Still Haven't Found the Right GPS Laptop Software
Carson Wales
First post...

I am trying to find GPS Laptop software that has a user interface that doesn't look like it was designed by a Gaming website designer...

I have loaded DeLorem, Garmin and Microsoft and I must say, the general design of these programs is at the least nauseating...

MapSource looks like legacy programming, Mobile PC uses a hideous looking Vista style interface, that needless to say does nothing for its functionality and serves only to drain pc resources...

S&T2009 is very counter-intuitive, with horribly designed back end that requires each route to be loaded from a file. There is no ability that I can see that lets you view a structure of or group of routes, waypoints etc...horrible...

S&A2009 though more featured than the others suffers from a very counter intuitive interface. If one isn't toggling between cursor types or tabs just to get the program to interact with the user in a normal fashion, they are clicking a vertiable click fest just get simple tasks done. The lower tool bar area has a most irritating habit of resizing its controls and labels and the font size if the tool bar gets expanded by some of the features in other tabs...

I think all of these products are pretty poor....I am used to programs that cost a bit of money, but are worth it...

Are there any Laptop XP GPS software applications that have professionally designed classic windows interfaces, do not look like some black vista bubble fest, and or offer a permanent and intuitive route/waypoint management system and thoughtful interfaces etc?

Tell me this isn't the best of the best?

Price is not an issue....

Ken in Regina
Originally Posted by Carson Wales
Are there any Laptop XP GPS software applications that have professionally designed classic windows interfaces, do not look like some black vista bubble fest, and or offer a permanent and intuitive route/waypoint management system and thoughtful interfaces etc?
Hi CW,

I haven't seen any. That's part of the reason I'm still using my Garmin iQue 3600 (integrated Palm PDA/GPS).

Mapsource seems to me to have the least objectionable user interface, from a usage standpoint. It's visually legacy, for sure. But so is the classic Windows interface. That's why Microsoft decided to try to juice it in Vista.

Mapsource seems to deviate the least from what we learned to think of as "standard" Windows layout of things. Menu structure is laid out about as you would expect. Functions seem to be in the menus you would expect them to be. Tools and info tend to be in the places the interface leads you to (tabs, toolbar). Legacy isn't always bad.

I don't know which version of Mapsource you looked at. The latest version, 6.14.1, is visually much more modern looking and has a much nicer graphical display of the maps .. a huge improvement visually without breaking the usability of the interface. But the rendering engine is garbage. It can slow down even a powerful desktop PC to the point where panning and zooming is a real test of patience. I used it for long enough to discover that a couple of features that I need are broken and that I have nowhere near the necessary patience. After about half an hour I reverted back to 6.13.7. But I can hardly wait until they juice up the rendering engine and fix the broken bits that I need.

As you might guess, for trip planning I use Mapsource by default, even though I have Streets&Trips, Street Atlas, iGuidance, Mobile PC and Navigator on my laptop.

I have also started using Google Earth quite a bit for pre-trip planning and reviewing existing tracks and routes lately. Google Earth lets you have lots of waypoints and routes and other stuff loaded and displayed simultaneously and there are lots of utilities around to make it easy to get information into and out of it.

One nice thing, from my point of view, is that Mapsource has a selection in the VIEW menu to "View in Google Earth". Anything in the Waypoints, Routes and Tracks tabs in the current file will be displayed. Mapsource launches Google Earth and automatically and transparently pops the items in those tabs into Waypoints, Routes and Tracks folders in the Temporary Places folder in Google Earth. You can just dump them when you are done or you can move them into the appropriate folders in your My Places folder and save them there.

Tell me this isn't the best of the best?

Price is not an issue....

Not the best of the best, but the ones you looked at are very much representative of what's out there in the consumer market. You couldn't have picked four better programs to see the range of interfaces and features, good and bad. The others you see reviewed and discussed here have the same issues in varying combinations. iNav iGuidance and MapFactor Navigator have the same sort of touchscreen-ready interface as Mobile PC.

By the way, just FYI, the interface on Mobile PC and the others like it have nothing at all to do with Vista. They are derived from the interface on touchscreen personal navigation devices like the Garmin Nuvi line and similar offerings from companies like TomTom, Magellan and Cobra. The interface is designed to be easy to use on a touchscreen.

That's the goal. How well they achieve it is best left to individual reactions. I'm of the personal opinion that for their intended use -- realtime handheld or in-vehicle navigation on devices with touchscreens -- the general design works well. But the actual layout of the menu structures in them leaves loads of room for improvement.

As most of the products discussed on this site are for the general public, price is a major issue as is usability for the intended purpose.

What sort of usage did you have in mind that none of these products can fulfill? It would be unreasonable to pay a lot of money for software that is only designed to get you from place to place. Remember, they are competing with a plethora of stanalone devices as well.

Maybe your requirements do not match with the level of product discussed on this site.

