GPS compass and distance software needed for Panasonic U1 Toughbook
Newbie warning.

There is a several acre industrial yard filled with equipment. For each piece we previously noted GPS coordinates with item description. Finding each piece with handheld receiver is straightforward, but once we get there we gather information by written notes and return to the shop. This happens for each piece. We are now evaluating the Panasonic U1 Toughbook with integral GPS receiver to help with our duties. Thought is it will remove paperwork and need for multiple returns to the shop. It appears to be a slick device, but it doesn't come with any software to interact with the GPS receiver.

What we think we want is a simple sw utility that would allow us to enter a coordinate - and it would then display a directional arrow and distance from current to desired coordinate.

Any suggestions for XP compatible SW to try would be really appreciated. Unfortunately, being an evaluation we don't have a budget - trialware is fine. Once we find what we need we can then get funding.

Ken in Regina
What handheld receivers are you currently using?

With modern PC navigation software I think it would be easier to use your existing database to create a simple file with the "name" or other identifier of each piece of equipment along with its location (lat/lon) that can be imported into the nav software as waypoints (aka "Favorites" in some programs, or "pushpins" in Microsoft Streets&Trips). That way you won't have to type in the location when you want to search for it.

You want software that has the ability to do "off-road" routing. Modern PC nav software is designed to do routing on roads so it gives you text and audible guidance that tells you to go a specific distance on a specific street and then turn a specific direction. You need the sort of capability normally associated with a handheld device that you would use for hiking offroad.

I'm not sure if any of the PC nav programs have the compass directional capability you described. I know what you are looking for because my Garmin eTrex Legend HCx handheld has exactly that feature. The compass has one needle that points in the direction I need to go (bearing) and another needle that points the direction I'm actually going (heading) at the moment.

I don't know if Microsoft Mappoint has such a feature. It would be a great solution if it can do the navigation you want. It has the ability to integrate really well with Excel or Access data in both directions. You can download a 60-day free trial of Mappoint North America 2009 and take a look at it. There are no functional limits or stupid stuff like adware. It just quits working after 60 days if you don't purchase and register it.

I don't know if any of the other PC nav programs have free trial versions.

Marvin Hlavac
... in the above mentioned Microsoft MapPoint (or the less Expensive sibling, Microsoft Streets and Trips), you could, in addition to what Ken mentioned, use the annotation tools in the program to draw for example the boundaries of buildings on your property, or mark where the equipment is located. When you are in motion the program would show you on the map where exactly on your property you are, and which direction you are moving, so you know if you are getting closer to your destination, and if you are heading the right direction.
Current units are inexpensive off the shelf and used only for noting coordinates for each piece. Equipment is moving in and out frequently and is all shapes and sizes. Along with pieces being moved, we receive a lot of work orders to check characteristics of existing pieces and report back.

So, what we want is the ability to enter a 'waypoint'?

Your Garmin functionality is exactly what we need. We could even do without the distance.

I will look at Microsoft Mappoint. Thanks.

Anyone else? This seems so obvious - is our need that unusual?
Ken in Regina
Originally Posted by ColdFeet49
Anyone else? This seems so obvious - is our need that unusual?
It's very common. It's virtually identical to a common GPS sport called "geocaching". It's also common to hiking and other off-road activities. But it's normally done with handhelds, not PCs.

Most PC GPS software originated as trip planning programs that didn't even do navigation, or the navigation functions were pretty primitive. That mostly has to do with the form factor of most "laptop" technology. Typical laptops have been much too large and heavy to be very useful in activities that are traditionally done with handhelds or dashmounted units.

With the increased uses of laptops in over-the-road trucking and RVs, the PC software has evolved to do over-the-road navigation as well as trip planning. But even the new netbooks are a little large to make any serious inroads into the activities that are traditionally done with handhelds because they are still a little too big to pack around handily.

So the navigation feature set in PC software tends to be oriented towards people who will use it for trip planning and in-vehicle over-the-road navigation.

I expect that if you wanted to spend the money and do the research you would find custom handheld units that would do, or could be programmed to do, exactly what you want; not just the navigation but also the data entry stuff. If there are online industry forums for auto or farm equipment wreckers, you might have more luck finding something suitable for your specific use. But they likely won't be cheap.

Any solution you get based on consumer-grade software will be inexpensive to buy but will have two downside issues. First, it will take some ingenuity on your part to find something that's at least close and to figure out how to work your processes around its limitations. And, second, it will have limitations.

Ahhh - thanks for the insight.

The toughbook is a UMPC - highly portable.

Sounds like our needs are in kind of a gray zone. Maybe something will show up once UMPC's become more popular. Anyway - thanks again.

Our evaluation lasts through the month if anyone thinks of anything else we could consider.
Ken in Regina
I hope I haven't turned you off looking at Mappoint or Streets&Trips. The trials are free and Marvin described at least one method that would work. I'm sure that if you get your hands on the software and play with it for a bit you would find other approaches that would also work.

In the end, you might decide that it doesn't help as much as you hoped, but at least you'll be much better acquainted with what you really need. That's always useful.

That would also allow you to ask better, more focused questions here. If something in Mappoint or Streets&Trips is close but not quite what you need, it's easier for us to suggest if there is another program that works more like what you're looking for.

You might also consider partial solutions. For instance, if the staff are currently having to enter complicated latitude/longitude coordinates into the handhelds, would it be cost-beneficial to move up to handhelds that can have waypoints downloaded into them so they only need to enter some sort of equipment identifier to get the location?

This partial solution can be obtained with either better handhelds or with pretty much any PC navigation program.

That's just one example of breaking the problem down into pieces. Once you play with the software and get an idea of how it actually works, I'm sure other ideas will occur to you.

If you were to download one of the Microsoft free trial products you could determine within one work day whether it's close enough to demand further hands-on testing. You could quickly acquire a copy of Streets&Trips at a local big box electronics or computer store that includes a GPS receiver that will plug directly into the USB port of any laptop. Streets&Trips with a receiver is dirt cheap. Within a week or less you could have a really good handle on whether a laptop solution makes any sense at all.

Or you could just pick up an inexpensive USB receiver locally and use it with the free trial version of Mappoint or Streets&Trips. You don't need anything fancy or expensive for the trial. Any laptop and any USB receiver (NMEA-compliant) will allow you to evaluate what you need to know.

I sure hope I didn't discourage you from giving the available software a shot. That wasn't my intent. I just wanted to help you understand that there are some limitations; that you might not find a perfect solution. But there's never a perfect solution.


I really appreciate the detailed and thoughtful replies. There is a lot to be learned and ultimately that I is why I ended up here - just searching didn't seem to be making progress.

We were hoping to easily combine our note taking needs with our GPS needs and I suspect any of these packages can be made to work satisfactorily - it just requires a bit more effort on our part.

Thanks again.
Ken in Regina
That's a relief. Just holler if we can provide any more help.

Thanks - just remember, you're the one that said to holler! About