Zoom all the way

A-Z Digital, London Geographers' A-Z Map Co Ltd, pounds 149 Ordnance Survey Interactive Atlas of Great Britain Attica, pounds 39.99

Reference works, including atlases and maps, lend themselves to computers: they take up little space, they can be searched quickly from a single place name, and publishers can add new levels of detail or extra information which would make paper versions all the more cumbersome.

A successful map-based CD-Rom stands or falls on those extras. On their own, maps are rather dull: useful for navigation but not really cut out for entertainment. For all but the wealthiest laptop owners, CD-Rom maps are likely to be desk-based, limiting their use as a navigational tool. So they either need to entertain, or meet the needs of a specialist niche.

The Digital A-Z of London doesn't set out to entertain. Instead, this CD-Rom and authorisation disk is aimed at business users, and has a price tag to match.

The disk whizzes around London at the click of a mouse; there are several zoom levels to home in on an area, down to street level, and the MapEngine 2 software can remove or add detail to make the maps clearer. The street finder is quick, and certainly easier to read than a standard printed A-Z. Unfortunately, it fails to harness the full power of a PC: the search engine only recognises correct spellings, and makes no attempt to suggest similar-sounding names in the way that, say, a spell-checker does.

The engine can only search for streets, not monuments, areas (for example Soho, Fitzrovia) or even railway stations. This is another missed opportunity.

The CD comes with a limited licence to print maps, but the on-screen quality of the black-and-white maps is not as good as the printed A-Z. Colour, more information and a lower price would make this a worthwhile product, as would adding other principal cities to the same CD-Rom. As it stands, the most likely customers are firms such as delivery companies, which need to search London's streets quickly, and might appreciate its space-saving qualities.

Attica's Ordnance Survey Interactive Atlas of Great Britain doesn't skimp on features. The disk starts with a virtual-reality "fly-through" view of a typically British landscape, before landing the user at a "home" screen. From there, three options are available: the Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain (there is no Ireland, north or south); European and British facts-and-figures screens.

The maps can be viewed in two main scales: one inch to 10 miles and one inch to four miles. It's easy to move around the map or zoom in or out, using the compass-based pointer. One initial criticism is that the controls are rather crude: it's possible to have Birmingham and Manchester on display at once, but not Manchester and Newcastle.

Zooming in shows waterways, smaller roads and strange red mushrooms growing in selected corners of these isles. These are "media pins" and add colour photographs, text and even some video.

The pins do make exploring the atlas more fun. The text is generally clear and informative, and the selection of sights is solid enough (including the Palace of Westminster, Edinburgh Castle, Stratford, Oxford and Cambridge), with some oddities such as Bedford, Didcot power station and East Midlands Airport making up numbers.

The photography isn't as good: some pictures are weak artistically, and many suffer from poor scanning which the full-screen zoom shows up all too well.

Sometimes pictures and text don't quite match: the entry for Bristol's Avon Gorge includes plenty about Brunel's famous bridge, but the picture appears to be the view from it, not of it.

The video selection is a little strange, with movies for Gateshead, but not for Liverpool or Edinburgh. Some of the media pins include detailed local maps, and a few have three-dimensional models.

The package is supported with a gazetteer for place-finding, which makes moving across the country almost instant, and the data options are comprehensive: Britain can be viewed by Westminster or European constituencies, population, climate and physical features. The European data, displayed on comparative graphs, range from the total length of national rail networks, through population and adult literacy to fertility rates.

The Interactive Atlas is slick and well-designed, with a solid core of information. For casual browsers, it really is more interesting and useful than a bookn

Stephen Pritchard

Geographers' A-Z Map Co (01732 781000). Attica (01908 570113).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

    £100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

    Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee