Technology

New Road-Trip Reconaissance Software


Need an electronic hand to hold as you plan a cross-country slog or a short drive to a neighboring locale? Try Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002 or DeLorme's Street Atlas USA 9.

Both products work with GPS receivers and can download data to handhelds (Pocket PCs in the case of Streets & Trips, Palms for Street Atlas, though the latter also requires Solus Pro software, $50). Both also feature online updates of road-construction projects. Streets & Trips, $45, has the edge in eye appeal with a clear, polished interface. But Street Atlas, $45, adds a layer of mapping detail that can make a big difference, as I found when I used each product to plan a car journey from Peaks Island, Maine, to the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California.

To test beta versions of both programs, I started by typing a street address as my starting point and a public attraction as my destination. In a matter of seconds, both packages cooked up a complete coast-to-coast itinerary, right down to when I should stop for gas.

The default settings in each program focused on interstate highways nearly all the way, but neither package requires you to accept its quickest or shortest route. In Street Atlas, you may set preferences to avoid or favor highways, toll roads, forest roads, state routes, ferries, and local roads. You may also adjust speed preferences for each road type and show or hide map icons that identify restaurants, gas stations, and other points of interest. Click the Along the Way button to see a list of restaurants and services (including phone numbers but not street addresses, unfortunately) within 1, 2, or 5 miles of your chosen location.

Streets & Trips' preference settings are limited to expressing a strong preference or a strong dislike (with five settings in between) for interstates, other highways, arterial roads, and toll roads. But it does include street addresses for restaurants, gas stations, and points of interest. Both programs cover the United States; Canada is missing from the DeLorme program.

I'd give a few extra points to Street Atlas USA 9, which escorted me all the way across the country from my offshore starting point. Streets & Trips required that I start on the mainland because its planner couldn't factor in a short ferry trip. When you've driven 1500 miles, with 1500 more to go, knowing those devilish details may allow a smoother ride.

BUYING INFORMATION

DeLorme Street Atlas USA 9

(Beta software, not rated)

Unless you're traveling in Canada, this more-flexible, more-detailed software is the better buy.

Street Price: $45

BUYING INFORMATION

Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002

(Beta software, not rated)

Has a good-looking interface and Canada mapping information but provides less detail on U.S. routes.

Street Price: $45

BUYING INFORMATION

DeLorme Street Atlas USA 9

(Beta software, not rated)

Unless you're traveling in Canada, this more-flexible, more-detailed software is the better buy.

Street Price: $45

BUYING INFORMATION

Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002

(Beta software, not rated)

Has a good-looking interface and Canada mapping information but provides less detail on U.S. routes.

Street Price: $45

By Dennis O'Reilly


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