Mobile Atlas Creator (MOBAC) is a general-purpose tool to create offline maps in various file formats compatible with mobile applications. One of the formats it supports is MBTiles (among many others), the format that Fulcrum uses for offline basemaps. Using MOBAC, you can select a bounding area of an online tile source and create an offline-ready basemap that you can upload to your Fulcrum account. This is great if you want to have a section of a map for offline use.

Installing MOBAC

First, you need to make sure your computer has Java installed. If you don’t have a Java runtime installed, you can download and install it from here. Then you can download MOBAC from the web and extract it somewhere on your local computer. Because MOBAC is a Java application, it doesn’t need to “install” like a conventional app. You simply extract the zip file somewhere on your computer and you can run the Mobile Atlas Creator.exe file if you’re on Windows, or double click Mobile_Atlas_Creator.jar if you’re on a Mac.

Creating an Offline Map

When you first open the application, you will be prompted to create a new atlas project. Start by entering a name and picking MBTiles as the format.

Select MBTiles SQLite as format

Once you get into the application, you will see the map in the main pane where you can navigate around and select your bounding area. Note: since clicking and dragging is used to select a bounding area, you have to hold down the Ctrl key and drag to pan the map.

MOBAC map view

Once you have an area selected, you can give it a “Layer Name” and click the “Add selection” button to add that area to your map. When you’re ready to start creating the offline map, click the “Create atlas” button.

Atlas creation in MOBAC

The download process can take a while, depending on the size of the area and the number of zoom levels selected. In general, each successive zoom level is about 4 times the number of tiles than the previous zoom level. So zoom 17 takes approximately 4 times longer to download than zoom level 16 for the same bounding area. You can play around with the settings to get the best balance of zoom levels and area for your map. It is recommended to not select an area larger than a city if you want a map with street level detail.

Uploading to Fulcrum

To get your map working in Fulcrum, all you need to do is add an offline layer to your Fulcrum account. Once you’ve uploaded it to your account, you can sync your account from the iPhone or iPad app and you will see your new map available for download.

Custom Offline Maps

MOBAC is great if you want an offline basemap with standard map features. For more advanced offline maps, including custom data, styles, and feature interaction, the next step is to check out TileMill – a complete map design studio for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It allows for complete customization of the entire map using your own data with advanced zoom-dependent styles. It can export an MBTiles file that will work as a reference basemap in Fulcrum for data collection.

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