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The Pros and Cons of Avenza and Collector in Forestry

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

November 3rd, 2020 | Authors: Forteck Vice President, Mark Moyer FTT


Curated information is derived from a combination of Forteck crew members with first-hand experience and verified online sources or government sites. We work very hard to provide quality educational information relevant to the forestry industry to promote forestry and the great things foresters can do. Please let us know if you find any misinformation and we will correct it immediately. It takes a village to educate! Thank you for reading and working together in further teaching people about forestry. #forestryproud


Important Apps There are two applications that are often overlooked of their importance in forestry. Avenza and Collector are two critical apps that bring your georeferenced PDFs and spatial data to the field. Each of these applications has its pros and cons but used in combination they give you the tools you need to be successful in the field. Below I will list off what I think are the most important things to consider when using each application in conjunction. 


When Avenza was released in 2010 it enabled users to interact in the real world with georeferenced PDF maps. This changed the game and allowed for a better understanding of spatial data while in the field. Users can now see exactly where they are in relation to the maps they create in mapping software, such as ArcGIS.


  • Free to use (up to three maps at a time without a subscription)

  • Ease of use: Avenza is extremely easy for any novice to pick up and start using

  • A high volume of ready to use maps: Any georeferenced PDF can be used

  • Very optimized: Almost never crashes, Gets the best possible GPS signal from your device

  • Easy to export data that can be used on Google Maps or other free software

  • Layers can be visible on multiple maps at once, as long as they share common areas.

  • Has great measuring tools: One that collector does not have is obtaining an azimuth


  • No synchronization: Data is only local, the only way to access data is by exporting

  • Limited level of detail on the PDF map: The level of detail is based on the level of detail of the PDF. Since collector uses vector data, you can get much greater detail on the base feature you are using.

  • No ways to share live dynamic data and dashboards with your team or clients.


Collector for ArcGIS was released 2 years later in 2012 and had great ambition right at the start by enabling users to synchronize their data across your organization. However, it did not have the smoothest start as there were lots of growing pains along the way. Being able to sync across devices allowed for much easier project management. Multiple field staff can work on the same map while referencing each other’s data capture. The pros and cons that are listed below reflect the latest version being used.


  • Synchronization: The biggest pro with Collector. This allows for easy daily data uploads. Promotes transparency to the client

  • Project managers can do daily QC and effectively communicate with the field staff: Photos, videos, and documents can be attached to points and made visible to project managers or clients.

  • Provides daily metrics for project timelines, financials, and logistics

  • All data is stored in the cloud and on secure servers once synced

  • Allows for better management of large crews working in the same area

  • Tile packages: High detail layers that provide key data to field staff

  • Compatibility with other ESRI services and software: The ESRI “ecosystem” is full of great apps and tools that give you many ways to use your data. The data can be live/dynamic or used once exported


  • Synchronization errors: This is something that causes lots of problems as collector developed over the years. If a device fails to sync it can cause major problems to obtain vital data. This costs time and money. There are far less syncing errors in the later versions.

  • Less measuring tools than Avenza

  • Less optimized: Lots of crashes, Drains battery, Glitchy at times, Various bugs

  • Requires Avenza to run in the background to get a better GPS signal

  • No easy way to manually extract data

It is important to realize how to effectively get the most out of each app while in the field. Each has its strongpoints that work well when used together. We have come a long way from using paper maps, however it is still worth considering to keep a paper copy as they don’t get dead batteries!

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