The map-reader with a head for figures

Software review: Electronic routeplanners can now map out your route and tot up your expenses.

To some people, maps are an indecipherable mass of lines and symbols, and planning a car journey is a difficult and frustrating task. Business travellers suffer the added irritation of having to calculate mileage and produce expenses sheets. Five years ago there was little software to ease these tasks. What did exist was expensive and tended to be aimed at large fleet managers rather than individuals. The dramatic growth in home computers and the rise of CD-Rom as a distribution medium for large databases has changed this, and three PC-based routefinders have been launched this year.

Microsoft's latest version of Autoroute and Route 66's new Routeplanner include Europe-wide maps and are distributed on CD-Rom. The AA has also recently entered the fray with A to B. It has no map, covers just Britain and is distributed on a single floppy disc, but it is the cheapest of the bunch by far.

All three planners work in the same way. You indicate where you want to start and end your journey, and the software works out a route and delivers it as a set of instructions. Autoroute and Route 66 Routeplanner will highlight your route on a map. Instructions and maps can be printed in A4-sized chunks.

Expenses are easily calculated: Autoroute works on a simple price per litre or gallon basis, while Route 66 Routeplanner and A to B take account of other variables such as fixed-base costs, extra expenses allowances and costs per distance unit. All three calculate how long the journey is likely to take, and Route 66 Routeplanner and Autoroute take account of driving speeds on a range of roads.

The AA is convinced that A to B will do well despite its lack of bells and whistles. It is part of a suite produced from a constantly updated database used as the backbone of a range of software for different markets including an in-car system called Routefinder. A to B should be as up- to-date as your road atlas, and quite possibly more so.

Autoroute can customise the maps, adding mountains and national parks. It even includes a small gazetteer of places of interest which it will search for you as part of the planning service. Route 66 Routefinder sits somewhere between the two, looking more like Autoroute but lacking its range of features and costing significantly more.

The drawback of PC-based route-planning is its inability to handle unforeseen circumstances. Traffic jams can only be dealt with by constantly updated in-car systems. The AA is planning such a system, but it will be some time before anything comes on the market. Meanwhile, while your PC may help plan a journey and calculate expenses, it might be as well to have a printed map with you.

Autoroute Express Europe, pounds 59.99. Contact Microsoft on 0345 002000.

Route 66 Routeplanner, pounds 99 (excluding VAT).

A to B pounds 16.49 (inc P&P and VAT) contact the AA on 01634 297123.

Routefinder, pounds 199, dial 100 and ask for freefone routefinder.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

    £35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

    Property Finance Partner

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried