Downloading Guides (offline mobile downloads - represent a considerable burden on our system.)


So have been using the app and the web interface to explore iNaturalist - both as an educator and as a user.

Realised that the “guides” feature is really cool. And created this one on “Butterflies of Uttarakhand” . This came as a result of people asking how to see only butterflies (for example) - while it is generally easy to filter to taxa using the tools available (on the web interface) - it is not easy for everyone . Further, on the “android app” one can filter to location and the broad categories but one really cannot (atleast I don’t know how) filter to a category (like Butterflies).

That is when the idea popped up to create guides and at the same time saw the “option of an even cooler feature” of having an offline / mobile version show up.

(Note - due to the warning posted there -

“Please do not enable offline mobile downloads unless you actually intend to use them. They represent a considerable burden on our system.”

I did not enable this feature.)

So was wanting to know what exactly happens - and is it feasible to enable it for a short while now and then - download the guide and then make it available offline (via the guides intro page etc or other means)

There is the option to to print (to pdf ) as a book, journal or gallery. This is certainly useful.

However am wondering what the offline “mobile” guide looks like and how much more useful it will be for offline smartphone users (who don’t always have great internet)

Look forward to advice and other thoughts



i looked for the Houston Arboretum Reptile and Amphib guide and downloaded that. it was a 6.9MB download for 40 taxa. then i turned off my internet connections to see what i could do with it.

first, if i don’t have the guide open before i lose my connection, then i can’t get to the guide at all. so that means i have to open the guide while i still have internet, and i have to keep the guide open, which means i can’t use multiple guides offline, and i can’t use the iNat app on the same device to make observations in realtime, unless i invoke the add from one of the guide pages.

second, if i keep the guide open, then i am able to filter by tags, and i can go to the detail pages, but if i try to click on the photo to open a larger version of the photo, i can’t. when i turn the internet back on, i still can’t open a larger version of the photo.

third, mobile guides appear to be limited to displaying 100 taxa at once, and i doubt that downloading the guide helps to resolve that issue. there’s a limit on the website, too, but it’s a higher limit.

i don’t know why iNat says that mobile downloads represent a considerable burden. maybe they have to store the photos in a different (more expensive) storage location in order for you to download them.

whatever the problem is, the mobile guide functionality has clear issues, in my opinion, i don’t think it would be more reliable than a PDF.

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Dear @pisum

Thank you

That is a good over view and unless there are further updates (apparently not) I will just leave it be and circulate the pdf’s and link people to the guide page.

One issue i found is that the guides seemed to be organized only by 3 characteristics

  1. Guide Order - (I don’tt know what it uses - mabe frequency of observation) but this is not according to Taxonomy
  2. Alphabetical by Display Name
  3. Alphabetical By Scientific Name

Which means for the purposes of taxonomic use to help people it is not helpful.

Print has the following options (for 273 taxa)

  1. Grid / Gallery (8 Pages)
  2. Book (135 pages)
  3. Journal (285 pages)

The grid has pictures with the names below and nothing else
The Journal is kind of for people to print and carry and make notes
The book version is quite nice, A Title Name, a Picture, and a short summary of a butterfly (two per page in most cases and in some cases more)

At best i can think of getting colour prints of the gallery only - that too very limited copies - maybe for display. Otherwise it seems inadvisable.

However it shows the best pictures of that particular taxa (or those chosen for the default display in the taxa) and not pictures that are actually from the region .

Because of all these am not even sure circulating the pdf is a great idea since it matches no taxonomic order and may further confuse people. At best it could be used to highlight species that are missing pictures. Or Just to show off the range of species found in a region etc.

I would however send them the link to the guide and let them explore from there as a way of knowing what is around them.


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i believe this is just the order that you add taxa to your guide. i think i remember that back in the day when i created a guide, i could just sort the list of the taxa that i was loading by taxonomy before loading it. so then when it went into iNaturalist, items would be presented near their taxonomic relatives.

in the website, there is a taxonomic filter, but i don’t see it in the Android app. you could add, say, custom tags that represent family, and then you could filter that way, but then if the taxonomy changed in iNaturalist, and you didn’t update your custom tags, it might be confusing.

i’m pretty sure you can select which photos you want to use in your guide. so if you don’t like the default ones, pick ones that you like more (assuming you have the proper licensing, etc.).

the summary is something you can modify, too. if you want to include taxonomy here, that’s something you can do. you’re not limited to the default summaries.

there is a hard limit for number of taxa that you can add to a guide – maybe something like 500, but i don’t remember exactly. but there is also a less well-defined point at which too much data will cause the generated PDF to be incomplete (missing pictures, etc.). so just keep that in mind.

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Thanks @pisum - will note these and follow up

For the taxa i just said select all.

On the side of the guide page it shows the Butterflies ordered by taxa and how many are there in each as well.

Being able to choose pictures from the locality means promoting local observers and encouraging them.


Oooh - so I will need to see that each picture chosen has appropriate licensing - hopefully there will be a “filter” for by license also -

I have a question about using my guides on the app - I download them and they work brilliantly and then the next time I try and open a guide it has vanished , presumably because I clear the cache? Is there any way around that?


even if you download a guide, you can’t search for the guide while offline. so as far as i can tell, to use the guide in offline mode, you have to open it before you lose your internet connection – at least that’s the way it seems to work in the Android app.

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