User Guide: Marine GPS Chartplotter Software on Devices

marine chartplotter

Marine GPS chartplotter software has revolutionized the way mariners navigate the oceans. Traditionally, mariners relied on physical maps and basic GPS systems that required manual plotting and updates. However, the advent of software-based solutions has dramatically improved the efficiency and accuracy of maritime navigation. This modern technology integrates real-time data, such as weather updates, water currents, and ship positions, directly into digital maps, providing users with up-to-date information essential for safe and effective navigation. The transition from traditional, hardware-dominated setups to agile, software-driven systems reflects the broader digital transformation in the maritime industry, emphasizing the crucial role of marine GPS chartplotter software in today’s navigation practices.

What Is Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Marine GPS chartplotter software represents a pivotal advancement in the field of maritime navigation. By harnessing the power of advanced computing and real-time data integration, this software significantly enhances the capabilities of navigational systems on watercraft of all sizes. As a fundamental component of modern maritime operations, it provides dynamic mapping solutions that are more accurate, versatile, and accessible than traditional hardware-based chartplotters. This transformative technology facilitates safer and more efficient voyages by offering detailed environmental insights and navigational data directly to the fingertips of mariners.

Definition and Functioning of Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Marine GPS chartplotter software is a sophisticated navigation aid used on vessels to integrate GPS data with electronic navigational charts (ENCs). The software displays a boat’s position, chart data, and navigational aids on a digital map, offering real-time situational awareness. Here’s how it works:

  1. Data Integration: It combines data from multiple sources such as satellites and sensors onboard.
  2. Real-Time Updates: Updates its position and map data continuously as the vessel moves.
  3. Route Planning: Users can input and modify routes directly on the digital map.
  4. Automatic Routing: Software suggests the safest and most efficient routes based on vessel’s draft and height.
  5. Overlay Information: Can overlay weather data, tidal information, and other maritime conditions.
  6. Alert System: Provides warnings for potential collisions or navigational hazards.
  7. Touchscreen Interface: Often features a user-friendly touchscreen interface for easier control.
  8. Multifunction Display: Capable of displaying various types of information simultaneously.
  9. Customization: Allows for the addition of custom waypoints, markers, and routes.

Key Benefits of Using Marine GPS Chartplotter Software Over Hardware Chartplotters

The shift from traditional hardware chartplotters to software solutions offers several advantages:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Software solutions often require less investment over time compared to hardware updates.
  2. Ease of Updates: Updating software is simpler and can be done more frequently than hardware.
  3. Increased Accuracy: Software versions often utilize more advanced algorithms for greater accuracy.
  4. Scalability: Easier to scale up with additional features and integrations.
  5. Portability: Can be used on multiple devices like tablets and smartphones, not just dedicated units.
  6. User Interface: Typically features more modern and user-friendly interfaces.
  7. Data Sharing: Easier sharing of routes and maps with other devices and users.
  8. Customizable Displays: More flexibility in how data is displayed and managed.
  9. Integration with Other Systems: Better integration capabilities with other onboard systems like radar and AIS.

Through the adoption of marine GPS chartplotter software, maritime operations are not only modernized but are also made more adaptable to the rapid changes seen in marine environments and technology.

Free vs. Paid Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Choosing between free and paid marine GPS chartplotter software involves weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each option. free marine chartplotter app can be appealing for casual or entry-level users, while paid software often caters to those requiring more advanced features and reliability.

Advantages and Limitations of Free Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Free marine chartplotter software offers several advantages, making it an attractive option for many:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: No initial purchase or subscription costs, ideal for users on a budget.
  2. Ease of Access: Often available for direct download and easy setup.
  3. Community Support: Typically supported by a community of users who provide updates and help troubleshoot issues.
  4. Regular Updates: Free software may offer frequent updates, often driven by an active community.
  5. Cross-Platform Compatibility: Usually available on multiple operating systems, increasing accessibility.
  6. Basic Functionality: Provides essential features sufficient for casual or non-professional use.
  7. Trial Basis: Allows users to explore chartplotting without financial commitment.
  8. Innovative Features: Sometimes includes innovative features quickly adopted by a passionate developer community.

