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Product Review

by Veda Lewis

DeLorme Street Atlas V. 7.0 for Win 95/98/NT4; V. 6.0 for Mac

No longer will you need to go on-line to find out how to get to your nephew's football game because he forgot to give you the address of the school they're playing, DeLorme has a Street Atlas solution that I highly recommend. This is what computers were meant to do, provide robust information at the touch of a few buttons.

I've always been a hardcopy map kinda gal. I used to keep a drawer full of them as my job took me to within any of the nine counties in what is referred to as the San Francisco Bay Area. When given the opportunity to review DeLorme's latest product, I didn't jump on it right away. However, after about a week, I had to take a trip up the California coast for a meeting and some fieldwork. It was either head out to the local vendor for maps, or load the new software.

Am I glad I loaded the software. Within 15 minutes I had loaded the program, read the instructional brochure and produced an entire "travel package" for my business trip from Sacramento to Eureka. All I did was to provide the cities, then the addresses of my start and finish. The program did the rest in a flash. It provided every turn I needed to make (including compass directions), the mileage and trip times. So, it's six hours from Sac to Eureka. I thought it was a five-hour trip. That miscalculation alone could have been the difference between arriving in daylight versus darkness.

I spent a bit more time looking through the help menu where the getting started section acquaints you with the major items on the toolbar. Since I've recently been acquainted with GPS (global positioning systems), I paid particular attention to the feature that allows you to attach a GPS unit to your laptop and generate a map of your route. If I were driving, I'd have to have my unit outside the vehicle since it doesn't work inside (too much metal interference). You can buy attachments that can go on your vehicle, so that's an option. Why would I want to do such a thing? Well, as a biologist, I can tell you there are many areas I've hiked in the bush and along roads where I would love to have been able to create a 'trail' map and provide data on exactly where I found this plant or saw that marsh. Realistically though, on foot, the GPS equipment is a bear to carry.

Back to the not so esoteric features. The draw tool allows you to annotate maps and place text, lines, or circles at your whim. If you want to "manage" your trip, you can go in and specify roads that you do not want to include in your trip. The program will route you around those areas. You can even adjust travel speed. For example, winter storms are here and I figured I will likely be driving less than normal speeds if it's bad weather in redwood country. I went in and lowered the freeway speeds. The route planner added twenty minutes to my trip. The speed preferences stay modified until you change them again. I decided to chart my simple trek tomorrow from Sonoma in the north SF Bay area to Pacifica, on the coast about 55 miles south. I left the speeds lower due to congestion along half the route. Just as before, interval times, distances of intervals and directional info came up in a flash from the data CD.

Just to get a bit deeper into it, I decided to plan my trip using zip code instead of city, state name. It gave me more detail and showed that I only drive about 50 miles not 55, based on zip code within Sonoma.

How about finding an address? This is important to those who are truly directionally impaired. If I input the address, will it pop it up on a map for me? Faster than you can shake a stick at a File Not Found web page screen, there it was... a map with an arrow showing the address I requested. Before I knew it, I was finding the location for an uncle who lives out of state. What a concept.

I know that I will not be in a hurry to measure the distance from my house to the nearest map shop. Oh yes, did I mention that you can do that?

DeLorme has brought their maps to the desktop. If your world travels in your Palm OS device these days, you'll be happy to know that you can download info to your device to get you on your way in the field. Check this one out.



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