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Thread: Using custom POIs to get around limited waypoint capacity in the GPSr

  1. #1

    Using custom POIs to get around limited waypoint capacity in the GPSr

    Using custom POIs to get around limited waypoint capacity in the GPSr

    It is now possible to download whole databases of GPS waypoints that can be very handy for route planning. For example, the Queensland Main Roads Department provides files listing more than 500 roadside rest areas and scenic stops including their facilities (free from

    There are a few limitations:

    1. Some databases are highly verbose, with names and comments too long for use as waypoints or POIs (e.g. the info needed by a motorist is lost among the Main Roads administrative details).

    2. The databases are typically in a spreadsheet format (such as csv) that MapSource can not import.

    3. You will quickly exceed the limit for transfer of waypoints to a GPSr (1000 waypoints for the GPSMap 60Cx, which is typical of hand-held GPSr units). Instead you can use the much greater capacity of many GPSr units for points of interest (POIs). Capacity varies, but many GPSr models can handle tens of thousands of POIs. You probably have lots of capacity for POIs beyond those included in installed map sets.

    Here are the ways around those limitations:

    1. Filter out the chaff from the csv file. This may not be needed if the csv file was prepared for your purpose. It can become a pain if there is a lot of unwanted text in the file. But if you are familiar with functions like ‘Search and Replace’ and ‘LEFT(cell reference ,num_chars)’ in MS Excel or another spreadsheet or database program, you can more quickly get the key information down to the limited number of characters that can be stored in your GPSr.

    For the 60Cx the stored length limits are:

    Waypoints:- 14 characters for name plus 30 for comments

    POIs:- Up to 2 lines for name plus 4 lines for comments (at about 18-30 characters per line).

    Longitude and Latitude need to be in WGS84 decimal degrees format (ddd.ddddd; negative numbers for West and South). You need to keep the data in four columns (Longitude, Latitude, Name, Comment). Don’t use commas within the data fields, because you need to…. Save the file in csv (comma-separated values) format when you have finished filtering.

    If you want to get fancy with things like line breaks or speed alerts in POIs, see these sites:

    2. Convert to gpx format for use by MapSource. Various programs can convert from csv to gpx file formats. A simple converter is GPXtoPOI (free but hidden among things you do not want to click at More formats are converted by GPSBabel (free or donation at A popular free editor/converter is Extra_POI_Editor (

    Once you open the gpx file in MapSource you will see that it has your list of waypoints with comments. At this stage you may find it useful to assign a desired symbol (perhaps from your custom waypoint symbols) and a Category to all these waypoints. This can be a big help in managing large numbers of waypoints later, when you want to transfer a subset to your GPSr (see section 4 below).

    Select all the waypoints (Ctrl A in the waypoint tab, wait while it responds if there is a long list) then right-click, select Waypoint Properties and assign your chosen Symbol and Category from the drop-down lists. I used MS Paint on the rest area symbol (24x24 pixel bmp file) provided by Main Roads, to resize at 16 x 16 pixels and save in the 256 colour bmp format required for use as a custom waypoint symbol in MapSource and the 60Cx. I also made a Category for "Rest Area POIs" in MapSource > Preferences > Waypoint Categories. You can have up to 24 custom waypoint symbols and 16 named waypoint categories (and it will be simpler to use just one or a few of these for POIs).

    3. Transfer POIs to your GPSr. In the GPSr, you can do just about anything with a POI that you can do with a waypoint (including search and navigate), except for editing it directly. To edit POIs, you have to use a computer. So transfer all of those useful "fixed points" as databases of POIs, and save your limited waypoint capacity for points you might want to edit more frequently.

    POI Loader (free from Garmin at lets you transfer POIs saved in .csv and .gpx files from a specified folder (also known as a directory) on your computer, to a compatible GPSr. You might have downloaded POIs in csv files from the internet, or put together collections of waypoints in MapSource that you prefer to send to your GPSr as POIs (in which case you will have used Save As > gpx in MapSource).

