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Trip Planning vs Navigation
Ken in Regina
wxtoad made a comment in the ALK forum that raised an excellent point for people who are getting interested in using GPS technology to help them in their travels.

With all the various personal navigation devices, smartphone apps and laptop apps out there it's plenty confusing to figure out which might work best for you. There are discussions all over this forum about the strengths and weaknesses of various laptop apps. We are now also beginning to see some discussion about the smartphone apps as they begin to appear and mature.

But it turns out there is a major divide that needs to be understood when looking for something to help you out.

One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is, Do I want an app that will help me with planning and managing extended trips? Or do I just want an app that gives me powerful real time navigation features, eg. select a waypoint or a point of interest (POI) and let it take me there?

Here's the comment that triggered the following explanation:

Quote:
Originally Posted by wxtoad
From what I've seen so far, this Android app [ALK CoPilot Live] is fine for basic navigation, but it's a far cry from MS S&T which is my primary trip planning and navigation aid.
That really isn't a negative. Most navigation apps are very good for navigating. But only a few are good for complex trip planning.

This is especially true for standalone personal navigation devices like Garmin Nuvi or TomTom and also for smartphone apps. The displays on these devices are too small to be very useful for complex trip planning. What they excel at is finding a waypoint or point of interest (POI) and telling/showing you how to get there.

Some of the laptop apps, like iGuidance and CoPilot are basically the same -- purely navigation apps that you can use on your laptop to get a larger display. There is no question that the bigger display makes them easier to use for trip planning. But there are no additional features that are specifically for planning.

On the desktop/laptop with bigger displays, the best apps for complex trip planning are still Microsoft Streets&Trips, DeLorme Street Atlas and Garmin's desktop programs, Mapsource (discontinued) and Basecamp.

Streets&Trips has always been an excellent trip planning program. But the navigation part still feels like the navigation portion was just tacked on even in the latest versions.

Similar for Street Atlas except its navigation section is a little easier to use than S&T.

Both S&T and Street Atlas are somewhat limited in their map availability. Street Atlas really only has good coverage for the continental United States. Anything else is limited or non-existent.

Streets & Trips has good coverage for all of North America and its companion product, AutoRoute, has exactly the same funtionality for Western Europe. Little if any coverage of anywhere else.

Garmin has gone the opposite direction. Its Mapsource PC app once had pretty decent navigation features, similar to the ones in Street Atlas. But Garmin pulled the navigation functions out of Mapsource years ago and no longer pretends that the PC programs can be used for realtime navigation.

Instead, they are oriented toward complex trip planning and other similar tasks, like viewing and editing tracks of completed trips and so on.

They leave the navigation features to their personal navigation devices, although they have taken a stab at standalone navigation apps like Mobile PC (discontinued) for laptops and Mobile XT (discontinued) for Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Palm. Garmin even has a current navigation app, StreetPilot, for the iPhone.

One feature that many Garmin PC app users appreciate is the ability to have more than a single trip loaded at a time. With both Mapsource and Basecamp you can plan and view as many trips in a single map as you like. This becomes very handy if you want to compare distances and times for various legs of a complex trip you may be planning. You can have many variations of your trip in the same map.

At the same time, you can have GPS tracks (breadcrumb trails) from actual trips you, or others, have taken in similar territory. So you can, for instance, avoid going over the same ground you have already covered in the past, or re-visit an old trip that was particularly good, or so you can make sure you don't miss any of someone else's travels that you want to follow.

For anyone with Garmin navigation devices, Garmin has taken a leap ahead of Microsoft and DeLorme for desktop/laptop trip planning with their Basecamp program. It not only does complex trip planning; it now also allows you to create "adventures" out of trips you have taken and share them with others. Adventures can include the GPS tracks of the actual trip along with photos, etc. Kind of a neat way to document your travels, whether you choose to share them or not.

Garmin's Basecamp is, as far as I know, the only desktop/laptop travel planning app that is being actively developed at this time. The others get the odd bug fix and perhaps an occasional small tweak. But their annual releases are really to get updated map information out there. Basecamp keeps getting major new features added two or three times a year. As with all the others, it only works with Garmin's own maps, or Garmin compatible maps of which there are hundreds out there.

Maps are another key difference between Garmin and the others. Garmin has map products that cover most of the world. If Garmin does not have coverage for an area you are interested in it is probable that you can find someone else who makes a Garmin compatible map that you can purchase or download for free for that area.

...ken...
Ken in Cape Breton
Great summary Ken. Thanks for that. I'll have to get a copy of Basecamp this winter and play with it. I'm still using MapSource and Mobile PC right now.
wxtoad
Great post, Ken. You're so right about the need to figure out just what it is you're trying to use a GPS system for. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Ted
Boyd
Very nice Ken. I think there is actually a third software category though: moving map software. This type of program shows your position on a highly detailed map - such as a scanned paper map or satellite photo. These type of maps are called "raster imagery" and don't have the ability to follow roads since they are just pictures. So they can show where you are and where you've been, but they cannot tell you how to get there.

OziExplorer is probably the most popular program of this type and there are versions that run on Windows, Windows CE and Android: http://www.oziexplorer.com/
DieselBoss
Great post Ken. The only caveat that I would add is that with the laptop version of CoPilot I do (and train truckers on how to) some very complex trip planning with that system. For me it isn't just purely navigation, although S&T and SA have more intuitive and powerful features than it for planning, especially for non-commercial trucking applications. Regardless, your primary point about buying either the program or the device for the PURPOSE that you find most important for YOU is critical on your opinion of "how well it works" overall for sure!
ron4adams
I have just completed my trip planning for this spring's trip from Arizona to Florida using TyretoTravel. I don't know how long this has been available, but it is my first time to use it. Trip planning is very easy, and I find very few address which are not located. One significant advantage is being able to export an entire itinerary seamlessly to my TomTom. As of yet there is no navigation feature, but the developers claim that is anticipated in a future version. I look forward to sharing my experience with this software when I have some experience in its functionality.
Boyd
Quote:
Originally Posted by ron4adams
I don't know how long this has been available, but it is my first time to use it.
I used it back in 2006 when I had a TomTom GPS, which was all it was originally compatible with. Now it works with Garmin as well. For their history, see: http://www.tyretotravel.com/about-us/

Quote:
The basis for Tyre was laid in 2006, when the Dutch minister Boersma combined his two hobbies: motorcycling and programming. He created Tyre: the program that made Google Maps work with TomTom.
When the program originally was introduced, Google used TeleAtlas map data which was also TomTom's data source. In the meantime, TomTom purchased TeleAtlas and Google started using their own proprietary map data.

Whenever your trip planning software uses a different map data source from your GPS/laptop/tablet/whatever, there is the potential for problems. The maps will not completely agree - one of them may have roads that aren't on the other, the location of intersections can be different, the address search algorithms are not the same, POI data will be different.

So this may be a problem when you transfer a route based on Google data to either Garmin (Navteq) or TomTom (TeleAtlas). Sometimes it will be fine, but you will probably want to compare the route shown on the device to the route generated by TYRE just in case.
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