If you're trying to find the best way from point A to point B, Microsoft's Streets & Trips 2002 should be your first and only stop. This top-notch map maker and route planner is three times faster than its slothlike predecessor and greatly enhances the way it puts maps on the Web. It still lags behind Rand McNally's TripMaker in vacation planning details and extras, but for $25 to $30 (after a $10 rebate), Streets costs about the same as TripMaker, and it's a bargain for small businesses, at-home workers, and folks who just want great maps and detailed driving directions.If you're trying to find the best way from point A to point B, Microsoft's Streets & Trips 2002 should be your first and only stop. This top-notch map maker and route planner is three times faster than its slothlike predecessor and greatly enhances the way it puts maps on the Web. It still lags behind Rand McNally's TripMaker in vacation planning details and extras, but for $25 to $30 (after a $10 rebate), Streets costs about the same as TripMaker, and it's a bargain for small businesses, at-home workers, and folks who just want great maps and detailed driving directions.
Same sweet interface
Streets & Trips' interface hasn't changed a whit, which is fine, since it's easy to understand. The three-pane look, which resembles Office apps, such as Outlook and PowerPoint, shows driving directions, a map with your route emblazoned in color, and any nearby attractions. A few new interface tools give Streets more flexibility and include views that emphasize roads, terrain, or political boundaries on any map. Unfortunately, some things never change; unlike every other app in Microsoft Office XP, Streets won't let you customize its toolbars.
Three times faster than before
Microsoft may not have tossed in a bunch of new features, but Streets & Trips indeed runs much faster than its predecessor. We ran versions 2001 and 2002 on the same Pentium II desktop and calculated the same six-stop route. Version 2002 plotted the trip and gave us directions in 5 seconds, compared to 2001's 15.5 seconds.
Streets does the dirty work
Planning a route in Streets is no problem--just enter starting and ending points and click the Get Directions button. The Optimize Stops feature, which debuted in 2001, lets you enter stop points in any order, then reorders those stops for the most efficient travel time and recalculates your directions. We created a trip from Eugene, Oregon; to Sioux Falls, South Dakota; with stops at Yellowstone; Denver; Mt. Rushmore; and Casper, Wyoming. Streets easily restructured the route for us.
Driving directions are first-rate as well and include subtle details such as "bear right onto ramp." Better still, Streets & Trips lets you update road conditions online and alter your map as necessary and remains top dog when it comes to modifying a route with ease. To change a route on an already-created map, simply click any segment, then drag and drop it to the new road or stopover. The program automatically updates directions and routing for the new course.
Poor vacation planning
Unfortunately, 2002's vacation planning extras remain scarce. True, this edition sports more point-of-interest attractions, such as monuments or national parks, than before (800,000 plus), but 2002 doesn't automatically plot them into your maps. Instead, you have to manually search for hotels, restaurants, museums, and the like. Worse, Streets 2002 offers little information about these destinations--just an address and a phone number. For example, Streets doesn't proffer links to motel chain Web sites that would let you make reservations online as you're looking at the map, as TripMaker does. What a missed opportunity.
Maps on the move
Streets & Trips 2002 makes it substantially easier to share maps, thanks to its improved "Save to Web page" feature. You can decide whether to add hyperlinks to pushpins, the small symbols you plant to mark personal spots or information. You can also create a thumbnail view of the map, bundle driving directions, and even configure the Web map to update itself whenever you make changes in the Streets program. This makes it easy for businesses to crank out maps for posting on their Web site or intranet or for at-home users to put maps to family reunions or parties on a personal Web page.
Streets 2002 also comes with a copy of Pocket Streets 2002, so that you can download maps to any Microsoft-compatible handheld PC that runs Windows CE 2.0 or higher, and, like most map-makers and trip-planners, it supports global positioning system (GPS) hardware. Plug in a GPS device that complies with the NMEA 2.0 or later standard, and Streets will display your exact location. Cool.
Go for it
At $45 and without a break for owners of the 2001 version (other than a universal $10 rebate), Streets & Trips 2002 prices itself out of the upgrade market. If you have 2001, stick with it. Nor should this be the first choice for frequent vacationers. Streets' subpar vacation planning puts it in second place behind TripMaker 2001. But because Streets costs about a sixth as much as the corporate-aimed MapPoint 2002, nothing comes close to Streets & Trips 2002 for small businesses that want an inexpensive route planner or at-home users who want first-rate mapmaking tools.