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Preventing Garmin waypoint name truncation

Here's a tip you may find useful. The problems that annoy me most often with my Garmin GPSMAP 276C are:
  1. It truncates waypoint names (even those uploaded to it) to 10 characters, making it difficult to create meaningful names and context indications (e.g. naming a waypoint "Beach Rd+Broadway Blvd" to indicate that crossing).
  2. Direct routed (as opposed to auto-routed) routes can only be built from waypoints. That means to build a route you need to store a whole lot of waypoints you otherwise would have had no interest in.

Here's a single solution to both :-). You'll notice other possibilities may exist, but here's the recipe I use and which works. It involves creating waypoint-less direct routes.

  1. Create Google Earth Placemarks for your route: In an otherwise empty Google Earth folder, create a Placemark for each significant feature, turn, point of interest etc. along your route (yes, we're effectively talking way/via points here). Either create the list in Google Earth directly, or import it from an existing KML/Z or GPX file.
  2. Sequence your Placemarks into a route: Sequence the Placemarks top-to-bottom to represent the order in which they'll be travelled. In other words, the Placemark at the top of the list is the departure point, the next the next, and so forth, and the last the destination.
  3. Save your sequenced Placemarks Right-click the folder containing the waypoints and save it to a KML file. (Do not save as KMZ.)
  4. Do the magic! Use GPSBabel to convert the KML file to a MapSource file. Specify that:
    1. only Waypoints be processed,
    2. that Waypoints be transformed to Routes, and
    3. that source data be deleted after transformation.
Here's an example command line:

gpsbabel.exe -p "" -w -i kml -f "C:\Documents and Settings\fvisagie\My Documents\Navigation\Garmin\Navigation data\WP Home to Office.kml" -x transform,rte=wpt,del=y -o gpx -F "C:\Documents and Settings\fvisagie\My Documents\Navigation\Garmin\Navigation data\WP Home to Office.gpx

The crucial part is step the last one! When you open your output file, you'll notice the newly transformed route, but no waypoints! Because there are no more waypoints, the "route point" names your Garmin now displays won't be truncated! And if you use MPS or GPX as your target file format, Google Earth Descriptions will be retained as "route point" comments.

I tested this with a Garmin GPSMAP 276C using KML source data, GPSBabel 1.3.4 and MapSource 6.13.4. It may also work for other Garmin GPS products, and possibly also for e.g. converting MapSource-authored data to another MapSource file, so feel free to play around. If you do find other models, makes and/or source formats this works with, won't you keep us updated?

Enjoy, Francois Visagie (Contributor of this tip.)