If you want to connect your GPS to your Mac but don’t know where to start, we’ve taken a look at the best GPS software for Mac in 2018.
Although there isn’t much available for Mac (and those that exist aren’t updated often) the increase in handheld GPS devices, mobile phone GPS, Garmins, Magellans and TomToms mean that options have increased somewhat.
The problem is that the default software that comes with such hardware is often very limited and basic or at worst, not even compatible with Macs.
Note that if you’re looking for GPS tools to help track sales teams out in the field, you might find our look at sales territory mapping software for Mac more useful.
Here then is our list of the best GPS apps for Mac in order of ranking.
1. TrailRunner Mini
TrailRunner is probably the most popular GPS app for Macs and TrailRunner mini is a slimmed down version designed for runners, hikers and travelers of all kinds. It allows you to plan routes on maps using the free OpenStreetMap service and can import data in GPX, TCX, PWX and KML file formats. This means you import data from apps that use the GPS on an iPhone (such as RaceBunny and Trails) and export them in KML or GPX format. You can then re-watch your travels using GoogleEarth.
Trailrunner Mini basically does a hell of a lot more than the default free software that comes bundled with your GPS device and has a slick OS X interface. Trailrunner Mini is a more user friendly version of the original TrailRunner software which is actually free (although the developer encourages donations if you like his work). If you need to import GPS coordinates and create GPS diaries of your travels, you’ll need the original Trailrunner app. The original Trailrunner app also allows you to import workouts from Nike+ and data from Garmin ForeRunner, Garmin Edge, Sunnto and Polar watches. Note that the original Trailrunner doesn’t seem to be maintained or updated as well as Trailrunner Mini and you may have issues running it on the latest versions of macOS.However, if you’re new to GPS and don’t want a bloated app on your Mac, then TrailRunner Mini is a much better choice. TrailRunner Mini also syncs with TrailRunner Touch for iPhone and iPad.
rubiTrack is a GPS tracker software for Mac focused strictly on fitness or sports although it can easily be used for hiking and other activities. rubiTrack is aimed at runners, swimmers and cyclists to record running routes and document training progress. rubiTrack can import GPS data from Garmin, Suunto, Polar and the cloud through Garmin Connect, Suunto Movescount and Runkeeper directly to your Mac, iPad or iPhone.
You can also sync it with the free rubiTrack for iPhone and iPad app.
The basic version of rubiTrack is free but has limitations such as 30 days Cloud import, limited WiFi syncing and lacks many of the features of the full version such as Weight and Health data import, Bluetooth Heart Rate recording and Weather Info. rubiTrack also has a thriving forum of users and both the community and developers are responsive to problems or issues.
3. GPS Tracks
GPS Tracks is a very popular GPS tracker for iOS which is now available on Mac. GPS Tracks is mainly used for editing and creating routes allowing you to create and edit waypoints, view track statistics and sync all of your coordinates from your iPhone or iPad via iCloud. You can edit and review routes taken with your iPhone on your Mac later, view track statistics and add GPRS grid overlays to maps. GPS Tracks is one of the few GPS apps on Mac that’s been regularly updated by its author so you should find it works on the latest versions of macOS Sierra and High Sierra without any problems.
4. MacGPS Pro
MacGPS Pro is designed to link with professional GPS receivers or smartphone GPS apps. MacGPS Pro allows you to connect to NMEA from many GPS receivers and allows you to create and edit waypoints. MacGPS Pro can read GeoPDF, PRJ & EWW formats for georeferencing and KMZ files from Google Earth. However, the problem with MacGPS Pro is that macOS 10.13 High Sierra will be the last version of macOS that MacGPS works with. This is due to the 32 bit architecture that will not be supported by Apple in future versions of macOS so if you might find yourself stuck in the future as the developer has stated that there are no plans to update it.
RouteBuddy works on both Mac and PC and although it isn’t as slick or user friendly as either TrailRunner or rubiTrack, it has some interesting features. There’s an extensive user guide but most users won’t have the patience to go through the 80 pages or so required to get to grips with RouteBuddy. However, RouteBuddy’s strength is in allowing you to choose from a wide range of maps to use.
It allows you to use Google Earth and Google Maps to track and create routes although it is quite heavily aimed at UK users with an additional 1000 Ordnance Survey GB Map titles to choose from – ideal for ramblers. You can also choose from a range of RouteBuddy’s Topo Maps which are centered around UK sights and locations such as National Parks. RouteBuddy also has an iPhone app to track your routes and sync with the Mac app.
You can of course also create routes and then upload them to your iOS device or upload them to your Garmin device. For British based Mac users, RouteBuddy is a particularly well tailored GPS app.
6. Garmin Express
Garmin Express is Garmin’s free handheld GPS client. Although it’s obviously designed for all sorts of GPS tracking needs on your Mac, Garmin Express is probably the best golf GPS for Mac software and one of the few to support golf GPS on Mac. If you’re a motorist and have a Garmin SatNav such as a Nuvi, you’ll also need Garmin Express to manage your routes and update your maps.
Note that updates can be very large – sometimes several GB so you’ll need a fast internet connection if you want to avoid leaving your Garmin device connected to your Mac all day to update.
LoadMyTracks is a now dated, but still very user friendly and easy GPS app for Mac. It makes it as simple as possible to transfer your GPS data from your device to your Mac. It’s particularly useful for translating data between the Google Earth GPX and KML format. However, it also allows you to create routes and download your completed tracks from your GPS device.
LoadMyTracks is also probably still one of the best GPS apps for Geocaching on Mac with specific support for it. LoadMyTracks supports most major devices and includes Growl notifications. For those that need to work with geospatial data and need to analyze GPS data on their Mac, LoadMyTracks also has a companion program – Cartographica GIS for Mac – which is useful for students or professionals of Graphical Information Systems.
However, the app hasn’t seen any updates in several years and has only been tested up to Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks so you may have problems with the latest versions of macOS.
8. GPSBabel (Free)
Unlike the other applications covered here, GPSBabel isn’t a tracking or navigation software. It’s simply for converting, waypoints, tracks, and route GPS data between Garmin, Magellan and other GPS devices. This is useful if you have GPS data in one format, say on your Garmin device, and want it to be read by a Magellan or other type of device. Or for example, if you’ve been walking or cycling using your Garmin device and want to convert the data into something that can be viewable in Google Earth, GPS Babel can help you.
If you’re not sure whether your device is supported, you should check the list of supported devices and formats. There’s also extensive help documentation to help get you going.
However, if you’re struggling, you can also download HoudahGPS for Mac which is a simplified front end for GPSBablel with a slicker more user friendly interface.
Both HoudahGPS and GPSBabel are free to use although the developers encourage donations.
As you can see, there isn’t a huge selection but these are the best GPS tools for Mac users that are currently available. The biggest problem you’ll probably find is incompatibility with the latest versions of macOS as in general, Mac GPS software isn’t updated very often.
If you have any questions or comments about any of the software featured above, let us know in the comments below.
I use Garmin Basecamp with my Garmin GPS 62s. It is pathetic for uploading topographical maps and installing them on the GPS. Then there is the loading of tracks into the GPS. I see nothing here that would help. Load My Tracks is so basic. Is there no drag and drop software?
Hi Neal, Unfortunately there isn’t any GPS software for Mac that supports drag and dropping into GPS devices. The best you’re probably going to get outside of Garmin Basecamp is probably GPSBabel which can upload and write GPS tracks to Garmin devices although you may find your device isn’t supported anyway. Sorry we can’t be of any more help on that.