ForeFlight recently released the latest version of its über-popular aviation app and there are changes galore, including some improvements that transform the essential nature of the app.
The overwhelming popularity of the do-everything mobile aviation charting app ForeFlight has prevented some reviewers from identifying the rough spots in the product, but they are there, or at least I should say they were there. With Version 8, the list of things to gripe about—at least as much as one can do with a product that’s so capable and satisfying—has greatly diminished.
Drumroll: First and foremost, ForeFlight 8 now has what are called “data-driven” maps. This is a huge deal, and it represents a complete redrawing of the way the company builds the app. Data-driven maps aren’t new—both Jeppesen and Garmin have been doing this for a while now with their mobile apps—but ForeFlight has never had them, until now.
A data-driven map is the opposite in every way of a static representation of a map, which is essentially a sophisticated picture of a paper map. You can click on a rendered map and pinch and zoom with it, but its underlying nature is static. With a data-driven map, the map doesn’t really exist at all until you call upon it to be a map. The app then takes all the data that goes into the map info and builds the image into a dynamic view.
This allows ForeFlight 8 to do certain things a static image never could. When you zoom in on a data-driven map, for instance, you don’t get a blown-up picture of the same map, but a whole new map that shows things completely differently. Airspace that didn’t matter so much at great range can be given added details, including highlighting areas, adding data on the screen that you formerly would have had to click on to see, and rotating all the labels so no matter at what orientation you hold the screen, you see everything right-side-up. And it’s fast and silky smooth, too.
One feature I really like is the Smart Airway labels, which are minimized at higher zoom levels, but add data as you move in, showing the heading and MEA data and showing it in a place that makes sense to the eye. Another great new feature is the embedded airport diagram, which really isn’t a diagram at all, but a part of the map, even though you don’t see it when zoomed out. As you approach, ForeFlight will nicely auto-zoom for you as you near your arrival airport. You see your own airplane on the chart—no need to call up a separate airport diagram chart—and all the taxiway and runway data you need to operate safely on the ground.
Another great improvement you’ll see with Version 8 is faster drawing speeds and download times, as the data-driven approach allows for smaller file sizes. It also gives ForeFlight tremendous agility in updating its design. When I visited the company’s engineering headquarters recently, I watched over the shoulder of a map designer as he changed the way the map displayed airport information. It took five minutes. Which is to say that ForeFlight not only improved its app with this latest version, and that’s great news for us users, but it improved its ability to improve the app, which is great news for us users and even better news for ForeFlight itself. • foreflight.com
[sc name=”Resource Box Left” title=”KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR FLIGHTS” content=”When you think of it, it’s a natural, incorporating a logbook utility into your favorite aviation app. After all, the app knows where and when you fly and for how long, so it can keep track of your flying even if you’re one of those pilots who could be better at keeping the logbook up to date. With its feature-packed logbook, ForeFlight has your back. Logbook, while not really new to Version 8 but still worth the mention, keeps track of your flights automatically, yet gives you the ability to add details, like the kind of approach you might have flown on that dark and stormy night. With all this data, ForeFlight does what’s arguably the most important thing of all: keeps track of your currency, including for landings, night flight, instrument flying and currency checks. It also adds the ability to tack photos onto your flight. With everybody having a sophisticated camera in their pocket, we pilots are taking more and better pictures than ever. With ForeFlight, you can tie them into your flight, in the process creating a pictorial history of your flying life. How I wish I had such a logbook chronicling my early years of flying.” ]