Garmin has gone crazy with the concept of dashboards in their newest beta software which was released yesterday for the Oregon 300/400 and Oregon 550.  Dashboards are widgets which give you the ability to customize the appearance of pages on your GPS.  Prior to this release Garmin had provided five different dashboards to customize the top one-third of Trip Computer page:

  • Recreational: Sunrise/sunset, elevation, trip odometer
  • Automotive: Nuvi-like speedometer, compass and odometer
  • GeocachingNearest: Closest geocache, find count and days since last find
  • Small Data Fields:  Four additional small data fields
  • Large Data Field:  A single big data field, the time, battery and GPS strength

In the 3.41 beta software for Oregon 300/400 and 2.71 software for the Oregon 550 Garmin has added the following new dashboards:

  • Geocaching - Active: Bearing and distance to selected geocache with quick access to description and geocache related functions.
  • Compass:  Miniature version of Compass page
  • Stopwatch:  Start, Stop, Lap and Reset functions.
  • Elevation Plot: Miniature version of Elevation Plot.  Pressing the dashboard takes you to the full page.

Geocaching - Active dashboardCompass dashboard

Stopwatch dashboardElevation plot dashboard

Garmin has also gone one step further and made all the dashboards, both old and new, available on the Map page and the Compass page.  The new dashboards are well designed however the one thing I would like to see is transparent dashboard backgrounds.  They take up quite a bit of screen real estate so it would be nice if the Geocaching – Active, Elevation Plot and Stopwatch dashboards didn’t have a solid background.  Other than this, the dashboards are a welcome update and give you almost infinite flexibility to customize the look of your GPS.  In order to see the dashboard on your map page you need to go to Setup>Maps>Data Fields>Dashboards and select a dashboard from the list.

The second new improvement is around the Elevation Plot.  When you are actively navigating to a destination the right side (blue) of the elevation plot will display your predicted elevation change along that route or track.  The left side of the plot (green) is your actual elevation history stored in your tracklog.  I’m assuming that the predictive side is calculated using the elevation data (DEM) contained within your maps such as the preinstalled topo maps on the 400t and 550t.

Elevation plot with predicted elevation change (blue)

Garmin has introduced some improvements that make track navigation much more powerful.  If you select a Track in your WhereTo? menu you’ll notice that your Active Route and Map include new waypoints called Start Point and End Point as well as the elevation High Point and Low Point (these two don’t show up for all tracks).   In addition, any waypoint that is close to your track will be displayed in the Active Route tool with a distance away and time remaining before your arrival.

Active track on map pageActive Route tool with added waypoints

With this update Oregon 550 owners will notice that waypoint lists display the waypoint symbol ahead of each waypoint name.  Unfortunately the geocaching lists don’t seem to have this same capability.   Geocachers who own the Oregon 300/400 (some more than others!) will be happy to know that they can finally see the earthcache symbol for that increasingly common type of geocache.

Oregon 550 list view with symbols

On the negative side I have noticed a few minor issues and one significant issue:  creating new tracks (Save Portion or Copy Reversed) on the unit does not seem to work any longer.  I’ve reported these to Garmin so hopefully we’ll see fixes soon.   If you want to keep up on the latest issues or have questions, join us at Oregon wiki discussion thread.

And finally — the official release notes from Garmin for these beta software:

  • Added ability to view elevation plot of upcoming active route or currently navigated track in blue.
  • Added Compass, Stopwatch, Active Geocache, and Elevation Plot dashboard options.
  • Introduced dashboard options to the Compass and Map pages.
  • Improved track navigation. Visit http://garmin.blogs.com/softwareupdates/trail-tech/ for more information.