Ken in Regina
Hi Terry,

I didn't think it was an issue of features and functions. I got the feeling that CW was insulted by the visual and usability shortcomings of the various user interfaces. So am I.

Ok, I'll put it another way.

Before joining this group, I had used Garmin MapSource, nRoute, Que and XT, most versions of Microsoft S&T since its inception, Delorme Map'n'Go and Street Atlas, several versions of iNav iGuidance, Teletype software, and that Canadian one I can never remember the name of. Since joining I can add several others to the list.

And you know what...when I think a program has shortcomings and see other people swear by it (SA comes to mind) I realize I have not spent enough time with that product to appreciate its strong points and work with its (in my mind) shortcomings.

Also, I base my impression of a product's display and ease of use on what I have spent the most time with. It is difficult to think in an entirely different way about how something should work or what features are important.

If money was no object to me, I would have a programmer write something that met all my requirements as I see them.

Marvin Hlavac
Hi CW, welcome to the forums. Nothing would give me more satisfaction than to tell a software developer how to design their software. In many cases it would mean implementing just some UI changes. No product is perfect, as far as I'm concerned, either.

Originally Posted by tcassidy
...when I think a program has shortcomings and see other people swear by it (SA comes to mind) I realize I have not spent enough time with that product to appreciate its strong points and work with its (in my mind) shortcomings...
This is very true, and it brings some balance to this discussion.
Ken in Regina
It's also evidence that the user interface is somewhat obtuse. With what we understand about user interfaces today, it should not be necessary for someone who is already literate with the various features and functions of GPS/navigation software to have to spend hours digging through another program to try to find out how to do all the things you already know how to do with another program.

I'm a computer professional with over thirty years experience. I've been using and supporting DOS and Windows since the very beginning. I've been using GPS technology for over five years. I know how computers work. I have worked with more than half a dozen operating systems and a dozen programming languages. I've encountered nearly every way that a programmer might create a user interface. So I should be able to get up to speed with all of the most common functions of a new program in pretty short order.

And I still encounter programs that make me feel like a total newcomer to computers. Worse, because of my years of experience, they make me feel completely incompetent. I ended up here in the first place because I decided to mess around with Streets&Trips and Street Atlas. When I got them, I discovered that this area of technology has a lot of programs that just leave me scratching my head at where to even start looking for some of the most basic features.

They are very rich in functions, and some are positively inspired in some of the features they provide ......... if you spend enough time to figure them out.

Much of the activity on sites like this are all the evidence one needs about how far we still have to go before GPS-based planning and navigation technology is really accessable to the average person who does not want, and should not need, to become some sort of computer expert to do basic planning and navigation functions.

In my personal opinion, of course.

PS. Sorry about the diatribe. User interfaces have always been a particularly tender spot for me. As a professional, I take it personally that my professional peers can't seem to do a better job of making computer-based functionality more easily accessable to people. I'll stop now.

Carson Wales
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
Hi Terry,

I didn't think it was an issue of features and functions. I got the feeling that CW was insulted by the visual and usability shortcomings of the various user interfaces. So am I.

Exactly...the general visual layout of these software programs is quite bad, and interface is kludgey at best. I have done some programming of both GUI's and business ends and given my limited experience I could do better than this.

For instance:

Take way points, end points start points etc...I would expect that all of the 'saved' places would display in a side panel using the typical tree structure of folders and files. The user would be able to organize them however he saw fit.

Map icons should be simple to change via the points structure...a simple right click edit point command is all it well as right click copy point, right click copy coordinates to clip board....etc...if a point is associated with a route, the right click feature should access either edit point or edit route....simple user interface items like that make a huge difference....

Further the routes would be the same way, and display as yet a second side panel. A user should be able to drag and drop points from both the way points panel, as well as the map into the route structure. Using arrows to move via's up in a route is incredibly wrong. The user should be able to drag and drop the points within the routes...There should be a data panel associated with routes below the routes tree structure...that populates with the relevant data depending on the route that has focus...

All of these programs should offer split screen mapping, so the user can see both the macro and micro aspects of route planning...and when in use for actual navigation, the screen might split up to 4-5 times, to accomodate a data/stat panel, an elevations profile of the road ahead to the extent the map is zoomed, celestial information, weather-warnings ahead, the map itself of course etc...but then I am dreaming...

There should be a snap to feature that could be enabled to allow snapping points to intersections, cities of user set sizes, rest stops, poi's etc...

If any of you have worked with Acrobat Pro 8.0 or higher, there is a pleathora of functionality in the right click feature...such as previous view, switch between cursor tools (hand, select, fence, scale, zoom, shift) that vastly enhances the usability of that program...mapping programs should have these same features...

Virtually all programs that offer zooming capability do so through various of the most common is a functional combo box in the task bar, that allows choosing preset percentage scaling, such as 50%, 100%, 200% etc. This control also displays any current custom scale that resulted from a drag or scroll operation such as programs should have this functionality.

