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Microsoft AutoRoute Replacement
LoveToTravel
I have been a long time Microsoft AutoRoute user for both trip planning and in-car GPS navigation. I use the trip planning software to develop multi-week/multi destination driving vacations in Western Europe and then bring my PC with and use it for GPS navigation. The feature I use most often during trip planning is the "Avoid Area" feature to customize my route.

Now that new editions of AutoRoute are no longer available what is your recommendation for the best alternative based on what I described above?

I am open to suggestions that involve combined trip planning and GPS navigation software on a PC Like AutoRoute, or trip planning software I run on my PC and then download the trip routes to a standalone device for GPS navigation. If the latter is your recommendation, please also recommend a standalone GPS navigation device.

Thanks.
Marvin Hlavac
Hi LoveToTravel,

Welcome to Laptop GPS World.

If you can live with the map data of AutoRoute 2007, stick with it, since you are familiar with the software. My number #2 choice would be to get Microsoft MapPoint 2009 Europe, which should be released in January of 2009. That will give you the exact same familiar user interface you are already used to in Microsoft AutoRoute.

MS MapPoint is more expensive than MS AutoRoute, so some people may opt not to go that route, and look for a less expensive solution.

Software products like Mapfactor PC Navigator, Sygic Drive, and Garmin Mobile PC can offer the European map data, but they are quite different from what you are used to in MSFT AutoRoute. They are easier to use for a driver, but they may not offer some of the trip planing functionality of AutoRoute (perhaps with the exception of the Garmin product, since you could use it in conjunction with other Garmin software more suitable for trip planning).
LoveToTravel
Hi Marvin,

Thanks for the quick reply. Can you provide the name(s) of the "other Garmin software more suitable for trip planning"?

Thanks
tcassidy
The only combination I know of is Garmin Mobile PC. I believe it is available with European maps now. You can run it on your laptop at home and in the vehicle and it is capable of setting up and saving routes. The display is excellent but setting up routes is a different experience than AutoRoute.

Mobile PC also talks to MapSource, a free download from Garmin that is as versatile as AutoRoute for setting up and saving routes. Also routes, waypoints and tracks can be transferred from MapSource to any of the Garmin Nuvi devices (as well as Mobile PC) if you wish to use a standalone Personal Navigation device.

Mobile PC comes on 2 versions;
Software-only works with any standard NMEA GPS receiver (1 computer only)
GPS combo works only with the included GPS receiver on any Windows computer.

If you are interested in the GPS version, consider the Bluetooth GPS10x.It is a versatile and flexible unit but requires a Bluetooth-equipped computer or USB dongle.

The only downside is the map included with Mobile PC is not usable in MapSource.

Terry
Marvin Hlavac
Hi Marvin,

Thanks for the quick reply. Can you provide the name(s) of the "other Garmin software more suitable for trip planning"?

Thanks
I had in mind Garmin MapSource and also Garmin nRoute, and Terry already addressed this.
Ken in Regina
I think it's worth repeating that the maps that come preloaded in Mobile PC cannot be used in Mapsource.

Further to that, Mapsource is no good without detailed maps. Even a basemap, which can be downloaded for free, is of little value for detailed planning because it only covers major highways and roads. It has little street data, no address data and no points of interest.

Although you can download and install Mapsource for free, you would need to buy a duplicate set of maps and that's actually more expensive than buying Mobile PC complete with built-in maps.

And it's another interface to learn. It's completely different, again, from either Streets&Trips or Mobile PC.

I think, for most practical purposes, the routing flexibility built into Mobile PC is more than up to the task for trip planning. And it's an excellent navigation program. For anyone considering switching from another laptop program that combines trip planning and vehicle navigation, I would recommend looking at Mobile PC on its own merits. If its features and functions match your needs, go for it. If not, consider something else.

The main difference between Mobile PC and Streets&Trips is that S&T began life as a trip planner and has had navigation sort of tacked on. At least that's my impression ... it's navigation features leave me cold. Whereas Mobile PC began life as a navigation program and its routing functions are an integral part of that. They happen to be quite good, from Garmin's long history of routing and navigation. But Mobile PC has evolved out of the handheld devices and it's primary intent is to put a Nuvi on your laptop. As such, S&T users will find it a little short in some of the trip planning features that don't have any direct connection to navigation.

A better option for the folks considering Garmin and who want a little richer trip planning but still want excellent vehicle navigation would be to buy a Nuvi model that has the desired features. The Nuvi model lineup covers a huge range of prices and feature sets. Buy only what you need. That will give you great vehicle navigation and also personal navigation in a device that is also reasonable to use as a handheld.

Add Mapsource on your PC to the mix and you have a powerful combination. Mapsource is an excellent trip planning program with most of the features of S&T and some unique ones of its own. As I mentioned above, it will need maps. If you buy a Nuvi, when you first set it up you connect it to your PC with a USB cable and it allows you to have it check Garmin's web site for updates to its internal software. At the same time, if you allow it to, it will download a copy to your PC of whatever map product is preloaded in it. You can use those maps in Mapsource.

You can create routes and waypoints ("Favorites" by any other name) in Mapsource and download them to the Nuvi. You can upload track files from the Nuvi to view in Mapsource. You can also view all these things in Google Earth, without any file conversion, via a menu option in Mapsource.

With the Nuvi and Mapsource alternative you haven't completely lost the ability to navigate with your laptop occasionally. There is another Garmin program that you can download, called "nroute", that has the same interface as Mapsource and uses any maps that are loaded in Mapsource and gives you all the vehicle navigation functions of any Garmin navigation device. It's not as pretty a display as a Nuvi or Mobile PC but it works fine.

if that all sounds complicated. To do all the things I mentioned, it is. But we're here to .

It's actually quite simple to do the basic stuff. A Nuvi is dead simple to learn and use for navigation and Mapsource is fairly easy to use for basic trip planning. All the rest of the stuff is completely optional, depending upon your pain threshold.

...ken...
tcassidy
Ken,
My experience with the Nuvi was it provided an opportunity to download a map for MapSource. However, as that was an update (the Nuvi had an older version) can we say for certain that is always the case? I do not have enough experience to determine if the download is always available or if it is only in the case of an update.

Terry
Ken in Regina
I am going by the experience of a friend. When he plugged his new Nuvi into the PC the first time it asked if it was okay to go online to register and check for updates to the firmware. While it was online it asked if he wanted to download his map product to the PC. He said Yes. It was the same version of City Navigator North America as was installed on his Nuvi.

Since then, he makes sure to get his map updates on DVD rather than SD cards, based on my recommendation.

...ken...
tcassidy
Sounds good to me. That was what held me back from recommending this approach.

Terry
LoveToTravel
Thanks to all for the information! It is extremely thorough and helpful. I am pretty tech savy and it all made sense. Now all I need to do is make my decision.

Thanks, Elliot
Marvin Hlavac
Update! New version of Microsoft AutoRoute 2010 has been released (review here).
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