Living with a Garmin:

Definition of terms

The following are MY definitions of various GPS-related terms as used in the accompanying articles.

'Old' type Garmin. This refers to GPS units, typically launched to market before about 2009, which generally had a slightly 'difficult' UI and relied on proprietary Garmin software to allow transfer of waypoints etc between PC and GPS. Examples include the Etrex 'C' series (Legend, Vista etc), the Geko, the 60 and 76 series.
Most of the articles on this site were written with the Etrex C series in mind, and are generally applicable to the other 'old' Garmins, but less applicable (except in a general way) to the newer models.
'New' type Garmin. This refers to GPS units, typically launched to market from about 2009 onwards, which generally have a UI (which works best with a touchscreen) with a scrollable 'home' page consisting of several tile-shaped options. This type does not require any proprietary software and so works better for Linux and Mac users. Examples include the Dakota, Oregon, Etrex 20 & 30, the 62 and 78 series, and the newer Edge variants.

GPX is the de facto standard file format for storage and interchange of GPS data. The basic building blocks of GPX are Waypoints, Routes and Tracks. NB that Garmin and others also use several other file formats, but these can mostly be converted to GPX though sometimes with some loss of data or function.

Waypoint is a generic term for a pair of co-ordinates** in a wrapper of code. Usually there will be at least one other data field within the wrapper, which would be a unique Id or Name. There may or may not also be several other data fields, and see also 'User Waypoint' below.
The Waypoint is one of three top-level elements of GPS navigation, the others being the Route and the Track.
(** NB that a 'point' is strictly speaking defined by 3 co-ordinates, not just two. Waypoints are however assumed to exist on a 2-dimensional plane, be it a map or the surface of the Earth. Elevation can be an added attribute, but is optional - if it's not supplied the 3rd co-ordinate is based on the Earth's radius.)

User Waypoint is my term to differentiate a (usually) information-rich Waypoint from all the other types listed here. User Waypoints are commonly just called Waypoints. They are generated by any software that has a 'Waypoint' tool, or on a live GPS by using the 'Mark Point' facility. Some software also generates them as a by-product of the 'Route Tool'. Garmin's Route Tool (in Mapsource) uses existing User Waypoints wherever possible, in preference to Map Points, but it will also generate a new User Waypoint if there is no pre-existing User Waypoint or Map Point that it can use (eg, when drawing a route across country). User Waypoints are usually displayed as a blob or dot, or assigned a symbolic marker such as a flag.

route (NB no uppercase) is the general term often used for a way of getting from one place to another. Not to be confused with the GPS-specific definition of a Route (NB initial uppercase) which follows ...

Route (NB initial uppercase) is a term for a collection of Routepoints, listed in the order in which they are to be visited. It is usually displayed as a line joining the points.
A Route is invariably produced by drawing or generating in software.

Track is a term for a collection of Trackpoints, listed in the order in which they were written. It is usually displayed as an apparently wiggly line. It can be broken, consisting of one, two or more Track Segments which again are listed in order.
A Track is often produced by recording the progress of a moving GPS - sometimes referred to as a 'breadcrumb trail'. In this case each Trackpoint will usually carry a timestamp and elevation.
A Track can also be drawn, or generated, in software. In this case it usually (but not always) just plain minimal Trackpoints.
Where a Track is drawn in software, one fundamental difference between a Track and a Route is simply the frequency, or the average distance between the points - Trackpoints would generally be less than 200m apart on average (usually much less, more like 50m or less), whilst Routepoints would generally be further apart than that (typically 1000m or more, on average).

Course is a word that has been hi-jacked to refer to a variant of a Track (or Route??) or a collection of Tracks, in which the points include timestamps and possibly additional data, and are formatted somewhat differently from the GPX standard.

