Many landscape designers and horticulturists now carry smartphones when they are inspecting a new site. Most smart phones have some type of GPS capability. Location data can be easily gathered from applications on a smartphone and used to orient and help orient and create a base plan in CAD software before a visit.

This paper describes a number of examples of the use of smart phones to do just that. In many cases, small applications (Apps) are used in combination with Google Earth and CAD software such as GardenCAD and gCADPlus, GPSTrack, Th​eodolite, Google Earth, NearMap, applications


This small application is available for the iPhone. It enables an iPhone user to capture the latitude and longitude at any desired location. The figure below shows the IPhone screen and the shortcut to the App together with a copy of the first screen page in the App. Note the information available - latitude, longitude, sample time, elevation etc.

iPhone OpeningScreen

In this instance, tracking has been started and the Stop Tracking option is about to be selected.

Switching the view to 'Map' shows the location superimposed over a Google Earth images. This image (and others showing the complete house block) can then be emailed from the phone to the designer's home base email address while they are on site.


In the figure above, the blue dot represents my position on a rather dry lawn area and the photo below is of a River Red Gum that dominates the scene where I am standing. This specimen will have a major impact on any landscape design concept for the site so it is an important piece of base information.


The smart phone camera can be used to capture other site information.

Another iPhone application - Theodolite enables height and triangulation measurement to be taken.




GPS Track (and Theodolite) also generates a Google Earth KLM file - a geo location file which accurately locates the site in Google Earth. This data was also emailed 'back to base' while on site.

Google Earth

Once back at base, a designer can start Google Earth, use File>Open and 'fly' directly to the site. The image below shows the site in Google Earth.

Site view

Once Google Earth is running 'back at base', it is possible to zoom in accurately on the site and adjust tilt, viewing angle and magnification as shown below. The resolution is certainly good enough to develop a concept plan in the GardenCAD environment.

Adjsut tilt

The data above and CAD software - gCADPlus

We start a copy of CAD software (an application designed specially for use by landscape designers) and paste the image into gCADPLus (on its own layer), scale the image appropriately, trace over boundaries and place a new design in the rear part of the property.

First the footprint of the house is traced (shown in green in the image below).

Trace House

Once that is done, the Google Earth image layer turned off to reveal a base plan with house footprint showing.

Base Plan

Remembering that this project is to be a quick concept, we align the drawing on the page and place a north indicator and one of our stock concept plans into the area at the rear of the site. [A concept plan block is simply a separate gCADPlus drawing - one we developed for another client and one that we know will work well enough to provide some talking points for a future discussion with the client].


We developed a new gCADPlus Layout Page, copied the design to that page, added a logo and site information, printed to a PDF file and emailed the concept to the client. All done in less than an hour; thanks to Google Earth, a smartphone App and gCADPlus.


Printing this sheet to PDF gives a nice result. The client can use the standard viewer - Acrobat Reader- to magnify any part of the design, print any zone and add comments. The image below shows part of the concept drawing given to the client.


We have achieved our aim - worked efficiently to provide a potential client with an idea of the design services we offer and worked completely in a digital world - no trees were cut down to present the design.

Turbocharged design