The GPX, or GPS Exchange Format, is an XML schema designed for the interchange of GPS data between applications and web services. Introduced in 2002 by Topografix, GPX quickly became the de facto standard for lightweight, interoperable GPS data files. The beauty of GPX lies in its open format and human-readable XML structure, allowing for the easy exchange of waypoints, tracks, and routes.
How GPX Works
GPX files encapsulate geolocation information within XML tags, where each tag represents a GPS entity such as a waypoint (a single point on a map), a track (a series of connected points, or breadcrumb trail), or a route (a prescribed path). This hierarchical structure makes it simple to create and consume GPS data programmatically. GPX files can be used in a variety of contexts, from documenting hiking paths to sharing cycling routes. They're also easily convertible, enabling data transfer to other formats for further manipulation.
Software That Uses GPX
Many applications support the GPX format, ranging from professional GIS (Geographic Information System) software like ESRI ArcGIS to consumer-grade mapping services such as Google Earth and Garmin devices. Outdoor activity apps like Strava and AllTrails also utilize GPX for tracking and sharing routes among their user communities.
Alternatives to GPX
While GPX remains a popular and versatile format, several alternatives offer various advantages. KML (Keyhole Markup Language), for example, is a more complex XML-based format developed by Google for Google Earth, providing additional annotation and visualization features. Another format, GeoJSON, is gaining traction for its simplicity and compatibility with web technologies, making it a favorite in web-based mapping applications.