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GPS devices are wonderfully capable but also complicated for the new user. GPS Primer provides GPS info explained in simple, everyday terms to get you started on the right foot in your travels.

Essential GPS Skills

GPS receivers are amazing gadgets. They do so much cool stuff with every model, that it can get overwhelming. To keep it under control, when you first get your GPS, concentrate on the following three skills. The details of what button to push when vary with the GPS model, so we won't go into that here. When you get your GPS, look through the manual to learn these three tasks. If you can do at least these three, then you will have gotten your money's worth. And once you have these down, you can build upon them as you explore the other neat things your GPS can do.

1. Learn how to enter a waypoint
This gives you some place to go.

2. Learn how to determine your position
You might use the internal map in the GPS, or record a waypoint for use with an external map or software, or some variation.

3. Learn how to navigate
That is, get from where you are to where you want to go. A key thing for a new person to remember is that most basic GPS units do not work well as a traditional compass, where you stand and orient yourself. You must be moving for the GPS to figure out which way to point. So, once you have your destination waypoint chosen, START WALKING to get the GPS navigation feature fired up. There are models that have an internal compass, but they are more expensive at this time.

About software for your GPS. To get the most out of your GPS receiver, you may need to purchase computer software to go with it. The software gives you an easy way to enter and extract information, for example waypoints. Entering waypoints with the little buttons on the unit is doable, but it gets tedious fast. With software, you enter them in your computer or copy them fom a website, then with the touch of a key upload them to your GPS. You can also extract or download waypoints you have recorded on your journey to print them directly on a map. And software may be the only way to upload maps into your GPS receiver for use in the field. Your GPS may come with maps loaded, but they are often limited in detail. The number of detailed maps you can save in your GPS is limited by the memory of the GPS. Units may or may not come bundled with various software or maps that you will need; be certain to reach the product descriptions carefully.