Topo USA 1.0
If youve spent much time at all reading All-OffRoad, youll know what a big fan we are of DeLORME products. So when I heard they released Topo USA, I jumped for it. Ive been using Street Atlas USA for a while, but had wished for more detail and topographic information, similar to what their Atlas & Gazetteer series of books offer. Well Topo USA attempts to offer just that and it does a decent job. Its not without its flaws however.
Upon installation, I noticed problems similar to ones that I had had with Street Atlas USA version 5.0 (these seem to be fixed in 6.0). The main problem is text and graphics missing from dialog boxes. I installed the software on both my Windows 95 and my Windows 98 systems, with the same problems. After spending some time on my own troubleshooting the problem and installing it on a third system, I decided do a new O/S install on one of my extra test systems and to try again. Voila, problem solved. Obviously, theres some conflict with something else that I run. In all fairness, I have not contacted their technical support staff at all. The fact that I usually work on these problems very late in the evening makes that tough.
The other thing I dont like about Topo USA has to do with GPS communication. It takes about a half-hour to download and draw a "track" from the GPS unit. This is compared to several seconds that it takes to do the same thing in Street Atlas USA. Im guessing that it may have something to do with mapping it to 3D coordinates instead of 2D, but thats just a guess. It really shouldnt take so long; several times my laptop went into power-saver mode in the middle, and never returned. What a pain
What do I like? Well, theres a lot to like. First, the added topographic detail is a great benefit when planning a long ride. It seems to have most of the added detail of the printed books (at least for California), which is great. One exception I noticed was that my southern California atlas contained a powerline road that the software is missing. We ended up riding on the road, so I know its really there. Getting back to the topographic detail, one excellent feature is that you can "profile" any entered route. While displaying the profile, you can move the mouse over any point and it will display coordinate and elevation details as well as show where on the route any given point is.
Once you get around the above problems, its very easy to use. You can save, edit, and print routes. You can also upload routes into any supported GPS unit. On the whole, Id say it has a lot of potential and, even considering its problems, Id say its pretty close to "Must Have" software. Would I take it instead of Street Atlas USA? With this version, Im glad I dont have to answer that. Its a tough call. If they can fix the problems in the next version, Id say yes.
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