The Digital Forest - An Increasing Number of Apps Allow Landowners to… Skip to main content


The Digital Forest - An Increasing Number of Apps Allow Landowners to Better Manage and Enjoy Their Forestland


Written by Chris Miller
This article ran in the November/December 2018 issue of Forest Landowners Magazine

Smart phones have become ubiquitous, integrated for better or worse into all aspects of life, including forestry where there are smart phone apps for most everything imaginable.

Admittedly, most forest lovers go into the woods to escape from digital distraction. But there are tools that can enhance the experience. Here are five smart phone applications especially useful for landowners:


The iPhone includes a native app standard called “Compass”. This application contains a digital compass laid out in Azimuth format. The phone is able to do this because it has a built in magnometer. In addition to the compass function, it also has a built in altimeter so you know your elevation, as well as latitude and longitude location. This can be helpful for navigation or quick elevation estimates (as long as you have GPS reception).


LandGlide is a paid application that allows on-the-go users to view county tax parcel boundaries and records on their phone. This function can be very helpful for land professionals who are interested in quickly determining the owner of a property as they drive by or an adjoining parcel. Using the phone’s internal GPS, the app will show your location on the screen in relation to the property boundaries. This can also be helpful for approximate boundary locations or tract navigation. The back ground of the map is a standard street layer, satellite imagery, or USGS topo map. Currently, this application cost $10 per month or $100 annually. LandGlide has coverage over most of the United States and the application comes with a free 7-day trial period to test the parcel boundaries in your area of interest. LandGlide is available for iPhone or Android devices.


Vtree is a free application from the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Education at Virginia Tech University. The application assists users in the field with plant identification. Vtree contains 969 woody plants from North America, with an in depth description, range map, and thousands of color images—including leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs, bark, and form. The app bases the species results on your location from the internal GPS on your phone to narrow down the possibilities. You can further filter options by answering a series of questions. Vtree is a great resource, especially for those already familiar with the basic process of tree identification.

Dark Sky

Dark Sky is a paid weather application. Dark Sky has great visuals and minute by minute predictions--you can view up to date forecasts for the next hour, day or week. If permitted, it will also send you push notifications to your phone or watch minutes before it starts to precipitate so you are not caught by surprise. You can also create custom notifications that are sent to you covering the weather in a specific area for the next 24 hours. The application has a one-time cost of $4.00 to purchase and is available for iPhone and Android devices. While it is a paid app, it is convenient to have the weather information on the screen without advertisements.

Geo Measure Area Calculator

Geo Measure is a free measurement app that allows the user to measure distances from points of interest and areas using satellite photography. The user can measure manually by tapping on the screen and dropping markers at turns or by using your phone’s internal GPS to track your movement as you walk along a perimeter of a given area. You can choose from several background options--street view, satellite, hybrid, or topo/terrain. The app allows the user to take a screenshot photo of the drawing to save or export of your area or line in KML file format, which can be used in google earth or other mapping programs. While the application is free, there are paid in-app advertisements, those advertisements can be removed by paying a one-time paid fee of $2.99.