However, there are limitations:

  1. Less Comprehensive Data: Might lack the extensive chart data and detailed marine content found in paid apps.
  2. Limited Support: Customer support can be minimal or slower, relying mostly on community forums.
  3. No Guarantees: Less likely to have the reliability and stability guarantees that come with paid software.
  4. Basic Integration: Integration with hardware and other systems may be limited or non-existent.
  5. Advertising: May include ads, which can be intrusive and detract from the user experience.
  6. Limited Customization: Fewer options for customization and advanced features.
  7. Potential for Bugs: Higher risk of bugs and less frequent debugging.
  8. No Official Certifications: Often lacks certification or approval from maritime authorities.

Features to Look for in Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

When selecting marine GPS chartplotter software, it’s crucial to consider both essential and advanced features that enhance maritime navigation. These features not only contribute to safer and more efficient voyages but also enable mariners to harness the full potential of modern technology. Here, we’ll explore the key functionalities that should influence your choice of marine GPS chartplotter software.

Essential Features of Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

When evaluating marine GPS chartplotter software, certain fundamental features are critical for effective navigation:

  1. Real-Time Tracking: Enables accurate tracking of your vessel’s current location to ensure you are aware of your exact position at all times.
  2. Route Planning: Allows users to plot and edit courses directly on the chart, facilitating easy navigation planning and adjustments.
  3. Chart Overlay Capabilities: The ability to overlay additional data such as satellite images or radar information onto marine charts for enhanced situational awareness.
  4. Automatic Routing: Software that can automatically suggest the safest and most efficient routes based on vessel specifications and current conditions.
  5. Multi-Platform Availability: Availability across various devices and operating systems, allowing consistent access whether on a dedicated marine device or a mobile phone.
  6. Touchscreen Interface: Modern software often features a touchscreen-friendly interface, making it easier to manage while in motion.
  7. Waypoint Management: Users should be able to easily add, edit, and organize waypoints to mark locations of interest or navigate complex routes.
  8. Night Mode: A display option that reduces brightness and changes the color scheme to preserve night vision during evening or early morning hours.

Advanced Features of Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Advanced features can significantly enhance the functionality of marine GPS chartplotter software, offering professional and serious recreational mariners additional tools for precise navigation:

  1. AIS Integration: Ability to integrate with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) to see the position, heading, and speed of nearby vessels to avoid collisions.
  2. Weather Forecasting: Live weather updates and forecasts integrated directly into the chartplotter, providing essential information about wind, waves, and tides.
  3. 3D Chart Views: Offers a three-dimensional view of the underwater environment and surrounding areas, which is useful for understanding complex structures or water depths.
  4. Sonar Support: Compatibility with sonar devices to provide a detailed view of the seabed, aiding in navigation and fishing activities.
  5. Radar Overlay: The capability to overlay radar data over charts for improved navigation in poor visibility or at night.
  6. Video Integration: Some systems integrate video feeds from onboard cameras, which can be helpful for docking or navigating tight channels.
  7. Remote Access: Features that allow mariners to access and control their chartplotter remotely from a secondary device, enhancing convenience and flexibility.
  8. Customizable Data Displays: Ability to customize which data displays on the screen, such as water depth, speed, wind direction, and engine data, to suit specific navigational needs.

Choosing the right marine GPS chartplotter software with these essential and advanced features will not only streamline your navigation processes but also enhance your safety and efficiency while at sea.

Installing and Setting Up Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

The process of installing and setting up marine GPS chartplotter software is crucial for ensuring optimal performance and reliability. This guide will cover the necessary steps to download and install the software across various platforms, as well as provide tips to effectively set up and configure the system for maximum utility.

