Despite being around for many years, route planning tools are routinely criticised for being too slow and inaccurate. Can Route 66 Route Britain 2000 do better?
Things start well: this package offers an accurate postcode and place name search tool, as well as support for GPS receivers, which should make the process of starting and ending up in the right place more straightforward. In addition to road information, there are over 50,000 ‘points of interest’, such as hotels, petrol stations (more useful than interesting, really) and historic monuments to add some colour to your travels. Possibly a database of pubs, coffee bars and nightclubs would be more useful to the majority of travellers, but there you go.
Calculating a basic route involves entering a start and end point for a journey, plus any additional places that you want to visit on the way. You can add your own custom locations to the product’s database, and a new feature in this version of Route 66 Route Britain is the ability to identify ‘road blocks’ as locations, so long term road works can be factored into a route calculation. The software also includes configuration options for planning journeys based on different criteria, such as lowest cost or shortest travelling time.
Once Route 66 has calculated your journey details, it displays the route on screen. Although it’s possible to configure the amount of detail, such as road types and geographical features displayed on the map, even with the majority of these features disabled it’s still difficult to identify the plotted routes. Printed maps are little better, even in colour, so this isn’t really a replacement for a good road atlas. In addition to map printouts, you can also generate an itinerary, showing a listing of each turning you’ll need to make during your journey. These are more useful, although similar services are available for free from Web sites such as that of the RAC.
If you’re contemplating road travel in Europe, then Route 66 Route Europe 2000 is now available, also for £29.99 inc. VAT. This works along similar lines to the Britain-based product, enabling you to search for place names, specify journey criteria and produce printed maps for travel across Europe. However, English spellings of European cities aren’t always recognised accurately.
Both products are compatible with NMEA 0183 GPS receivers, which is a useful benefit if you’re travelling with a laptop connected to a receiver. To run the software on either a laptop or desktop machine, you’ll need a Pentium 120 MHz processor or higher (the company recommends a 300MHz Pentium), running Windows 9x, NT 4.0 or 2000, and a minimum of 70MB of hard disk space.
Company: Route 66