Map & Guide – Top Cities Europe (PDA) review

City mapping software for Pocket PC
Photo of Map & Guide – Top Cities Europe (PDA)
£12.50 for individual cities, £39.99 for all 16 cities

Ever since AutoRoute Express was launched for Psion’s 3a palmtop in the mid-1990s, route planning and city mapping software has been very popular for palmtop computers. It makes sense, really. Rather than carrying a bulky guidebook or laptop with you, just rely on your PDA to tell you where you are and what restaurants, clubs and other attractions are in the immediate vicinity.

And, as palmtops have grown in power, colour and memory size, they can do much more. This package, for machines running Microsoft’s Pocket PC 2002 or Windows CE 3.0, is based on the Lonely Planet range of guides, which have for years proved popular with travellers, back-packers and more serious tourists. So not only do you get basic maps of the city in question, you also get detailed information about the city itself, areas to visit, places to stay, things to do during the day and at night, and so on. All these items are searchable.

Categories of locations include Sleep, Eat, See, Shop and Night, which are pretty self-explanatory. Items within these categories incorporate reviews, contact details and often pricing too, plus there’s a selection of train and bus stations, theatres, interesting sights and more. Where detailed text information is available about a particular location, it’s shown on a separate ‘page’ to the map, so you can quickly switch back and forth. The Lonely Planet text is succinct, clear and up to date, so should find what you’re after quite easily and without getting lost. You’re not likely to stray into a city’s red light area unless you actually want to.

You also get a route planning function, so you can find the best way to cross the city by foot, car or public transport. And if you’re the sort of person who never goes anywhere without an NMEA-compliant GPS receiver, you can plug that into your PDA and find out exactly where you are, along with details of any places of interest in the vicinity.

The portable city guide is available for Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Florence, London, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Venice, Vienna and Zurich. You can buy these individually or as part of a bundled package (see pricing below), but you’ll need to allow at between 2MB and 8MB of storage space per city. The maps can be zoomed and rotated, and you can tell the software where you are by clicking on the appropriate place on the map – assuming you don’t have the aforementioned GPS device plugged in, of course.

Company: Map & Guide

Contact: +49 (0)721 781 60

If you're only planning to visit one city at a time, then arguably you'll be better off with a Lonely Planet book; unless you're planning to take a PDA with you anyway, a book is less likely to be lost, damaged or stolen, especially if you take it out in a less than salubrious area in an attempt to find your bearings. It's not likely to run out of battery power, either. However, if you're a well-prepared traveller then the interactive nature of the Top Cities Europe package, plus its eminent portability, make it worth consideration.