Step-by-Step Guide to Downloading and Installing Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

To ensure a smooth installation process across different platforms, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the Right Software: Select a marine GPS chartplotter software that meets your navigation needs and is compatible with your device (iOS, Android, Windows, or macOS).
  2. Visit the Official Website: Navigate to the official website of the marine GPS chartplotter software to find the latest version.
  3. Download the Software: Click on the download link appropriate for your operating system. Ensure you are downloading from a secure source to avoid malware.
  4. Run the Installer: Once the download is complete, locate the installer file in your downloads folder and open it to start the installation process.
  5. Follow Installation Prompts: Follow the on-screen instructions. These may vary depending on the software but generally include terms of service agreement, installation location, and any necessary component selections.
  6. Complete Installation: After following the prompts, complete the installation process. If required, restart your device to finalize the setup.
  7. Open the Software: Open the software to ensure it installed correctly. The first launch might take longer as it initializes settings.
  8. Register/Activate the Software: Some marine GPS software may require registration or activation with a product key or an account setup.
  9. Download Additional Maps and Data: Depending on your navigation needs, you may need to download additional maps or updates available within the software.

Tips for Initial Setup and Configuration to Maximize Utility

Once your marine GPS chartplotter software is installed, configuring it properly is key to harnessing its full potential:

  1. Update Software and Maps: Ensure that both your software and all maps are up to date to benefit from the latest features and corrections.
  2. Configure Basic Settings: Adjust basic settings such as units of measure (metric or imperial), date/time format, and language according to your preference.
  3. Set Up Vessel Details: Enter specific details about your vessel, including size, draft, and preferred routes, to tailor the software’s navigation algorithms.
  4. Customize the Display: Adjust the display settings like brightness, color schemes, and map orientation to suit different lighting conditions and personal preferences.
  5. Enable Essential Overlays: Activate important overlays such as weather data, AIS information, and radar for enhanced situational awareness.
  6. Plan a Test Route: Before setting out, plan and review a test route to familiarize yourself with the software’s routing capabilities and interface.
  7. Set Up Alerts and Notifications: Configure alerts for depth, speed limits, and proximity to designated waypoints or hazards.
  8. Integrate Other Devices: If applicable, integrate other navigational devices such as sonar or wind sensors to enrich the data available on your chartplotter.
  9. Review Safety Settings: Ensure all safety settings are configured correctly, including man-overboard functions and emergency location broadcasting.
  10. Regularly Backup Your Data: Regularly backup your routes, waypoints, and settings to avoid data loss in case of a system failure.
  11. Seek User Support if Needed: Don’t hesitate to utilize customer support or community forums provided by the software developer for any troubleshooting needs.

By following these steps and tips, you can effectively install and optimize your marine GPS chartplotter software, enhancing both your navigation capabilities and safety on the water.

Using Marine GPS Chartplotter Software on Different Devices

Marine GPS chartplotter software has become an indispensable tool for navigators, available across a variety of devices including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Each device type offers unique advantages for marine navigation, but also presents specific challenges that need careful consideration, especially across different operating systems.

Optimizing the Use of Marine GPS Chartplotter Software on PCs, Tablets, and Smartphones

Using marine GPS chartplotter software effectively across various devices involves understanding the strengths and limitations of each platform:

  1. Choose the Right Device: Use PCs for complex route planning with larger displays, tablets for a balance between portability and functionality, and smartphones for quick access and convenience.
  2. Adjust Screen Settings: Enhance visibility by adjusting the brightness and backlight settings, especially useful on tablets and smartphones used outdoors.
  3. Use External GPS Receivers: While PCs and some tablets may require an external GPS receiver for accurate positioning, ensure it’s correctly configured with your device.
  4. Optimize Battery Usage: On smartphones and tablets, activate power-saving modes when using GPS features to extend battery life during long trips.
  5. Secure Device Mounting: Securely mount tablets and smartphones on your vessel to ensure stability and visibility, and prevent damage.
  6. Utilize Touchscreen Features: Make use of pinch-to-zoom and swipe functions on tablets and smartphones for easier chart navigation.
  7. Regularly Update Software and Maps: Keep your GPS chartplotter software and offline maps updated to ensure you have the latest navigation data and software improvements.
  8. Configure Notifications: Set up audible and visual alerts for important notifications to ensure they are noticed despite background noise typical in marine environments.

