Welcome to Desktop Atlas!

Introduction to Desktop Atlas
System Requirements
What's inside Desktop Atlas database?
How to look up?
White spots
Using Google Maps
>> Download Desktop Atlas


Introduction to Desktop Atlas

Sometimes you want to know geographical coordinates of some locality in the world. There are many ways to find this information if the locality you are interested in is rather well-known, i.e. included to common maps and atlases. But if it is not well-known, it is sometimes difficult to find the exact coordinates. In this case you have to either query some full-length resource or just interpolate.

Well, there are full-length resources in the Internet. E.g. you can check at www.fallingrain.com (objects in the whole world), geonames.usgs.gov (objects in US), earth-info.nga.mil (objects outside US). You can search online with these sites. But as normally it takes some time to formulate your query and get the answer, you may once realize that you want to look it up in a quicker manner. Is it possible? Yes. For this the Desktop Atlas is designed and written. All the information is maintained on your local hard drive, so the access to it takes a second.



Desktop Atlas is FreeWare Open Source program distributed under the MIT license.



System Requirements

Desktop Atlas has been tested in Windows XP only. In theory it should work without problem in Windows 95/98/ME/2000 as well, but this wasn't tested. I'll appreciate if you let me know the results of running Desktop Atlas in OS other than Windows XP.

Desktop Atlas databases are stored in SQLite format. The databases require a rather significant disk space on user's HDD. The Desktop Atlas executables require a small disk space. Check the Download section for actial file sizes.




There's no installation program. All Desktop Atlas distribution files are self-extracting archives. Just download Desktop Atlas and one of its available databases, collect all files from the downloaded archives into the same directory and run Atlas.exe.



What's inside Desktop Atlas database?

The Desktop Atlas database is based on the open data published by National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). These data use US FIPS 10-4 administrative and territorial division. The Desktop Atlas database fully inherits this division, so please don't wonder if it is somehow different from the standard accepted in your country.

The mentioned sources contain geographical coordinates not only for populated places, but also lakes, mountains, important roads, even underwater objects... Certainly it would be very nice to access all this information from a local hard drive, but... it would require tonnes of disk space. For many potencial users such an approach would be inacceptable. Therefore a compromise solution is implemented: the Desktop Atlas database contains information only about populated places. But in return these are almost all populated places in the world, of them are even split into districts.



How to look up?

It's easy. Type a few letters of the locality name you are searching for in the edit box until the grid is filled. Use shortcuts to copy information. (Press F1 to list the available shortcuts.)

As we are looking up objects located in different parts of the world, I expect the question about the search language. Well, it's easy again. The toponymic information is stored in database using only the ASCII-127 characters. So you always do your search in English. All non-English toponymic information is either translated into English or transliterated. The most part of this work is initially done by the providers of the original data.

Nevertheless I had to correct the toponymic information partly in order to reduce the names finally to ASCII-127 set. If you want to know what was corrected and how, you can download the log-files of the correction process.

Some localities have several names. E.g. the China's capital is represented in Desktop Atlas database with the following names: Beijing, Beijing Shi, Pei-ching, Pei-ching-shih, Pei-p'ing, Pei-p'ing-shih, Pekin, Peking, Peping. You may do the search using any of these names, the program will automatically find and display the rest ones. When you copy data to clipboard or file, the program copies the entire set of names.

In the program data grid there's a column called T (i.e. Type). It shows the type of the object name. The type can be one of the following:

C Conventional name
N BGN Standard name
P Provisional name
H Historic name
D Not verified or daggered name
V Variant or alternate name

Additionally you can filter the result set by the Unique Region Identifier. URI consists of up to 6 characters. The first 4 characters represent the standard FIPS 10-4 region code. The last two characters, if present, are specific to Desktop Atlas and may change in future versions. E.g. if you want to search localities only in US California (CA), you may set the URI search field to US06.



White spots

While the origin of the Desktop Atlas database is more than competent, there are still many 'white spots' inside.

