CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide

TopoGPS USA review:

TopoGPS USA

  • 1
Hot Products

The Good Lists millions of campsites, mountains, and other natural locations; compatible with most GPS devices.

The Bad Incomplete package requires often-expensive add-on modules for mapping detail; inferior instructions and help.

The Bottom Line TopoGPS USA is a great search engine for outdoor landmarks and stops, but it's a weak standalone package. For better topographical mapping and elevation information, stick with TopoGrafix PanTerra.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

5.0 Overall

Review Sections

TopoGPS USA comes to us from the folks at National Geographic, and it shows. The program ($39) is topographical software designed almost exclusively for outdoor explorers. You'll find no street-level maps or driving directions, but the software offers more than a million natural destination points across the United States. TopoGPS USA locates that cave or summit you've been itching to explore, but you actually have to download or purchase additional programs to get complete maps. For the whole package, you'll still need Road Warrior. This program doesn't really win the outdoorsy category either--go with PanTerra instead.TopoGPS USA comes to us from the folks at National Geographic, and it shows. The program ($39) is topographical software designed almost exclusively for outdoor explorers. You'll find no street-level maps or driving directions, but the software offers more than a million natural destination points across the United States. TopoGPS USA locates that cave or summit you've been itching to explore, but you actually have to download or purchase additional programs to get complete maps. For the whole package, you'll still need Road Warrior. This program doesn't really win the outdoorsy category either--go with PanTerra instead.

Mediocre tools; extras required
Install TopoGPS USA from a CD, and you'll see a screen that shows a map of the United States zoomed out as far as the program goes. You can zoom in to nine different levels, but you'll need to purchase additional software to zoom past level six. That's lame--you won't find elevation profiles, which are important for hikers and explorers, until you zoom past level six. For example, the software targets the northeastern United States and the mid-Atlantic region, but if you want to explore individual states, you'll have to buy add-ons that run from $99 to $199 per region at the Topo Web site.

In addition, TopoGPS has a confusing interface--no quick tabs, as in every other package we reviewed. You'll have to use the standard Windows toolbars to navigate through the features, which can make things hard to find.

Alone, TopoGPS shows its weaknesses compared to PanTerra. All those extra software requirements are a pain, and Topo offers just the basics in mapping features. Use the Route tool to draw a line, or a route, from one destination to another across the map. Move your cursor over the route you've drawn to view the distance in miles or kilometers. The program's Zoom tool offers more detailed mapping information, showing main highways and roads of the area you've clicked.

Limited mapping tools
You can create a fairly complete route to outdoor destinations using the USA Placefinder tool, a huge database containing trails, parks, waterfalls, and more--but you'll have to spend some time getting used to the interface to really take advantage of its features. First, choose the state and town where you will begin your trip and mark it as a waypoint. That displays the GPS coordinates and the location on a map. Next, select a destination, find it in the database using the Gazetteer tool (which is similar to the Find tool in StreetFinder), and click it. TopoGPS USA lets you mark the destination, draw a route, and find the distance between the two spots. There's also an option to display an elevation graph along your route, but again, you have to purchase an additional trail-level program to use it.

Few extras
TopoGPS USA is missing any features that would make it useful for a road trip. At least PanTerra actually links to a mapping program. With its emphasis on topographical information, the software is strictly Boy-Scout-style. Extras include a Compass tool to display the directional heading between two points, a 360-degree travel tool for scrolling through the map on your PC, and a Centering tool to bring your selected waypoint to center screen. You can easily save your route and use the GPS wizard to upload it to your GPS device. (Note: TopoGPS won't work with a handheld device, nor will PanTerra.) The software is technically proficient if you're bent on an outdoor adventure, but PanTerra is the better waypoint manager.

GPS-friendly; high-end mapping
TopoGPS USA is compatible with many GPS systems, including most Garmin, Lowrance, and Magellan receivers. Although the software contains many handy tools to help you navigate your way through the countryside and manage your waypoints, it's good only if you're willing to rough it. In addition to its sparse interface and basics-only tools, TopoGPS lacks much in the way of user-friendly help. The onscreen manual comes as a 44-page Adobe Acrobat document, which is a generic guide to several Topo products. A dedicated user's manual would have been a welcome addition. At about $40, it's not worth kicking down for such a limited program. Go for PanTerra instead, if you're looking for a solid topo app.

TopoGPS USA offers more than a million natural destination points across the United States, but the software requires expensive add-on modules to give you any real detail.

Hot Products

This week on CNET News

Discuss TopoGPS USA