Microsoft Streets & Trips 2007 with GPS Locator is the bargain alternative to pricey, PDA-size GPS navigators from Garmin International, Lowrance Electronics, and others. Streets & Trips runs on any Windows PC (ideally, a laptop), and its GPS receiver plugs into the USB port.
The 2007 edition has some helpful enhancements from the last version, including a smaller GPS device that's just 1.25 inches square and more sensitive, so it does a better job of detecting satellite signals. Our test receiver, for instance, worked fine when placed on our car's passenger seat. With previous versions, we had to place the receiver on the dashboard or window to get a signal. Another plus: If you don't want to use the supplied USB cable, you can plug the receiver directly into the USB port.
Microsoft Streets & Trips 2007 software now integrates with Windows Live Search, Microsoft's answer to Google. By clicking the Windows Live icon on the Standard toolbar, you can search for businesses in your areas, such as shoe repair and so on. Streets & Trips pinpoints all matches on a local map, allowing you to select a business and get directions from your current location. This system is pretty slick--with some caveats. To access Windows Live, naturally you'll need an Internet connection. If you're in your car, this means either municipal Wi-Fi, which most cities don't have, a wireless cellular modem, or some other flavor of over-the-air broadband. Then again, you could use Windows Live before leaving the home or office. It would be nice if Streets & Trips integrated with Google, too, but odds are that won't happen anytime soon.
Microsoft Streets & Trips 2007 gives voice directions, as in, "Turn left in point-three miles." That's good, but we'd like more details. You see, unlike the best GPS navigators, Streets & Trips doesn't announce street names, as in "Turn left at Doubletree Lane." Street names would be helpful when you're driving in any densely packed urban area with many side streets and alleys. On the plus side, this program's full-screen navigation mode now displays four commonly used buttons: Turn Voice On/Off, Repeat Spoken Instruction, Re-route, and Night Mode at the top of the screen, making them easier to access.
Microsoft provides one year of free e-mail and phone assistance for Streets & Trips in addition to online resources, a generous support package for a consumer application.
Streets & Trips 2007 is a great vacation planner, but we caution against using it in traffic. From time to time, you'll need to glance at the screen map or tap a key, and that's a dangerous proposition at highway speeds. Remember, your laptop is probably sitting in the passenger seat, unless you have a human navigator navigating with the software.