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Rand McNally StreetFinder NAV Deluxe review: Rand McNally StreetFinder NAV Deluxe

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The Good Turn-by-turn directions; comprehensive points-of-interest (POI) database.

The Bad Lengthy installation; no voice-guided directions.

The Bottom Line Don't trip out. StreetFinder makes a great travel companion to your PDA for clear directions and useful trip information.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall

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Rand McNally StreetFinder NAV Deluxe

Not everyone has the luxury of owning a GPS device, whether it be an in-vehicle system, a GPS-enabled PDA, or an add-on receiver for road travel, but that doesn't mean you're at a dead end. If you own a PDA, you can do away with those pesky paper maps by purchasing inexpensive software that imports maps and directions onto your handheld. Case in point: Handmark Rand McNally StreetFinder NAV Deluxe. This $30 program works with both Palm (version 3.0 or newer) and Pocket PC (version 2002 or newer) devices, and though it doesn't provide voice-guided navigation, you do get clear maps, turn-by-turn text directions, a large points-of-interest (POI) database, and more.

We hit a few speed bumps during installation, so we suggest you set aside some time--at least 30 minutes--to get everything set up. We loaded the first of two CDs on our PC, and an InstallWizard popped up to guide us through the process. It's not a complicated deal, just a matter of a few mouse-clicks, but loading all the data onto your hard drive is time-consuming. In our tests, it took about 20 minutes, so you might want to go stretch your legs or get a snack at this point. And lest you think this is the end of the road, there's one more hurdle: installing the app onto your PDA. Fortunately, this didn't take too long. We used StreetFinder with the HP iPaq H4150, and it was only a matter of performing an ActiveSync operation; you'll then find the program under the Programs menu.

Using the desktop application, you can plan your trip in several ways. With a simple and intuitive interface, StreetFinder presents you with a map of the United States with six main menu options: Trip Organizer, Get Directions, Find, Concierge, Map Options, and Export To Handheld. If you simply need directions from point A to point B, you can use Get Directions to enter your origin and destination, then choose between the shortest or the quickest routes. You also have the option to manually enter the addresses or import them from the program's Address Book.

If you're planning a vacation, you can find out more about your hot spot with the Concierge and Trip Organizer tools. True to its name, the Concierge provides you with city information, hotel suggestions with rates and amenities, a restaurant search by food type, plus Mobil Travel Guide ratings and critic reviews, nightlife listings, and a database of nearby services. The Trip Organizer also lets you search for and save articles on places of interest, track your expenses, and view your daily schedule. And if you're dreading hearing those four words--"Are we there yet?"--StreetFinder features a comprehensive POI database (found under Map Options) for planning a few distractions along the way. You can choose from a broad range of attractions, including shopping centers, golf courses, libraries, fun for kids, and movie theaters. Oh, and you get the usual bevy of essential services, too, such as banks, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels.

Anxious to take it out for a test-drive, we created a map from our residence in outer San Francisco to a restaurant in the downtown area. Additionally, we chose to include information on banks, gas stations, and parking garages along the way. Using the Export To Handheld function, we were able to transfer the 168K map to our H4150 with ease. Without the GPS function, StreetFinder doesn't have the ability to give voice-guided directions, so we kept the step-by-step directions screen visible most of the time, occasionally switching to the map view to get an overall picture of our location. Still, the directions were accurate and helpful. From the handheld app, you're also given the option to zoom in and out, change the map scale, turn attraction icons on and off, and more. If you want to add GPS functionality, StreetFinder is compatible with most National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) 2.0- or 1.5-compliant GPS units.

Technical support options include phone and e-mail queries. Phone support hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT via a toll-free number. If you prefer to send your question via e-mail, you can fill out an online form on Rand McNally's Web site and submit it that way. The program also includes a tutorial and a help section to familiarize you with the program and to troubleshoot any problems you encounter.

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