Note: Version 6.15.3 of MapSource accidentally dropped support for custom waypoint icons; version 6.15.4 puts it back. Make sure you have the most recent version.
Modern handheld Garmin GPS units with map displays come with an absurd number of icon choices to use when designating and displaying a waypoint. My Garmin 60Cx comes with:
- 18 Transportation
- 12 Markers
- 18 Civil
- 24 Outdoors
- 24 Marine
- 18 Navaids
- 24 Signs
- 24 Points of Interest
But if those aren’t enough for you, or a specific icon graphic you’d like to see isn’t included, it’s possible with many Garmin units (like my Garmin 60Cx) to create your own waypoint icons and upload them to your GPS unit. To find out if your unit supports Custom waypoint icons, create a waypoint, select the icon image, and see if “Custom” as a subcategory of waypoint icons, along with the others listed above:
The 24 icons in the “Custom” category above are the ones that came with the unit as defaults; putting a new one is a fairly simple, albeit tedious, process. First, you need to download and install Garmin’s xImage software, so cleverly hidden on their website that even typing “xImage” into their Search box won’t find it. xImage is actually fairly handy to have even if your unit doesn’t support custom icons, since you can also use it to create screenshots like the one above. With some Garmin GPS units, you can also create and upload your own custom splash screen (not on mine, though).
After installing and running xImage, you’ll come to the screen where you choose to either get an image from the GPS (screenshot or waypoint icon graphic), or send one to it:
The screen (and help file) imply you have to first download an icon from the unit, modify the original, and only then upload it back to the unit. That’s not technically true, but for now I’ll follow their suggested process. Click on Next, and select “Waypoint Symbol” as the image type (the alternate choice is “Screen Shot”, for making a screen capture of your unit’s current display):
Here, you’ll get a list of all the custom waypoint symbol names (24 for this unit, 000 through 023), and can choose which one (or ones) to download to your computer. The colored square is not a representation of the icon, but is instead a representation of the transparent color associated with the icon. For my unit, and I suspect others, that color is purple: 255 Red, 0 Green, 255 Blue. In this case, I have selected Waypoint Symbol 000, and proceeding from here brings up a folder selection dialog i.e. where do I want to put the downloaded icon graphic. The downloaded icon graphic is saved as a file with the same name listed above, as a BMP graphic file, i.e. “Waypoint Symbol 000.bmp”. Here’s what it looks like at real pixel dimensions:
Let me blow that up a bit:
Compare that with the Custom icon images above, and you’ll see that the purple isn’t displayed on the GPS unit’s screen – since purple is the icon’s transparent color, it isn’t visible as part of the GPS icon.
Whatever editing you do to the icon, in order for it to be uploaded back to the GPS unit it has to be in the following format:
- 16 x 16 in pixel dimensions
- BMP file, 256-color (8-bit, not the usual 24-bit; indexed color, not grayscale)
- 96 dpi
- Saved under the original downloaded name (“Waypoint Symbol 000.bmp” in this case)
The first and last requirements are easy to meet, but the middle two can be trickier. Many graphic software programs don’t support saving BMP files in indexed 256-color 8-bit format, and at least one that I’ve tried has problems with it. In Part II, I’ll show what kind of problems you might encounter, talk about free software that can handle the process, and finish the process of creating a custom icon and uploading it to my Garmin GPS unit.