Special Considerations for Operating Systems

Different operating systems require specific considerations to maximize the effectiveness of marine GPS chartplotter software:

Windows 10

  1. Compatibility Check: Ensure your marine GPS software is compatible with Windows 10, particularly after major updates.
  2. Use Dedicated Navigation Software: Opt for software that is specifically designed for maritime navigation rather than general GPS apps.
  3. Configure Privacy Settings: Adjust location tracking and privacy settings to ensure uninterrupted GPS functionality.
  4. Multi-Tasking Capabilities: Utilize Windows’ ability to run multiple applications simultaneously, such as marine GPS software alongside weather apps.


  1. Check App Permissions: Regularly update permissions to access location, storage, and other necessary services.
  2. Optimize for Touch: Ensure the software interface is optimized for touch controls common in Android devices.
  3. Manage Battery Usage: Android devices vary widely in battery life; select settings that minimize GPS and screen drain.
  4. Screen Calibration: Calibrate the touchscreen for accuracy, especially if used in wet conditions.


  1. Use Apple-Specific Features: Leverage features like ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ to avoid distractions.
  2. Integration with Other Apps: Ensure the software integrates well with other navigation-related iOS apps like weather or tide charts.
  3. Privacy and Security Settings: Regularly manage app permissions and location services settings for optimal performance.
  4. iCloud Integration: Utilize iCloud for backing up and syncing navigation data across Apple devices.
  5. Regular Updates: Keep both your iOS and marine GPS app updated to utilize the latest features and maintain compatibility.

By addressing these considerations, you can ensure that your marine GPS chartplotter software performs optimally, regardless of the device or operating system, enhancing both safety and efficiency in your maritime adventures.

User Reviews and Recommendations for Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Recommendations Based on Specific Needs

When choosing best marine GPS chartplotter app, it’s important to consider the specific type of boating activity:

Coastal Cruising:

  • Feature-Rich Interface: Software with easy toggling between different data overlays like weather patterns and marine traffic.
  • High Detail Maps: Software that provides in-depth charts with updates on local marinas, dock facilities, and shallow waters.
  • Route Customization: Ability to easily modify routes as cruising plans change.

Offshore Navigation:

  • Robust Weather Tracking: Look for software with advanced weather forecasting tools to plan around storms and severe weather.
  • Global Chart Availability: Ensure the software includes comprehensive charts covering the extensive offshore areas you plan to navigate.
  • Advanced Safety Features: Software that includes collision avoidance systems and deep-water contour overlays.


  • Bathymetric Data: Software that offers detailed contour lines and depth shading to identify fishing hotspots.
  • Integration with Sonar and Radar: Ensures that you can connect your software directly to onboard sonar for real-time fish tracking.
  • Customizable Waypoints: Allows marking and returning to proven fishing areas.

General Recommendations:

  • User Community and Support: Choose software with an active user community for shared tips, tricks, and advice.
  • Hardware Compatibility: Ensure the software is compatible with your boat’s existing navigational systems.
  • Ease of Use: Software should have an intuitive interface suitable for quick learning and ease of use during navigation.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Consider both upfront costs and any ongoing fees for chart updates or added features.
  • Trial Offers: Opt for software that provides a trial period to test its features before making a full commitment.

These recommendations aim to guide users in selecting marine GPS chartplotter software that best fits their maritime activities, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable experience on the water.

FAQs about Marine GPS Chartplotter Software

Can I Use My Phone as a Chartplotter?

Yes, you can use your smartphone as a chartplotter by installing marine navigation apps. These apps transform your phone into a capable navigation tool that can rival traditional chartplotters. This setup is particularly useful for casual boaters or those who prefer not to invest in specialized equipment. However, it’s important to ensure that your phone is equipped with a GPS that can operate without an internet connection, and that you have access to updated marine charts. Additionally, considering the battery life and environmental protection (like waterproof cases) for your device is crucial when using it in marine environments.