Welcome to GPSFileDepot!

Main Menu

Making maps for Lowrance

Started by Boyd, April 09, 2013, 05:51:15 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


Recently I've gotten curious about other vector map formats, and realized that I knew next to nothing about Lowrance. Digging around on their site, they have something very cool - free emulators that you can download for many of their devices. These are like a "virtual gps" that works just like the real thing although they can't be used for navigation. What  a great idea - I wish Garmin would offer the same thing.

Anyway, I noticed that Globalmapper is able to export vector data in Lowrance's .lcm format so I tried a few tests. Didn't go well at first; when I used the 64 bit version of GM 12 I got an error that some kind of .dll was missing when I tried to export. I had the 32 bit version handy on my Windows tablet, so I made a really simple "map"with only one line object and tried exporting. It seemed to hang for awhile, and when I looked it had created over 1100 files on my desktop where I wanted to save the map! Had to kill GM and delete all the files.

Still not ready to give up, I dug around and realized I also had the 32 bit version of GM on my desktop machine. This time it worked like a charm and I was able to install a simple map that contained major roads in my area. It wasn't pretty, but it worked on the emulator. So I tried exporting a full 24k quad from my NJ topo and that also worked fine.

Obviously it would take some work to clean this up and make it look good on Lowrance, but really the process was very straightforward. The cool thing is that you can export directly from Globalmapper and it is really fast - no need for cgpsmapper or other software.

Anyone else ever play with this? Does anyone actually have one of these devices? The hardware is interesting - 5" screen at 480x480 pixels. They are rather expensive, and I gather they dropped support for topo maps a couple years ago which made a lot of people mad. They have just released some new topo products though -

Anyway, I suspect there are a bunch of people out there who would love free maps for their Lowrance devices. If you want to play around with this, the emulators are available here: I have been playing with the Elite-5 Emulator.

To install a map, first find the emulator program folder - C:\Program Files (x86)\Navico\Elite-5 on my Vista system. Create a new folder named Maps0, then copy the .lcm file you exported from Globalmapper there. I suggest that you create a temporary folder somewhere and use it when you export your globalmapper file.... just in case it decides to create thousands of files like it did with my earlier test.  :)


Yes, I still have a Lowrance ExpeditionC rattling around somewhere (iFinder series, like the H2O and Hunt models, etc). This was  my first mapping-capable unit -- to replace my Garmin GPS45 -- and I thought I was in heaven. The online simulator was amazing... at the time. Sadly, I joined many, many others in a common frustration with the iFinder units: after working great for a few years, it then decided to quit locating satellites with any consistency. All of the usual fixes tried to no avail. After upgrading to the Garmin 62st and all of its far more advanced capabilities, I wondered why I didn't jump sooner. About the only Lowrance guys left around here are those who haven't yet upgraded to Humminbird... units mounted on their fishing boats with old LakeMaster chips installed.


I think that some of the off-roaders still use Lowrance, or at least I see photo's and discussions online from them (granted, some are a few years old). Over at gpsreview, we still get questions about them from off-roaders. I gather that the screens are very bright, and some people still prefer a pushbutton interface.

Never really thought about it before, but a square screen actually makes a lot of sense too if you are using 2d North-up mode. :)


If anyone else is interested, I have learned a few things by playing around. First, there's some documentation in the Globalmapper manual. One clever feature is that GM will use your existing MP_TYPE attribute, if available, when creating the .lcm file.

I was having a hard time getting water polygons to show and found some info in a google search. If you set them to "major river" they seem to work. Note that Lowrance polygons have borders (garmin polygons can't have a border).

Overall, the resulting map has kind of a "retro" look that reminds me of the old Garmin units. I don't really know whether this can be changed, and probably am not going much farther with this unless others are also interested in creating some Lowrance maps.

Here are a couple screenshots of my test map using the Elite-5 emulator. The minor roads, trails and streams all look pretty much the same so that needs a little more study.  :)


If there was interest I could add the ability to host those maps (I was building in the capability for another different company today).
Dan Blomberg
Administrator - GPSFileDepot
GPS Units: Garmin Dakota 20, Garmin GPSMap 60csx, Nuvi 255W, Nuvi 250W, ForeRunner 110, Fenix 2, Tactix Bravo, Foretrex 401
See/Download My Maps!


Looks like there isn't much interest.  ;)

Is the "other company" the one I think? Has anything developed on the topic we recently discussed? :)


GPSMapEdit too is able to export maps to Lowrance format. You need to install additional library:


Thanks popej, I thought it was possible but didn't know how. But it doesn't seem like anyone is interested in Lowrance maps, so I have moved on to other things.  ;)


Did I read this right, and the Lowrance runs directly off of the output of GM or GPSmapedit?  No compiler needed?  No MapInstall(Lowrance version of)?  It just interprets a text file?


That's what I said.  ;)

It isn't a text file though (I looked). It's a binary format of some kind, although I saw recognizable strings of text inside. Yeah, though. Imagine that, just save a file and copy it to the gps without jumping through a bunch of hoops with multiple programs.

It would be nice if somebody supported a little more modern map format. For example, I really like the ability to define roads by an actual width in meters in Globalmapper, then let the software figure out how to scale them as you zoom.  I guess the problem is that Garmin has such a huge amount of legacy devices, it makes it nearly impossible to update their format.

But getting back to Lowrance... One simple way to convert a map would just be to open the .mp file in Globalmapper (or GPSMapedit I guess), then save it out as a Lowrance map. You could even do that with the .img files themselves in GPSMapedit.

My maps require a little more work to convert though, because I use custom types for everything without much regard to the standards.  ;D


It is interesting... Magellan just "deprecates" their old devices for new map formats; not sure that would go over too well with Garmin users.
Dan Blomberg
Administrator - GPSFileDepot
GPS Units: Garmin Dakota 20, Garmin GPSMap 60csx, Nuvi 255W, Nuvi 250W, ForeRunner 110, Fenix 2, Tactix Bravo, Foretrex 401
See/Download My Maps!


Yeah, it would be as if everyone had continued to use Windows 95 for all these years, then Microsoft went directly to Windows 8 in 2012.  ;D

However Garmin has introduced new features like 3d terrain, raster imagery, lane assist, speed limit display, junction view, 3d buildings and so forth. Of course, mortals like us can't take advantage of most of these in our own maps.  ;)


I just stumbled on this thread searching Google for info on using the LCMBuilder DLL directly.

As you stated earlier, Lowrance is used a lot for off-roading. There aren't any GPS receivers made for off-roading so they've always used Lowrance. Lowrance markets their receivers like "Baja Elite" to the market but there is nothing special about them. Most have a depth finder connection that works because they were made for fishing. The emulators work well for testing maps. They've been right on so far. I just use the biggest one I can get.

I use GPSMapEdit to create a map for Lowrance. It starts out as a detailed map made for Garmin then I convert the MP source file to a not so detailed Lowrance map using a script I wrote in It reads the source MP line by line and writes a new MP file for Lowrance. Some lines aren't needed for Lowrance so they're excluded. MP_TYPE conversion values are looked up in a different resource file for POIs, Lines and Polygons. Changing the conversion is updating the table values.

Did you have any questions? I made a map that is a legend of object types that you might be interested in. It has been helpful for observing functionality.


Thanks - that sounds pretty cool. But I lost interest in making Lowrance maps. So little time, so many maps...  :)


I have used the Insight Map Creator to create a map of USA inland waterways - see I hope, it will help all people on the water.