The maps and photographs listed presented on the Mapping the Front DVDs are stored as very large image files. The files are fully compatible with all makes of computer so it is not necessary to install any special software, they can be viewed using a large range of image or photo software. The opening of files has not been automated. The idea is to note the filename of interest from the lists and open it using whatever software you choose. Although most computers will be able to open the files on these discs, you may find that older machines may stuggle if there is a limited amount of memory fitted.
NB. The sheer size of many of the maps or photographs may give trouble, depending on the software you have on your machine. Any very basic software designed to view or edit images, like Windows Paint or Windows Picture Viewer, are not suitable as they are designed to handle only small files.
Windows and Apple computers use a system that "associates" a file type (such as the .JPG files on these discs) with a particular piece of software. The actual association changes from one machine to another depending on what software is installed. This means that if you try to open a .JPG file, the software on your machine associated with files of this type will try to open the file. It is assumed you have appropriate software to handle large files.
It is not the intention of this project to provide a comprehensive package, it simply provides material not usually available elsewhere and it is left to users to decide on what software to use.
It is appreciated that most people using these files will require small portions of the images to suit their research. To this end, software that allows cropping or zooming to a window is the most suitable. Image or photo editing software will provide these features, such as Paint Shop Prop, Photoshop Elements or similar. In addition to viewing, zooming etc. this type of software provides facilities to add annotation, change colour intensity, titles, notes etc. This can be of great help in the preparation of maps to suit specific projects.
Should you not have suitable image viewing software already, there is included ER Viewer software from ER Mapper for PCs. It enables images to be viewed at various zoom levels, cropped or printed. Once installed, there is a very comprehensive help file that gives instructions on how to use the program, how to zoom, crop, print etc.. NB. If you have CDs of trench maps from other providers such as the Naval & Military Press, you may find you have ER Viewer already installed on your machine. In this case, it is not recommended that you change this installation in any way as the discs from these manufacturers may stop working. In this case, you can use your existing ER Viewer for the maps on this disc.
The filenames of both maps and photographs are derived from the item's Accession Number as used by the Imperial War Museum. If you visit the museum and wish to view the original item, this number, (without the .jpg file extension) will identify the exact item. If a file is called M_82_001234.jpg, the actual Accessin Number is M.82/1234.
If you are not familiar with Great War maps, please refer to the index maps (included on each disc) or the section on map reading (included on each disc) first. The index maps show the Western Front as a set of numbered rectangles (sometimes referred to as squares). For instance, Ypres is in square 28.
Many trench maps discolour over time. In the IWM collection, the maps show a wide range of paper colour from almost white, yellow, light to medium brown or fawn . Some show a distinctly grey tinge, many are stained. A common colour is a light grey/yellow; it was most likely almost white when new but as the paper is not quite acid free, it takes on this colour with age.
If the maps on this disc are printed on white paper, the background colour of the print will approximate to the original but will use at lot of ink. It is not possible to state the exact colour, two maps of the same date and edition are often seen to be of different colour, reflecting the batch of paper used and the storage environment.
As a large range of colours are available with modern papers, it is possible to make an effective approximation to the real thing. To do this, use paint software to whiten the background or make it transparent, then print on suitably coloured paper. A typical paper is made by Daler -Rowney and is called China White, Canford Paper. This is widely available via art shops etc. It has a similar weight to that used by many Great War maps except that it has no cloth backing.
The paper weight used for trench maps also varied, some is very thin, some is thin paper stuck on a linen backing similar to cheese cloth, whilst others are printed on heavy paper. Copies destined for the trenches were generally printed on the linen backed paper to allowing them to be unfolded and refolded many times but editions of the same map exist printed on different paper.
Trench maps do not conform to the A series of paper sizes. A typical 1:20,000 or 1:10,000 map is slightly larger than A1, so if a full size print is required, an A0 printer must be used. Cropped images will print well on normal Ink-Jet or Laser printers. Some of the earlier maps that have large place names and coloured roads etc. are still easily read if the whole sheet is printed A3. If an accurately scaled print is required, this is achieved by scaling the grid, e.g. for a 1:10,000 map, a 1000 yard square is 1000/10,000 or 1/10th of a yard, equal to 3.6 inches or 91.44 mm.