Mysticetus v1.5.0.42: Shapefile Display in the Mapping window! (and open source GIS apps)

New version:

The What is Mysticetus presentation has been updated to include the latest features.

Also, see below for links to open source (i.e. free) replacements for ArcGIS/ArcInfo when creating or editing Shapefiles.

New Feature:

Mysticetus now displays Shapefiles (.shp) in the mapping window. This means you can download a host of interesting information…or create your own…in this standard format, and these shapes will be displayed in Mysticetus’ real-time mapping/gps window on top of the shaded relief elevation. For example, here is a mountainous region in the central Washington Cascades. 

Sure, that’s cool and all…but here it is when we add some lakes (courtesy the Washington State Department of Ecology’s website). As always, you can point at things – like a lake – and Mysticetus will tell you what it is:

Here’s a topographic (etopo1, plus some more detail at the coasts) display of a chunk of North America, with a couple large cities thrown in:

Yawn. You’ve seen that before from previous versions of Mysticetus. Now check out when we add a shapefile containing the outlines of all 50 states. I actually forgot where I downloaded the US States shapefile from…there are a ton of them out there…that’s the point: any shapefile that you find useful will now be displayed inside of Mysticetus.

Shapefile data is available for the entire world. Here are some political boundaries in Japan, again backed by the etopo1 DEM. I found this shapefile somewhere out on the net as well – there is a ton of geo-data in shapefiles, and now they are all available when using Mysticetus.

Like elevation models and other displayed data, you can turn shapefile layers on and off via the Layers button next to the map. Note the CA/OR/WA depth contours being turned on in the following screenshot. Of course, depth contours are somewhat redundant with the shaded relief display – however, they provide an interesting shapefile demonstration – shapefiles have been around for a long time and people have created a vast array of interesting geo-data with them.

(yes, at some point in the next few releases, I’ll change the layer selection to better handle the situation where you have a lot of items…once you get past about 15 it gets a little clunky, but I’ll fix that soon 🙂 ).


As an “added bonus”, I’m going to spend a little time in my blog talking about Open Source GIS applications. These 100% free GIS apps are a great way to avoid paying ESRI incredible sums of money to edit your own Geo-Data in ArcGIS. Simply do a web search (Google or Bing) for “open source GIS” and you can get started editing Shapefiles for free.

I’ve heard very good things about Grass ( although I’ve yet to use it. A lot of people swear by it and it looks like a great option. I’m sure I’ll poke at it at some point in the not too distant future, and maybe devote a blog post to it.

I personally have been using MapWindow ( – it is a more geared towards programmer-type people, but the basic things you want to do with shapefiles are right there in your face and easy to find.

As a practical example using MapWindow, here is the data table for a shapefile containing a couple pastures in the Fossil Rim Wildlife Park in Texas:

Here is the resultant map display in Mysticetus:

In the next screenshot, I change the color of the pasture containing the herd of Sable. Note the cell where I set the FillColor to “Red”

And the resulting display in Mysticetus:

As always, send emails with suggestion, criticisms, accolades or cash. Cash is always nice, and for the right amount, I’ll name a future Mysticetus feature after you, your offspring or you cat – your choice. 🙂

Hope all is well.



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