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MS Autoroute Express Europe

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AutoRoute Express Europe Edition is the easiest to use travel planner for Europe. It combines the highest quality detailed maps in three views ¿ roadway, terrain, and political, together with a comprehensive multimedia travel guide, including articles commissioned from renowned European travel authors, and specialists such as Alan Rogers Good Camps Guide.

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      25.03.2002 17:39
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      This is an opinion on the Microsoft Autoroute Express Europe. Microsoft Autoroute Express Europe is an interactive atlas which forms part of the Microsoft Works suite. You can pick up the Works 2002 suite for less than £90, or purchase the full Autoroute Europe 2002 for just over £50. To be honest, I think the average PC retailer will throw in Works with the average PC bundle, and this I how I managed to get hold of this software. (This programme requires the CD to run it!) •Destination Unknown Well what is the point of paying money for an interactive atlas, it’s a waste of money isn’t it? Well probably, I was just curious what it could do and here is the lowdown on its main features. On opening this programme (the first time) you have three options, to plan a route, find a place or load a saved trip or map. (You can also find out about what is new in this version, which as I said, is an old version). You start off with a map of Europe and you feel that the programme is just waiting for our command. The mouse cursor has a square on it and clicking where the square is. The main map window has 4 tabs, directions, phrase book, information and pictures (some tabs are not available for certain cities). >>The Map If you double click where the square highlighting you are either shown a map of the city (like London) or given some options, for example if you are near Belgium and double click that, you have the option to go to Brussels. >Features On the Map window, you have the options to zoom out and zoom in etc… Another clever feature is the back and forward button just like on your internet browser. There is also the clever drag feature (like the hand on acrobat reader), select that, push down on the left mouse button and drag as you like. You can also see the scale and there are useful features like highlighting landmarks and using “pushpins” to make notes near certain
      places. There are 4 ways to view the map, detailed, political, terrain or simple. It’s very clever and certainly detailed enough to get you to where you need, not just to places in Europe, but also to places in the UK that you have never been to before. >Directions Tab This is only useful once you have told the software to calculate a route, more on that later. This just brings you back to the directions window if you moved to another one. >Phrase Book This is funny, for example if you are in Belgium (i.e. on a Belgian part of the map) clicking on this will list out useful French phrases. You have everyday words, emergency words, and words you might need when shopping and much much more… Not only does it spell them out but if you click “Je suis désolé(e)” you hear a voice speaking the phrase, wow! Another useful phrase is “Please point to it on the map” or “Montrez-moi sur la carte, s’il vous plaît.”. This is beginning to be like GCSE French, except this software is multi-lingual; you have the phrase book in: French German Italian Spanish Portuguese Finnish Greek Russian Swedish Czech Dutch Impressive, but are you ever likely going to use these phrases? Will I get my laptop out at the Spanish petrol station, then boot it up and load the CD and request “Gasolina sin plomo” and then tell the attendant to “Llene el depósito, por favor”? I’m being very sarcastic aren’t I? I do apologise… >Information This is all pretty useless, here is an extract from the Bordeaux information: “Bordeaux's waterfront on the River Garonne makes an attractive spectacle; it is from here that for centuries the area's wines have been exported around the world. In the town centre, Place du Parlement and Place de la Bourse, the latter with the old customs house a