I understand that for 50-100 bucks they can only develop these programs so far...but I am surprised there aren't more robust applications available such as those found for commercial and civilian marine/aviation...


I agree with the poster just above this post...I have been using computers since the commodore days, and have migrated through all of the dos/windows operating systems (yes including Vista - yuk)....I have programmed in a half a dozen languages, and have experience in hundreds of complicated programs (far more complicated than these mapping apps)...and it is just astounding how divergent they are, and yet they all are consistent in that their functionality and architecture is just plain POOR....

Keep your powder dry...
Semper Fi

For the small touch screen and strong navigation functions, iGuidance and Mobile PC are hard to beat. Mobile PC has advantages in actually being able to plan a route with multiple stops. I think this is the market they are aiming at and Garmin has dropped some features or made them harder to get to because most people don't use them. This allows a cleaner display and more space concentrated on the map.

For planning a route ahead of time, S&T is very good. Its navigation screen is improving but has some way to go. They originated from a excellent non-navigational trip planner and still show their strengths in that area.

Delorme changed their SA interface to non-windows standard some time ago. I didn't use the product at the time as it was US only but I read lots of discussion. I have the most problems working with this product (bring back the simplicity of Map'n'Go) and don't seem to have the need for the many extras it provides. They have come a long way in display but the interface needs serious work.

However, even in a very competitive market, these products are doing ok or are a necessary sideline to another more lucrative business. Of course, they don't compare to professional programs but neither does the price. You have to understand the audience and the functions they want.

That's a big reason why I use a Mac. I like the ergonomics of the GUI. Like, who would've thunk Alt-F4 is quit? I think a lot of the "designs" by Windows developers are made by the programmers... there's a reason people study ergonomics and usability (and they don't program!) ... bring on some European-car design for form and function! I have a lot of complaints for MobilePC the way that I use it as a news photographer. iGuidance is much better, but the now-defunct Mapopolis takes the cake at usability for me.

I asked iGuidance to have

- colour-palette editor to define "day" and "night" settings. I like S&T's all-green.

- a toolbar with the Menu/Zoom/Exit keys on it like Mapopolis. Works oodles-better with touchscreens

- an address search bar on the toolbar as well just like S&T and smart searching like Google Maps (eg. yonge st toronto instead of Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) based on your local location if you don't enter a city in (you won't be searching Toronto, Kansas, so eliminate those results!), results return say, in a 100mi radius?

- Search results that stay on the map. I LOVE that feature in S&T 2009.

- When searching for a address result, your GPS location is still tracking if the address is nearby on the same screen. Like in Mapopolis & S&T. Many times I don't want guidance because it's wrong or not as efficient as I know the city well. I just want to know where the address is, and I'll figure a way to get there!

- Auto-return to GPS mode after panning mode (looking around) in 10-15 seconds (make it adjustable) like in Mapopolis.

- Show on the screen (not just audio prompts because I don't normally use them) the destination on the left or right side of the road.


The response was, "we do not have those features at the current time." Although that's already better customer service than I've had with Garmin and MobilePC.
I am glad to see that there are many who feel the same way. I was starting to think I had some strange obsession with buying and trying different GPS software.

Hi, my name is Bo and I am addicted to gps software. . . and the group said Hi Bo.
Marvin Hlavac
Thanks for sharing it with us, Bo. My name is Marvin, and I'm a mapping software addict, too.
Ken in Regina
Hi Bo,

My name is Ken and I'm addicted to GPS software and hardware devices of almost any flavour.

Carson Wales
Hi....My name is Carson and I am GPS addict...

I have a great story to tell about how I let my iQue plot a route deep into Forest Service land to a place I had never meet some friends for some shooting and dirt bike riding...when I draft it up I will post on the boards...great story...I even have pictures...involves getting trapped behind a closed gate and endless probes on escape routes...

"This happened to me relying on my GPS thread...."

Hi everybody…
Over 50’s,(means more than 50 years old, less thas 60)…Good long distance vision, bad short distance vision (presbitia)…Non soft Developer…so I Could only try and decide wich is best for me on the market of gps sofs.
I decided GMPC on a touch screen laptop.GMPc + Mapsource(Inside GMPC) lets me create and plan a route ,transfer to GMPC and go…
Looking on Nuvi`s series, I`m now willing if GMPC will append the possibility 4 geotagged photos,or displaying an image when you arrive at a wpt(Like ozziexplorer does)…Or trackback funtion…Nothing is finaly completed to what I `d like to.
And its a GPS…not a Navigator…which depends only on Maps…
So , this marriage between GMPC and the touchscreen laptop:works for me.
Plus a digital camera…the hobby has plenty of options…

Hope,here,someday we Could have 3D buildings maps, Lane assist and many other features we couldn`t experience.

Have a nice day.. Juan Carlos
© About