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Choosing GPS software for life in rural Montana
sprinkler guy
I am doing research for a near future software purchase. I live in Livingston, MT and am a irrigation and landscape contractor. I would use the software for local route planning and the occasional road trip.

Is there a way to know how detailed each program's map and information is before buying? I see that microsoft offers a trial. Do any of the others?

I am not going to ask what the "best" program is because I'm sure I know how that thread will develop.

Thanks,
Bob
Ken in Regina
You can check out Garmin's map products by using their online map viewer. Here's the link for their City Navigator North America 2009 product.

https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=253&pID=1456#coverageTab

There is a link on that page to view the map interactively. You can pan and zoom to find the areas of interest and see if there's enough detail.

They also have topographic maps that might be interesting to you. You can select the map product then click on the "View Map" tab to check it out.

Microsoft Streets&Trips, iNav iGuidance and Garmin City Navigator North America all use the same map data supplier, Navteq, for their map data, so there is little, if any, difference in the map details. So looking at the trial version of Streets&Trips will give you an excellent idea of whether current road map data is suitable for your purposes or whether you need to explore the possibility of regional topographic maps.

Be aware that, although the map data comes from the same supplier for all three of the vendors mentioned above, the navigation programs from each vendor are hugely different in how they display the map data (iGuidance and Mobile PC have similar looks and are very different from Streets & Trips) and also the features and functions they have (look through some of the reviews on here).

If you are planning a multi-stop route, Streets&Trips is the only one of the bunch that will allow you to ask it to optimize a route amongst multiple stops to find the most efficient driving route. That is, you can select a list of places to go in any order and then ask Streets&Trips to optimize it. The other two (perhaps all the other competitors) will only calculate a route in the order you list the stops. If you enter the stops in a random order, the resulting route might seem like someone spilled spaghetti on your screen.

If you want to avoid the usual direction these threads go, ask specific questions about how you want to use a navigation program. Most people just ask open-ended questions like, "Which one is the best?"

Well ... ummm.... errrr..... ahhhhhh.... "best" for what sort of use?

The only sensible answer to questions like that is, "It depends on what you expect/need to get out of your navigation program."

And recognize that the final answer, for you or anyone else, is going to be a combination of the map data detail and the nav program features and functions. One without the other equals zero.

One final thought... I live a little ways north of you -- about 120 mi straight north of Plentywood. One thing I've found with Navteq's road map data is that it's pretty good in areas with large populations and not so hot in more sparsely populated areas. This applies to all three products mentioned above (I have all of them). So you are on the right track to check out the map detail first. All the program features in the world aren't worth spit if the details you need aren't on the map.

Holler as detailed questions come to mind.

...ken...
sprinkler guy
Ken,
Thanks very much for the help. I like what you are saying about route optimization. That's a big factor in my view for what I am looking for, but I didn't know how to ask the question. Part of our business is weekly mowing service. It would be nice to be able to give the crew a route that is the most efficient. I think I give the trial of the Microsoft product a look.

Thanks again for the info.
Bob
Marvin Hlavac
Bob, Microsoft Streets and Trips will let you print maps and also directions, if this is something you would like to do for your crew(s).

Check out our Streets and Trips forum. The review there contains a link to the 60-day trial download page.
tcassidy
Garmin Mobile PC also will optimize stops. However, if printing maps is important, S&T is the best.

Terry
Ken in Regina
Hi Bob,

Glad to help. I have a good friend who has a yardcare business and I just finished doing a test run for his winter snow removal route. He has 60 individual residences to do in the city this winter so I did a trial run for him.

He sent me an Excel spreadsheet that he maintains the contact information in. I ran it through an online Batch Geocoder to get the latitude/longitude coordinates into the spreadsheet. Then I used the import data wizard in S&T to import the Excel spreadsheet and ran the route optimization.

My friend was pleased with the optimized route and he likes the fact that he can still maintain the client list in Excel.

Terry,

Thanks for the tip on Mobile PC. I'll see if I can figure out how to get the list in without typing it manually and try the route optimization to see if it comes up with something similar to S&T. The Batch Geocoder site will let you save to a GPX file so it's easy to get into Mapsource. I guess I can download the waypoints to Mobile PC ... but can I keep them together in a group so I don't have to select each one individually to include them in the route? (just wondering out loud) .....

S&T Users,

I've finally found something to like about S&T.

...ken...
tcassidy
Even with the Mobile PC - Outlook link, I think S&T would be the right product for that type of work. I think GMPC leans more toward the highway/ city mix environment. Of course, where I use it there are no large cities so I may be biased.

Terry
Marvin Hlavac
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina


S&T Users,

I've finally found something to like about S&T.

That's the beauty of a laptop, Ken. You are not limited to just one software, as on a PND. Streets & Trips is so inexpensive, so even if you use S&T for just this single feature, it is worth it, isn't it?

Ken in Regina
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin Hlavac
That's the beauty of a laptop, Ken. You are not limited to just one software, as on a PND. Streets & Trips is so inexpensive, so even if you use S&T for just this single feature, it is worth it, isn't it?

Well ... truthfully? ... No. :rofl"

I ended up using the Batch Geocode web site because half the addresses couldn't be found in Streets&Trips. Worse, once S&T thinks it has resolved the addresses there doesn't seem to be any way to force it to reconsider.

I was able to use individual finds to get some of the addresses that failed when I imported but I couldn't get S&T to re-search while using the complete data set. I don't have a lot of patience, so after wasting twenty minutes fighting with Streets I found and used the Batch Geocode site. It found most of the addresses. The ones it didn't find it just left blank, so I was able to deal with them individually.

What I liked very much about Streets is that, once I was able to get location data on all the addresses, it was dead simple to import it as a group and get an optimized route on the entire group.

Then I realized I have Mappoint 2009, so I imported into it and found that it's even easier to use Mappoint because it integrates with Microsoft Office even better than Streets.

Now I have to do another test. When I had trouble with Streets not finding a lot of the addresses, that's S&T2008. I need to find out if the 2009 maps are better so I'm going to go back to the original spreadsheet and see if Mappoint does any better with the 2009 maps.

Then I need to figure out how to get the results of the optimized routing into Garmin handheld nav devices. Too bad the Microsoft products don't support import/export of the universal standard GPX format. So, on the to-do list is to find something to convert from Excel to GPX. It never ends....

Oh, what the heck ... it's so dang easy to suck an Excel sheet into Streets, get an optimized route and drop the resulting re-ordered table back into Excel that perhaps it really is worth the price of the software-only version for that feature alone.

...ken...
Ken in Regina
Ooops, I've changed my mind, again, about liking Streets&Trips. When I was testing the import/export to/from Excel it turns out I was using Mappoint. I just assumed Streets would do the same.

...NOT!!

It imports data from an Excel spreadsheet slick as a whistle.

But it doesn't export data to anything. No way, no how. Once you get the data into Streets, it's stuck there forever. There's nothing that will get it back out.

This applies to version 2008 and newer. There are some utilities out there that will apparently work with 2007 and older. But none of them work with 2008 or 2009. Not the utility programs and not the online conversion sites.

So I'm back to being annoyed and frustrated at how good it could be, if-only.

...ken...
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