Sometimes the database contains no link information between a city and its part. Let's see an example. Suppose you are looking up the coordinates of Frankfurt am Main (Hessen, Germany). Most likely you'll type frankfurt in the search line, and the program will show you the object with coordinates 50° 07' 00" N, 8° 41' 00" E. That's a really fine accuracy, but indeed you can miss an opportuninty to have even more precise result. Suppose that inside Frankfurt am Main you need the coordinates of its part called Ginnheim. If you type ginnheim in the search line, you will get these coordinates: 50° 08' 00" N, 8° 39' 00" E. But at database level there's no link between Frankfurt am Main and Ginnheim, so the program can't give you an automatic hint. From my side I can only inform that knowing nuances of this kind allows users to have more accurate result.

There is also a counter-example. As Moscow is the constituent entity of Russian Federation, so there's a link in database between Moscow and all its parts. Therefore when you type a name of part, the displayed result explicitetly tells you that this part belongs to Moscow. (Try e.g. Zamoskvorech'ye.)

There's the following general advice: if you know a name of a particular part of a city, try to start your search with this name. There's a chance that in this case you get more precise coordinates.

You may also face a situation when there are several localities with different coordinates and the same name within a single administrative and territorial entity. E.g. there are over 10 places named Kamenka in Tverskaya Oblast' of Russia. In this case it's difficult to identify the one you need.

The Desktop Atlas Google Maps feature often helps to resolve ambiguity.



Using Google Maps

You can open maps for localities. For this Desktop Atlas uses the Google Maps web service. Select one or more localities in the grid and press the Open Map button (or just Ctrl+Alt+G). The requested maps will be opened in the system web browser. Internet connection is required.

After the first run, on exit Desktop Atlas creates atlas.ini file in the program working folder. You may want to change options stored in this file. Next time Desktop Atlas runs it uses atlas.ini for initialization. Changing values in [Google Maps] section of this file changes the appearance of the opened maps. The following options are available:

MapSizeX The horizontal size of the map in pixels
MapSizeY The vertical size of the map in pixels
MapZoom Zoom level of the map. The recommended value is 14 or 15 if most of the maps you open have a good resolution, 12 or 13 if most of the maps you open have a poor resolution.

The map appearance mode.
1 - Map.
2 - Satellite.
3 - Hybrid.

MapMaxSimultaneousOpen The maximum number of localities the maps for those can be opened simultaneously. If the number of selected localities exceeds the value of this parameter, the map opening is disabled.




All Desktop Atlas distribution files are self-extracting archives.

The Desktop Atlas program version number may differ from Desktop Atlas database version number. It is guaranteed that the versions accessible from this page are compatible. For other versions compatibility please check the update history.

Here are the only latest version links displayed. Other versions can be found here.

Download Desktop Atlas v 0.2.6b (206 KB)

The current database version is 0.2.6b. Desktop Atlas can work only with one database at a time. If you want to use several Desktop Atlas databases simultaneously, you should install several copies of the program into different directories. You may choose among the following databases, at least one must be selected:

Database Description
Packed Size
Unpacked Size
World All populated places in the world, a rather significant file size. If such a size is not acceptable for you, below you can download smaller databases for various world regions. An advantage of a smaller database is a faster search.
67.1 MB
275.0 MB
Africa African countries
9.7 MB
37.0 MB
Americas North, Central and South American countries
13.8 MB
46.5 MB
Asia Asian countries
26.8 MB
106.0 MB
Asia-Pacific Asian-Pacific countries
15.1 MB
60.6 MB
Central America Central American countries
1.1 MB
4.0 MB
Europe European countries
22.5 MB
89.0 MB
Middle East Middle East countries
6.8 MB
26.3 MB
North America North American countries
8.9 MB
26.7 MB
South America South American countries
4.3 MB
16.2 MB
x-USSR The former USSR countries
8.2 MB
31.8 MB

The downloads below are only for your reference. The program happily works without them.

Download Desktop Atlas v 0.2.6b source code (204 KB)

Download log-files of the toponymy correcting process. 686 KB packed. The files are tab-delimited, containing the following columns:

  1. Territory code.
  2. Original name of the object.
  3. Characters to be replaced (hexadecimal format). This field can also be empty.
  4. The name finally used in Desktop Atlas.




Desktop Atlas at SF.net

NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN)

Global Gazetteer