I have always seen navigation software as a good way to plan a trip ahead of time and since I was a truck diver, I have not been too fond of the GPS in the past as it will lead you down some roads you don’t want to be taking a big rig down. I was pleasantly surprised with Delorme Street Atlas USA software letting you focus on a route that works for you and never felt the need to try MS Streets and Trips before. It seems like Delorme has tried to become a little more like Streets & Trips over the years, but was slow at times if you wanted to install all of the business and POI information. But I like like having that option. Now that I have had my mind cleared of Delorme software for a few years, I can take a fresh look at Streets & Trips and see what it’s like joining “the others” who swear by it and wondered why I would use Delorme (or just had no idea what it was).
Like Delorme, I dove in without instructions and found my way around. You have to use instinct and survival skills sometimes (or admit you’re a typical man and have no idea what you are doing and don’t like to ask for directions or having someone tell you to read the manual, so that’s not an option). Some things I really love, like flipping through different views by scrolling with the mouse. This makes it so you don’t have to keep going back to a dropdown and selecting, and I always appreciate it when you can expect to find some kind of right click menu or feature without digging around for it in menus.
Setting the route is much like Google Maps or any other online mapping service. It seems the intention of Streets & Trips 2011 is to bring the online experience with you on the road when you don’t have internet access. You can also search for nearby services and points of interest, restaurants, lodging, etc. From the standpoint of how many things have become common to find through free online services like Foursquare, I was a little disappointed to see very little locally showing up so noticed I wasn’t online in a few minutes. No gas stations, restaurants, parks, libraries, car repair, etc. I live in a small town so don’t expect a lot of stuff to be here, as you will see it when you drive by and hopefully have a reason to be here to begin with. But it would be nice to know if I were lost that I could see that a gas station was not too far away. There are three of four gas stations within 5 miles from me but there’s a lot of roads that go on for 20 miles to get to larger towns. If someone were on one of those roads and had an emergency, they would only find a campground and a library. Not real helpful. Seems like Delorme used to have so many different places, I had to turn them off. When I zoom in on Streets & Trips, looks like there’s a park where I know there’s a major fuel & food exit on the highway and it’s not there. These things should show up by default, on the map.
What I liked the most was the night view. I’ve driven around a lot of night both by car and truck with my laptop and Delorme Atlas running. I had to make a special theme for my computer and turn the brightness way down so it was distracting. This looks really good and is darker than I could get it to be and yet since it is an intentional design, the map lights up well in a “night vision green” color.
One thing that will be useful for many who are hauling trailers or moving is the terrain view. You might want to plan on extra fuel, making sure your brakes are checked before going over the mountains, be ready for snow, and bring extras in case of an emergency.
Planning multiple stops is as easy as it is with Google Maps, of course.
The night view, and how incredibly fast and easy this is to use is well worth the $40. Like Delorme, you can add a locator to make this a real time GPS.
On the Streets & Trips website, there are videos and a demo if you would like to try it out. I myself would like to see what Microsoft Map Point is like as I like to feel like I have a complete resource at my fingertips and can plan and research as much as possible before jumping into a trip. I felt Delorme software delivered that more.
It is really amazing that I haven’t had to get out a real map in more than 5 years thanks to software like Delorme Street Atlas USA and Microsoft Streets & Trips. $40 is a great deal for this, and being able to download it if you need it tonight for tomorrow’s sudden emergency trip is a convenience that is noteworthy.
I believe they have still have some competition with Delorme especially with the current going prices, but this will appeal to the crowd that likes to use Google Maps and it should run much smoother and faster than Delorme on older laptops. I hope they continue on this “bring the online world with you” mission and team up with Foursquare to bring a more complete offline experience (maybe with the option to do a post trip check in of all the places you visited?) Foursquare a really useful service to have with you and has recently updated to show me there’s more places even in my hometown than I even knew about.
UPDATE (1/18/2012): I would like to thank Laptop GPS World, who has a forum you can visit for many tips & tricks on using Microsoft Streets & Trips. I love the idea of a constantly updated POI Megafile (as mentioned in the comments below).