Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: WonderMaps (Bright Ideas Press)

Have you ever been on the hunt for just the right map, found something close, but it had too much or too little information on it for your purposes?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a program where you could change and customize maps to suit your needs for individual studies and projects and spend more time teaching with the maps rather than hunting them down?

Bright Ideas Press’ new WonderMaps program has over 350 customizable maps for your history studies. This very user-friendly software program provides maps in four categories: The World Continents, The United States of America, Historical Maps and Thematic Maps.

What is unique about the program is the layering feature, which reminds me of Photoshop, for each map.  For example, if we were studying our state of Michigan in our homeschool, I would have a variety of options for a map that fit our studies.  Going in to the WonderMaps program, I would first click on The United States of America, then select Michigan from the map. What comes up is a Michigan map labeled with the major cities.  The surrounding states also appear and are labeled with the state name.  From here, I would have several options to modify the map.  I can add or remove the state name, capital name, city names, city locations, rivers and streams, and/or political colors.  If I wanted just a black and white outline map, I would turn off all the above options.  Let’s say I wanted to quiz my kids on the locations of the major cities. In that case, I would turn off the city names, leave the location (the dot for each city), and print off the map. Each map can be altered in a variety of ways based on what options you select.

In the pictures below, you can see the variation of the same map that can be achieved with a few clicks.

WonderMaps includes:
  • 60+ maps of the world
  • 60+ maps of the United States
  • 125 historical maps, including 25 Biblical maps
  • The complete map sets from The Mystery of History vols. I–III and All American History vols. I & II
Aside from the option to customize the maps, the ease of navigation is probably one of the main advantages to the program.  There is no scrolling or flipping through pages, rather the user finds the region or era and narrows down the choices with a series of clicks. To see exactly how the program works and additional features, the tutorial below is extremely helpful.

As someone who has used All American History and who also has The Mystery of History on my shelves, the maps from those texts were a nice bonus.  I do want to point out, however, that those particular maps are not layered or customizable and are just duplicates from the text.  The maps from the All American History Student Activity Book, which are usually the maps from the book minus markings (e.g. an exploration route) are not included.

Some of the categories are more limited than others.  For example, a map for Africa is available, but individual maps of the countries are not.  One may get around this by enlarging the Africa map and adjusting the screen view to show just the country wanted, then selecting “current view” in the print options.

A few maps aren’t as clearly defined as I would like, in that they include bordering countries that aren’t part of the territory, but there is nothing distinguishing it from the featured area.  For example, Mongolia is included in the Oceania map, but there isn’t anything on the map (e.g. colored sections) that show Mongolia (part of Asia) is not part of Oceania. Depending on what is being studied, this may or may not matter.  I use it only as an example that any program has limitations and that the maps aren’t completely customizable, even in ways that may seem simple.

WonderMaps is very visually appealing and easy to use program for map studies. In addition to the customizable features, I like how the maps are categorized, making the sought after map very simple to find. The ability to enlarge and print sections is also very appealing. While there is room for improvement, there is a lot to like about this program. This version of WonderMaps is a first release with an update expected to be released late summer of 2011. 

WonderMaps is available at the Bright Ideas Press website as download and CD versions for $49.95.

Curious about what other TOS Crew members had to say about this product?  Visit the official TOS Crew blog to read more reviews.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

much better review than I penned-I forgot to note the Oceania thing on some maps-and I didn't note what you did about some maps not being there. Hope folks read yours cuz it is good woman! :0)