Microsoft AutoRoute 2005 review

£31
Price when reviewed

Microsoft’s AutoRoute route-planning software has been going in various incarnations since before Windows was born. A new version has been launched every year, and generally each version is an improvement on the last. That’s quite impressive when you consider the program is basically intended to get a driver from A to B with the minimum of fuss. Bearing in mind we praised AutoRoute 2004 as the best route planner available, how can a new version improve on the old?

Well, the first answer is mapping information. A route planner, no matter how fancy its interface and powers of road analysis, can only be as good as the maps upon which it’s based. With this in mind, AutoRoute 2005 gets off to a good start, using new maps produced by digital cartography specialist Navteq.

To explore the practical differences between AutoRoute 2004 and 2005, we plotted a fictitious spider’s web journey that criss-crossed Europe. We calculated the same journey in AutoRoute 2004 and 2005. For buyers of AutoRoute 2005, the news was good. Our mammoth European tour covered 14,170km of tarmac in the newer program – a journey that lasted 18 days and, for accuracy’s sake, 17 minutes. Revert to the older program and the same pilgrimage used 14,574km of road – some 135.3km more. More importantly, AutoRoute 2004 claimed the track would take 19 days, 1 hour and 29 minutes. Following the advice of AutoRoute 2005 would, apparently, save us a day, serving to illustrate the potential value of having up-to-date maps at your disposal.

But if you expected every major road open in 2005 to be present, you’ll be in for a disappointment. There is, for example, no M3 toll road – a major road that opened at the end of 2003. It’s a fairly significant omission for a program that names itself after a year that’s hardly even happened yet.

AutoRoute 2005 does, however, have a hugely expanded database of road information. Jersey is new to 2005, as is Norway and the Czech Republic. You’ll also find partial road information about major European population centres such as the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Greece. There’s no data for elsewhere – significantly, no mention of America or Australia – but AutoRoute 2005 is certainly a great improvement over its predecessor if you’re an ambitious international driver.

Generally, though, the feel of the old and new programs is indistinguishable, and that’s no bad thing. We loved the logic, slickness and simplicity of AutoRoute 2004 and, as nothing has been added or lost in the move to 2005, we can safely say we’re fans of the newer program too. AutoRoute 2005 is also a good-looking program, using colour with subtlety and to great effect. The program’s maps use pastel shades to pick out national parks, forests and reserves. Not only does it look good, it’s also a great aid to anyone wanting to sightsee en route. If you’re looking for more detail, you can select terrain maps that show the contours of the landscape. There are also political maps available should you so desire.

AutoRoute 2005 scores more points when it comes to printing out the routes you’ve just planned out. Some lesser programs and websites will just produce a list of left and rights, and maybe a rough line diagram of the roads you’ll need to take. But AutoRoute does a far more thorough job, offering highly configurable printing options to make using the directions far easier for a driver or a navigator. You can, for example, print out detailed maps of key moments along the journey or, if you’re on a long journey, you can print a day’s worth of driving on its own page.

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