You can search by full seven digit postcodes, and even, oh joy of joys, by Ordnance Survey grid references. Now that won’t matter a lot to many people, but to map fans like myself, it is a fabulous feature (I’ve long lobbied for PDA based navigation software to throw this capability into the mix). Better still, it’ll give you the grid reference for any address you enter – just mooch along the tabs in the ‘Find’ window after you’ve entered an address.
As you’d expect with a laptop, route calculation is a whole lot quicker than on a PDA. And the big screen caters for more comprehensive visuals than you might be used to seeing on a PDA. Most notably you get a whole lot more map on screen at once, with plenty of zoom control, and turn by turn directions. Both are displayed in panes, so that you can easily change the proportion of screen space each consumes – or get rid of the written instructions completely and just rely on the map.
Microsoft claims a massive 865,000 points of interest across its expanse of covered terrain, with 80,000 of these in the UK. The usual fare is here (hotels, railway stations, cinemas and so on), and again it is easy to add these to any trip. A simple right click calls up an option to ‘find nearby places’ and by right clicking on any that take your fancy you can add them to a route.
You can add your own points of interest or contacts to the software in the form of ‘pushpins’. If you feel so inclined you can even import all of your Outlook contacts in this way in a single operation. This could prove really useful for both business users and those who want to get all their family and friends into Autoroute 2006 in one fell swoop. You can also import from other file types – such as Excel, Access, and .txt, and .csv files.
There is plenty more going on that I just don’t have space to write about in detail like the political and terrain maps that sit alongside roadmaps, the link to MSN Virtual Earth (which actually wouldn’t work for me), and the ability to set your driving speeds, costs and fuel consumption to get various information reports and low fuel warnings. A feature holidaymakers might like is Drivetime Zones. You tell the software where you are and how long you have, and it’ll visually show you how far you can get in that time. One potential use of this might be on a family holiday with a spare half day.