Microsoft – AutoRoute 2001 review

route-planning for the UK and elsewhere
Photo of Microsoft – AutoRoute 2001

AutoRoute 2001, the latest (and just a shade early) upgrade to this well-established route planning tool, now covers roads and cities in continental Europe as well as Great Britain and includes GPS support. However, in most other respects, little has changed since the product’s previous release last year.

As far as basic journey planning tasks are concerned, there are now plenty of Internet sites which give you free access to street maps and help you plot routes, so this alone isn’t really a reason to buy AutoRoute. However, additional tools such as a comprehensive database of restaurants and hotels, plus other useful locations such as petrol stations, do still add some extra value if you’re planning a long journey. The inclusion of street maps for French and German towns is also a useful addition for longer distance travellers.

A powerful set of tools for creating routes is one of AutoRoute 2001′s strengths. In addition to specifying a start and end point using the product’s place name search, you can also create a route by selecting places directly from the map. Once a basic journey plan has been created, it’s possible to alter this quickly and easily by dragging the route shown on the map, to incorporate other stop off points, or to avoid certain areas.

AutoRoute contains facilities for linking to the Internet to access additional information on towns or places of interest, so it’s surprising that this same capability isn’t put to use to enable you to download data on known roadworks or other travel problems, which could then be factored into your journey. Routes can, though, be printed out either as maps or as a list of road names and turnings. The listed itineries are more useful than the maps, although both are clearly legible and of reasonably good quality.

Once on the road, AutoRoute 2001′s GPS capabilities will be useful to anyone with a suitably equipped car and a laptop. The GPS system shows your position on AutoRoute’s map as you travel, ensuring that you stay on course. Like the previous version of AutoRoute, maps can also be downloaded to a Windows CE 2.0 or higher device, for viewing on the move.

To run AutoRoute 2001 you’ll need a Pentium PC with 16 MB of RAM for Windows 95/98, or 32 MB for NT, plus a hefty 145-200MB of hard disk space. It’s not a particularly expensive product, but it’s still more pricey than other route planners such as Route 66 Britain.

Company: Microsoft

Contact: 0870 601 0100

AutoRoute's maps include an impressive level of detail, and the addition of Europe-wide road information is a worthwhile benefit. However, if you just want to calculate simple routes within the UK, there are now plenty of free alternatives on the Web.