Microsoft?s previous version of Autoroute left a lot to be desired. The route-finding engine was so slow that most users gave in and resorted to the pole star and a map drawn by Columbus to navigate to their chosen destination. After much mumbling of excuses, Microsoft has proffered yet another release of the package, claiming that all causes for complaint have been addressed and that this is the best version ever.
For those of you who haven?t come across Autoroute before, the package does a simple but useful job: taking into account a range of user-defined variables, it calculates the best route between any two locations. The European edition covers all of continental Europe, as far east as the Ural mountains in Russia. The map is comprehensive, covering not only major roads, towns and motorways, but larger villages and back roads as well.
In between your starting location and final destination you can have as many stopping points as you want. So, assuming you were driving to the South of France but wanted to stop off at a couple of towns on the way, you could simply add the names of the towns to your route and the software would include them in its calculations. Even better, it can recommend the most efficient order in which to visit places. And, if you want to avoid a particular area, Bosnia perhaps, or maybe Birmingham, Autoroute allows you to designate an exclusion zone and will ensure that your route does not pass through it.
Once the software has calculated the best route, it delivers this information to users in two formats. First, it provides a visual representation of the journey by highlighting the route on a map. Second, it offers written directions providing detailed instructions of which roads to follow and junctions to turn off at.
The map may look good on screen, but once your epic trans-European journey has been scaled to A4 format and printed out in glorious greyscale it becomes next to useless. In complete contrast, the written directions become immensely helpful when printed.
When calculating your journey time, the software also takes into account the kind of roads on your route and the options menu allows you to specify the average speed at which you would drive on different road types. Also, you can give the program details of your car?s fuel capacity and consumption as well as the cost of fuel, allowing it to calculate the cost of your journey. And the good news is that Microsoft?s claims are justified: the route calculation engine is much faster and more than capable of working out most routes of average complexity within 10-30 seconds on a reasonably specified machine.
R Contact: Microsoft on 0118 9270 001 or www.microsoft.com/uk/
R Price: #59.99 (#10 cash back for owners of previous versions).
R Applications: European route planning and cost estimation.
The business verdict
It?s fairly obvious that most trans-European business travel will be undertaken by plane, but for situations where you?re forced to go by car you would be well advised to install a copy of this software on your laptop before you go.
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