    POI Loader takes one or more csv or gpx files (in all subfolders under the folder you specify when prompted), and combines them as databases in a file called poi.gpi that is sent to the \Garmin\Poi folder in your GPSr (typically on the microSD memory card). In your GPSr, this creates under 'Find' an icon for ‘Custom Points of Interest’. Any time you repeat the exercise, the poi.gpi file is overwritten.

    POI Loader also associates a particular symbol with all the POIs in any database, for display in the GPSr, if you have a suitable image file in the same computer folder (e.g. RestArea.bmp in the same folder as RestArea.csv or RestArea.gpx). It makes sense to use the same symbol as you used for that waypoint group in MapSource (in section 2 above). MapSource and POI Loader require separate copies of bmp files, with different names, in Custom Waypoint Symbol versus specified POI folders on your computer.

    4. Use POIs in MapSource without getting them tangled up among active waypoints for transfer to your GPSr. A slight nuisance is that MapSource can not use gpi format files or send POIs to your GPSr. MapSource only knows about waypoints. So you have to keep the gpx files if you want to open them in Mapsource (for route planning on your computer). Also, MapSource can not open subfolders of waypoints from separate files at one time. But you can have multiple instances of MapSource running, so it is easy to copy waypoints from one file and paste them into another to get everything you want visible at the same time. Terrific, except … now you need some simple way to avoid sending all those “POI waypoints” from MapSource to your GPSr whenever you have put them together with your “active waypoints” for route planning.

    That is why you cleverly set up either particular waypoint symbols or particular waypoint categories for your “POI waypoints” in section 2 above! The POIs go to your GPSr via POI Loader. To get them out of the way, just before sending “active waypoints” from MapSource to your GPSr, you can either:

    (a) In the MapSource waypoints tab, sort waypoints by symbol, then select and delete only those with your special POI symbol(s), or

    (b) In the MapSource waypoints tab, choose to 'Show waypoints in category', showing only your special POI category so that it is easy to select them (Ctrl A) and delete them. You can do this for various POI categories (if you made more than one), finally checking that non-POI “active waypoints” remain for Transfer > Send to (your GPSr).

    5. Custom POIs in your GPSr. Custom POIs will show on the map when you zoom in to some level. This setting is controlled in Setup Map > User Waypoints. Turning Declutter on or off will also have an effect.

    For some GPSr models, if you want to get fancy and rename files by accessing the GPSr memory card from your computer, you can use multiple *.gpi files in the \Garmin\Poi folder. This can be handy to have some stable POI’s retained while updating others. After pointing POI Loader to one source folder and creating poi.gpi, you can rename it (for example to RestAreas.gpi). Then you can load and rename further *.gpi files created from other source folders. The GPSr will list all of the POIs in all of the *.gpi files via Find > Custom POI . Or you can go to Find > Custom POI > Select Database for subsets of POIs. The database names displayed in the GPSr match the source files used to create the poi.gpi files (not the names chosen for multiple *.gpi files). For more information about this advanced method see:

    6. By way of example, attached are screen captures of the first part of the Rest Areas csv file in original (verbose) form:
    and in filtered form:

    The attached QLD Rest file has filtered information in gpx format with a suitable form of the icon file.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by R_G_B; 10th February 2010 at 07:16 AM. Reason: Fixed links & typos, added example files

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Gloucester, NSW
    Thank you yet again!
    John k - Garmin Oregon 300, GPSmap76 & GPS16 plus various WinCe PNDs with OziCe & IGO8

  3. Excellent write up RGB

  4. #4

    Example file of QLD rest areas

    While correcting some links and typos in the original post, I have attached a zip folder containing a gpx file with filtered QLD rest area information and corresponding 16x16 pixel bmp icon. They can be used as an example to try the procedures, and/or save time recreating files for anyone specifically interested in compact POIs or waypoints of Queensland roadside rest area locations and facilities.

    I hope they help (assuming the attachment is OK under forum guidelines).

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