Frequently Asked Questions - Technical
These Frequently Asked Questions provide information about us and our work. If you cannot find the answer you are looking for in the sections above, contact us using the details at the bottom left of each page.
How can I download files and information from the website?
Most of our files and information are available in PDF format. Some files are available in ZIP format. Many computers are set up to handle PDF and ZIP files automatically. If you need assistance, read the questions below.
How do I use PDF files on my computer?
To read PDF files, your computer needs to have the appropriate software installed. The usual software for handling PDF files is Adobe Reader (sometimes also known as Acrobat Reader) which is distributed free of charge by Adobe. If you do not have Adobe Reader software, click on the logo on the right to download a copy from the Adobe web site.
Why does it take a long time to view a PDF map?
Many of our maps contain a lot of detail, and so are very large files. With large files, there may be a considerable delay while the file is downloaded to your computer before anything appears. Many of the maps are also available as GIF and TIFF images - these are much smaller and quicker to download, but do not give such a sharp image.
Why does a PDF map appear in a new window?
Large PDF files often do not appear successfully within a Web browser. Therefore, we have set up our website so that PDF files are opened in a new window, which is much more reliable. Alternatively, you can download a file and then open it:
- right click on the PDF icon for the map you wish to view
- select Save Target As ... (Internet Explorer) or Save Link As (Firefox or Netscape) or Download Link to Disk (Macintosh users) from the drop-down menu
- choose a convenient location to save the file locally
- click save and wait for the file to fully download
- navigate to the saved file, and open it.
What is a ZIP file and how do I use it?
A ZIP file does 2 things: it bundles files into a single container file, and it compresses the contents for quicker downloading. To use the files you need software to un-zip the file. If suitable software is not already installed on your computer, it is widely available from the web. For example, this is a sample listing of suitable software, much of it free.
What is a shapefile and how do I use it?
A shapefile is a file format which is widely used in geographical information systems (GIS) for handling map data on computers. Shapefiles have been developed by ESRI® who produce the ArcGIS set of software products. There are other software packages available for handling shapefiles, some of which are documented (for example) on the OpenStreetMap pages.