The default position marker on the map screen of my Garmin Oregon 600 – a little blue triangle – is fine for the pre-installed vector maps, but isn’t that great for working with detailed GB Discoverer Ordnance Survey maps, as it covers your actual position. I’ve used other GPS devices, apps and software with much better markers such as crosshairs or rings.
After a while I realised that I could actually pick from a list of alternatives known as ‘vehicles’:
Setup Map > Advanced Setup > Vehicle > Choose vehicle
However, they proved to be mostly novelty shapes and styles (cars, beachballs, etc), that are even worse for indicating your exact position compared to the default triangle.
My next step was searching for alternative Garmin ‘vehicles’ on the web. This yielded just about every make and model of motor vehicle imaginable, and a vast array of cartoon characters, etc, but only a small handful which actually attempted to show you position more accurately.
After trying a few of these, I was still unhappy (crosshairs don’t indicate your direction), so I set about learning how to create my own. I found some detailed instructions on how to create 3D model animated vehicle files on vehiclesforgarminnuvi.com and from that worked out how to make simpler, non-animated, flat 2D shapes that would work on my Oregon 600.
Some key points
- Each Garmin ‘vehicle’ consists of a .srf file, located in the device directory: /garmin/vehicles/.
- The .srf file is a converted .png image consisting of 36 plan-view position markers (used for ‘North Up’ and ‘Track Up’ map views), and 36 perspective-view position markers (used for the ‘Automotive’ map view).
- Each position marker is centred in a 80x80px area.
- Starting on the left-hand side of the .png image, each individual position marker is rotated 10º clockwise relative to the previous position marker (36 x 10º = 360º of rotation).
- Total size of the .png file is actually 2881 x 160px (there is an extra 1px added onto the right-hand end for some reason).
Step 1 – Creating the png file
I’m used to working with vector graphics, so I used Adobe Illustrator to design my 2D position marker, and then duplicate and rotate it across the 2881x160px canvas (using a 3rd-party duplication filter made this much more straight forward). I hardly ever use the ‘Automotive’ map view on my Oregon, so I fudged the 3D view position markers by duplicating all the 2D versions and ‘squashing’ then vertically. I then exported the whole image from Illustrator as a .png.
Some of my png layouts (click for full size):
Step 2 – Converting the png to an srf file
I was able to do this most easily using the online conversion tool on http://techmods.net/nuvi/ .
This site also has some more detail on the different Garmin .srf file types, and loads of vehicle files to download.
Step 3 – Load onto Garmin device
Copy your new .srf file(s) to the following directory on your Garmin device: /garmin/vehicles/
Step 4 – Test
Picking the best size, colour and shape for my position marker was simply a lot of trial-and-error – creating .srf files, and seeing what they looked like on the Oregon.
As .png files support transparency, I did experiment with some translucent position marker designs, but they didn’t work a expected.
In the end I decided that the actual crosshair part of the design was unnecessary (with a small ring , you can tell where the center is), so the position marker I have ended up using is this:
I have now used this design for a year, and been very happy with it. It contrasts well with the map, so is easy to see, but also closely matches the other symbols on the screen.
You can download the srf file for my v6 white position marker here (1.4mb).
NB: You are welcome to download and use any of my png position marker files, and my v6 white position marker srf file, but please do not redistribute them. Thank you.