      nd stock exchange backing on to the river, are worth visiting, as is the impeccably classical Grand Théâtre on Place de la Comédie. South from here is the twin-steepled Cathédrale St André, which is surrounded by the city's most impressive museums—the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and the Museé d'Aquitaine.” You can also find similar info on markets etc… >Pictures Another pointless feature, there aren’t pictures for most cities (there aren’t even pictures of Staines!) If you click on Cambridge, there’s a picture of a postbox outside Kings College, how useful… •Find A Place A great advantage of having an interactive atlas is not having to look for places. In June 2001 when I knew I was going to Spa Francorchamps, I spent ages looking at my atlas working our where it was, but with this, type Spa into the “find” window and there are lots of hits, (Luckily Spa, Liege, Belgium) was at the top, once you select that you’re taken there, the screen you have is not much use so you zoom out and realise that Francorchamps is a couple of miles away, and then you realise that it is near Germany and in the middle of nowhere. The find locations are quite good, if you type something like Canvey Island, the software can find it. But once into Europe, it is a little weaker. You can also find the Longitude and Latitude figures of a city, clever but useless… •Show Me The Way To Your… Perhaps the most useful feature of this programme is the routing feature, I used this to plan the journey to Spa, and let me guide you towards how I did that. Click “routing”, then select a start point, to which you type where you live (or in my case Hounslow), and like the find option, it lists places and you select the one that applies, if where you live does not exist, search for somewhere near you that is more wel
      l known! Then select the end point, so type in Francorchamps and select that. We also needed to cross the Channel Tunnel and stop by an airport near Brussels to pick up some people, I didn’t know what it was called so I located on the map and right clicked it and selected “Add A Stop Here”, genius… You can also choose places to avoid… The next thing to do was to “Calculate”… This literally took seconds. The results screen was incredible, the first line was that the estimated time journey was 5 hours and 39 minutes and the distance was 509 KM. Ideally you should see the screen to believe how good this is. The atlas provided me with 35 steps to get to Francorchamps. Let me paste a few lines here so you can see what I am on about. Time: KM From start: Instruction: For: Towards: 09:07 6.2 At 3 Heston, turn LEFT (West) onto M4 6.2 km Reading 12:43 260.2 Bear RIGHT (East) onto A10 [E40] 36.1 km Bruges 13:39 369.7 At 4 Diegem-Woluwelaan, turn LEFT onto A201 1.9 km 14:52 508.0 Bear LEFT (South) onto N62 [N640] 1.0 km Stavelot What’s more clever is that if you click the instruction, you are brought to that place on the map. So how good was the route? Well first of all, it selected the wrong way to get onto the M25, apart from that it didn’t help us get out of the exit of the Channel Tunnel (which is complex) and it didn’t help negotiate the tricky Belgian junctions in the dart. •The B-Roads Within the Routing, there is the trip options button. Clicking this opens a new window with 4 tabs. >Segments For my journey, there were 3 legs, Hounslow to Channel Tunnel, Channel Tunnel to Airport, Airport to the Circuit, for the 3 legs you have options, like “shortest rout
      e” (through London), “Quickest” (through the main roads), “Scenic” (obvious) and “Preferred” (this weights the previous options), once you select that you need to recalculate the journey. You can also choose to take breaks every X hours etc… >Profile This makes it easier for Autoroute to work out the time, you need to enter your speeds driving on certain types of roads and obviously you can set the start time (which was 9am in my example) and set the stop times. >Fuel/Costs This is getting ridiculous now, enter the MPG stats of Urban and Motorway, you tank capacity. This will tell you fuel costs in another window and when you need to stop for fuel! In the Cost tab, you enter the price of petrol, or the price per KM. •Save and Print Having spent hours planning your journey you can print your journey and take it with you or save it (as an *.axe file) and load it whenever you use the programme again, great. >Alternatives Various websites offer a similar non-interactive service, for example I think the AA or the RAC does this, and you can easily get from A to B with that, the problem is getting it onto your PC or printing a large map. •Verdict Autoroute Express is a clever piece of kit that deserves the 5 stars, everyone should have a copy, it’s pretty useless though to be honest and no-one should really pay over £20 for it. It is without doubt better than an atlas, but who would have their laptop on their lap during a journey? It was only that I was travelling in a motorhome (with mains) that I had this open, it’s a great tool for planning trips, but with a little more effort, you could do the same with a traditional atlas… The only way this can be improved is if there was more detail at the maximum zoom, perhaps a DVD version of this software is the cure… This is definitely the future t
      hough, and I hate to envisage what the full version has if the express version is already full of useless features…

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