationship. The tricky parts are to stop the photos being entered in the related photo table if the form is cancelled (rather than saved) and to work out an algorithm that reflects the numbering system your camera uses for photo names - they don't always do what you would expect!

In my case at the end of they survey the shapefile is downloaded and the photos table and tree point data table (dbf files) are sucked up into my Access db and a report and a cross-referenced photo(s) sheet with captions produced - job done. With this method you just need to be astute about clicking the "Add Photo" button each time you take a photo. There is also a system that matches a record time stamp with the photo creation date but that has problems.


As you say, ebay is your friend to find a datalogger like a Trimble Ranger or Nomad, possibly with ArcPad on it but good luck in finding the corresponding Windows desktop software to go with it.

The Arcpad installer has both the WinCE and Windows versions of Arcpad - no other program needed. Manifold 8 (and hopefully 9 when I can work it out) will deal with the rest. If you are unlucky enough to have a Trimble DGNSS that requires post processing then you may need Trimble Office - a very expensive program that is in the same market as the ESRI ArcMap stuff. I, happily, am out of the Trimble and ESRI loops and have a great Javad DGNSS device that does all the corrections internally and outputs standard NMEA strings that deliver differentially corrected sub-metre positions to any device that accepts it - even my Android phone.

You won't have any trouble with screen visibility on sunny days with Toughbooks (and probably most other high quality brands I would think). If anything they are too bright and need to be backed off.

Photo widget.PNG


187 post(s)
#17-Apr-18 09:54

Sorry hphillips - missed this:

...TSC2 with ArcPad reading from an external bluetooth GPS like an SXBlue or EOS Arrow?

My clients use Arcpad on a Ranger with Trimble Bluetooth GNSS devices so I can't see why there would be a problem with other brands. The only problem I've had with Bluetooth is where the device aerial is in a backpack and it drops out because it is blocked by your body.

541 post(s)
#19-Apr-18 05:05

Just a note on post processing with Trimble Office. I was in Mackay in Central Queensland, Australia and our closest source for post processing position corrections was over 400 km away. This renders the idea of post processing largely a waste of time. In NSW for comparison, the average distance to a source of data for post processing was 15 km. In Queensland, I would go for a data collector that can handle input from large numbers of satellites and compute a position over an approach that relies on post processing. DGPS is not so bad as the radio navigation beacons reach a few hundred kilometres and their signal covers most of Australia.


187 post(s)
#19-Apr-18 09:42

I see Trimble have just brought out a TSC7 with a 7" touch screen and Win 10 Pro. Hopefully this will be the death knell for WinCE!

320 post(s)
#11-Apr-18 21:29

Super hard to beat Klokan's GeoEditor.

If you can get your rasters into mbtiles format, and your vectors into geojson, you're laughing with GeoEditor.

If you're wanting to tightly control the data collection workflow and know some JS (and have some budget!), I can't recommend Fulcrum highly enough. I have developped collection workflows for many companies from 1 user to 250 users on The Pro plans get you access to the query api, which is a way to submit postgresql queries over https.

Shoot me an email if you have any questions joe at

541 post(s)
#12-Apr-18 03:10

I have been trying most of the free options. They feel not quite there yet. Version creep might be an issue with some of them, as QGIS based ones may not have jumped up with the current version of QGIS. Another one for the list is This is an open source data collector which might suit me as I could modify app if need be.

Will check out GeoEditor.

I have also been importing a lot of data collected by iTracker and the data is in flat table form. Although I am full on with QGIS, I have requested a Manifold license at work as I need to transform the data in to a relational set of tables. Manifold is a clear winner the this task.

234 post(s)
#13-Apr-18 23:53

I have used QGIS for the past several years on a Mobile Demand rugged tablet, connected to a Garmin GLO. (Bluetooth connection)

About $800.00 total

I have also connected it to Survey Grade, RTK Corrected GNSS receivers without problem.

Bluetooth is an amazing thing.

I have experienced only minor, intermittent issues with that combination. No violent crashes.

I have also trained quite a few people in the use of the above. Pretty simple to learn. The nesting functions while not as good as ArcPad, or Mobile Mapper, are more than adequate.

I have friends who have Mac's, or Linux based computers, and it operates for them quite well also.

Coordinate values are not passed automatically to the data table, but can be viewed from the derived data.

What I really like about using QGIS for GPS mapping and navigation is, I am able to simply copy the entire project over to each field computer, and go to work from there. No muss, no fuss, no bother, everyone is on the same page, and that page looks the same as the paper map we would produce.

I have played with Roam. Nice work by Nathan Woodrow. It is built using QGIS internals.

It just did not suit my/our needs as well as the full blown QGIS did.

QField may be something worth investigating. I have seen it work, but I have not used it directly myself.

ArcPad is great if you can afford the combination of the software, and hardware.

I have used it quite frequently since 1999. It has been stable for the most part, and you are able to post process the data if you so desire. (And have the software to do so.)

I have seen people running it on GPS enabled rugged Windows tablets with no issues since 2005.

Just Remember, You are unique, just like everybody else!

143 post(s)
#14-Apr-18 00:22

Hi Forest. We have also used the Mobile Data Collection app from GISCloud. Its pretty good. But If you want maps, multiple data layers and definately recommend Mappt from Perth, Australia. Has everything you need and a pretty good pricing. Quick entry Data forms, to speed up the process in the field. Many type of layers, WMS, a a lot more. Very solid and reliable app.


1,433 post(s)
#16-Apr-18 13:35

Just FYI, with GISCloud you can also combine WFS/WMS layers with uploaded layers in the mobile data collection app. The forms are very customizable as well.

"The blessing in life is finding the torture you are comfortable with." - Jerry Seinfeld, 6/26/2013

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