Routepoint is my term for a Waypoint that is more correctly called a Via Point. This is a point that is part of (ie contained in) a Route. (One implication of this is that the Name must be unique within that Route, but if there are 2 or more Routes, Routepoint Names need not be unique overall.) Routepoints/Viapoints are commonly just called Waypoints. Routepoints are generated by software that has a 'Route' tool or 'Create Route' option. The tool may or may not simultaneously generate User Waypoints (see below).
This is a common use of the term 'Routepoint' and it's how I use it in all these pages. However Garmin use the term 'Via Point' to describe this type of point, and they reserve 'Routepoint' to describe an intermediate point on a Route generated as part of an autorouting process, used to make the Route line follow the roads - in a Garmin GPX file these appear as GPXX or 'extension' points.

Trackpoint is a Waypoint but it doesnt even need a Name field. It can therefore be a very 'light' point. To be a viable point, it has to be part of a Track (or to be pedantic, contained in a Track Segment). Trackpoints are generated by any software that has a 'Track' tool or 'Draw Track' option, and more especially they are generated by a moving GPS as a 'breadcrumb trail'.

Coursepoint is very similar to User Waypoint (see above)

Via Point is another (more correct) name for a Routepoint (see above).

Map Point is a point (not strictly a waypoint) that constitutes an element of a vector map. Like any other point, it can be information-rich and Garmin's system makes extensive use of this information to generate navigational hints. Garmin's Route Tool uses Map Points wherever possible, copying them in preference to generating new User Waypoints.
Obvious Map Points are things like road junctions, but they also exist on roads as intermediate points which are not obvious to the naked eye.

Gpoint is a term for any point displayed on, or part of, a Google Map.

POIs or Points of Interest are very similar to User Waypoints but are stored as named collections (such as 'Transport', 'Hotels', etc). POIs are embedded in some maps, each collection acting rather like a map overlay. POI collections can be downloaded from the Internet or generated using a free software tool supplied by Garmin. POIs are used extensively by the GPS 'Find' facility.

Geocaches are very similar to User Waypoints but with specific data fields that mark them out as Geocaches. They are used to mark the locations of 'buried treasure' to give people a raison d'etre for travelling with a GPS. There are several such locations within walking distance of where you live. Geocaches can be downloaded from the Internet, and the GPS has a special page to handle them.

Francis Cooke

Some basic stuff:
Living with a Garmin: Etrex Basic Setup
Definition of Terms eg Route, Track etc
Living with a Garmin: Battery Runtime and Etrex Jitter
Living with a Garmin: The Waypoints Limitation
Living with a Garmin: The Follow Road Trap
Living with a Garmin: The Circular Routes Problem
Living with a Garmin: Declutter the Page Sequence
Living with a Garmin: Living with Mapsource Maps
Living with a Garmin: Waypoint Naming (for direct-style routes)
Living with a Garmin: Colour your Tracks and Routes
Living with a Garmin: Create a Route on the GPS
Top 5 GPS Tips (pdf) reprint of Arrivee article published Feb 2007
Some GPS FAQs web version of Arrivee article published Nov 2008
NEW - Garmin Etrex 20/30 essays:
Etrex 30 review reprint of Arrivee article published Jan 2012
Etrex 20 & 30, Basic Setup
Taming the Etrex 20/30: Restore the 'Page' key.
Living with a Garmin: Show on Map (Tracks)
Dakota 20 review reprint of Arrivee article published Feb 2010
Living with a Garmin: Waypoint Naming and the Dakota 20 / Etrex 30
More Garmin essays - not-so-basic:
Garmin Etrex C Menu Map (pdf, July 2008)
Living with a Garmin: Full Reset
Living with a Garmin: Track, Route or Autoroute
Living with a Garmin: Three Ways to Beat the Waypoint Limit
Living with a Garmin: Three Ways to Beat the Trackpoint Limit
Living with a Garmin: Less is More
Living with a Garmin: Add Contours to your GPS Maps
Living with a Garmin: Struggling with GPX  &...  More GPX
Living with a Garmin: Screens you don't see every day
Living with a Garmin: Downgrade your Mapsource
Living with a Garmin: Put an OSM Map on your Garmin
Living with a Garmin: GPS Soak Test files to test your GPS waypoint capacity
OpenStreetMap and Mapsource Add OSM to your Mapsource collection
A Google Maps Workflow Create, Edit, Save, Share and Export a route