The Streets & Trips 2005 interface retains much of last year's appearance. The display is divided into three sections, with Route Planner or Find Nearby Places along the left side, directions in the upper-right panel, and an illustrated map in the lower-right panel. There are also various toolbars that make it easy to draw, change route information, and even search the Internet.As a route-planning tool, Streets & Trips is very good. Utilizing a database of 5.4 million miles of local, city, and highway roads across the United States and Canada, Streets & Trips produces better detailed maps than Web-based route-finding products, although its printouts and driving directions are no better. In one test case, a trip from San Francisco to Monterey, Streets & Trips and Yahoo both recommended Highway 101 (with construction delays) down the Peninsula, while only MapQuest suggested I-280 and Highway 85 around the congested San Jose metropolitan area as a timesaving shortcut. With Streets & Trips, however, the latest road-construction warnings are easy to download; online sites don't offer that specific information.
As with the online sites, you can locate various places of interest. Simply use the Find Nearby Places tool to display lists of restaurants, motels, or other places of interest within a radius you define. Here, too, while Streets & Trips boasts of having more than 1.8 million points of interest, much more than the online sites, these lists are not complete. In one test case, several restaurants within our direct line of sight were not identified by Streets & Trips. Fortunately, there's an option for Send Map Feedback, where you can request that additional information be added to Streets & Trips; unfortunately, you'll have to wait until next year's release and purchase the new software to see if it's been added. We also like the annotation tools that let you mark up maps with arrows, text, pushpins, and other symbols; try that with online mapping sites. You can even input your miles per gallon and get an estimated gas mileage report, with suggested stops (and gas stations) listed for you.
We don't recommend using Streets & Trips 2005--either this version or the package with an included GPS receiver--when you are driving. It's a good planning tool, but it does not have the right features to act as a navigation aid like an in-car system or one of the several available PDA solutions with voice prompts such as CoPilot Live Pocket PC 5.
Streets & Trips 2005 includes Microsoft Pocket Streets, an app that gives easy map access on your mobile devices whether or not they have an Internet connection. For example, Streets & Trips 2005 can export your trip map and route information to your notebook PC, your Pocket PC, or your smart phone, then supply places of interest as you go along the route.Overall, Microsoft's software support is excellent: Streets & Trips 2005 users get one year of free telephone support, an unusually generous perk for a consumer software program. Our support calls were answered promptly--wait times didn't exceed one minute during regular business hours--and our questions were answered accurately. Phone support is available from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday, and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT on weekends. E-mail and online support are available 24/7 as well. You must register your copy of Streets & Trips to send queries via e-mail, and Microsoft promises a 24-hour response time. For some reason, the Microsoft support site wouldn't allow us to register online (it said our product ID was invalid), but we were able to register via phone with no problem.